There are a lot of questions and controversy surrounding soy foods– Do they cause cancer? Are they bad for women? Should I eat more soy or stay away from it as much as possible?
The soy and cancer study that started the controversy concerned only those with a specific type breast cancer (estrogen receptor positive). Some early studies suggested possible increased tumor growth in rats with a high intake of soy. As more advanced research was done, scientists found that rats metabolize soy completely different from humans, making the earlier studies invalid.
Now we know that moderate amounts of soy foods do not affect tumor growth or a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. In fact, at least 10mg of soy
per day can decrease breast cancer recurrence by 25%.
I recommend increased soy consumption, especially for menopausal women. There are compounds in soy that behave like estrogen in the human body and could lessen the natural decrease in estrogen due to the menopause, therefore decreasing common symptoms such as hot flashes. If you suffer from severe hot flashes, you may want to seek the help of dietitian. Switching to a plant-based, high phyto-estrogen diet has significantly decreased symptoms in some women.
Soy foods are a complete protein, low in calories, and a good source of omega-3s which helps to reduce inflammation. The isoflavones in soy foods have been linked to a decreased risk for osteoporosis, while the calcium and magnesium in soy may help to lessen PMS symptoms, regulate blood sugar and prevent migraine headaches. Soy foods are a perfect example of FUEL for the body, to keep it running at it's peak level.
Processed soy ingredients (like isolated soy protein) are found in products like cereal bars, packaged snacks, and many other processed foods are lacking in many of the nutritional components that make soy so healthy, including vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Always go for "whole" soy foods, like the ones listed below:
Foods to eat to increase your soy intake:
Soymilk or soy yogurt- Soymilk (light is best, less sugar) can be used in place of cows milk in puddings, baked goods, on cereal and in smoothies. If you like chocolate, try light chocolate soymilk to cure a sweet tooth or after a work out. Make sure soy yogurt is unsweetened, then add your own natural sweet flavors with berries and a touch of honey.
Tofu- Tofu can be stir-fried, grilled, added to stews, soups or egg dishes and used in mixed dishes or stuffed pastas such as lasagna.
Edamame- (Fresh or frozen) can be used in soup, stir fries, salads, or eaten as a snack with a dash of olive oil and pepper.
Roasted soybeans- can be eaten as a snack or to add a crunch to your salad (also known as soy nuts).
Soy nut butter- try it in place of of peanut butter.
Here is a great recipe for a Thai Coconut Curry to help increase your soy consumption.
If you have concern regarding consuming genetically modified soy, go organic. The USDA National Organic Standards prohibit the use of GMOs. You can also look for products with the Non-GMO Project Verified seal. Some brands with this seal include Silk, Amy's, Back to Nature and WestSoy. For a complete list of products with the verified seal, visit nongmoproject.org.
Soy Foods and Cancer, Today's Dieititan
Update on the Soy Controversy, Dixie Mills, MD
Soy Foods: How Food Affects Health, Joy Bauer, MS, RD, CDN