Soy for Health & How to Monitor Intake

June 13, 2012

Should you stock up on soy? Soy can contribute to a healthy diet, find out how here

Should you stock up on soy? Soy foods are often the center of nutrition controversy, but it seems in moderation, for those who can tolerate soy, soy foods can contribute to an overall healthy diet pattern, and healthy diet patterns are linked with general well being.

Here are some various health benefits that have been linked to eating soy:

Antioxidants: Soy foods contain antioxidants - compounds that protect cells from damage caused by unstable oxygen molecules called free radicals.

Cholesterol: In 38 studies involving 730 people, the connection between soy consumption and low cholesterol levels was strong. Those with diets where half the protein was soy had 10 percent lower cholesterol than those not eating soy. Saponins and phytosterols in soy are thought to bind cholesterol in the gut, and help it pass through our GI tract.

Colon cancer: People who made soy foods a regular part of their diet had significantly lower rates of colon cancer that those who did not eat soy. Lignans and protease inhibitors in soy are thought to be the reason for the anit-cancer effect.

Hot flashes: Menopause symptoms are almost immediately responsive to isoflavones. Often, within weeks of beginning soy protein consumption, women experience a 25 percent drop in hot flashes. Isoflavones are also thought to be antihypertensive, anti-inflammatory and more!

Immunity: Soybean peptides (chains of amino acids) can boost the immune system, helping the body fight disease.

Breast cancer: There are some hesitations regarding soy and breast cancers (as well as other hormone related cancers); a study presented at the American Association for Cancer Research demonstrated that soy food intake among breast cancer survivors is safe and may even reduce the risk of recurrence. The research suggests that worries appear unfounded. It’s important to note that the study’s authors stress that the study reviewed soy foods, not supplements.

So how much soy is considered protective? Just a cup of soymilk or just two ounces (or half a serving) of tofu per day. There are many different soy foods out there and in fact many processed packaged foods, take out meals and restaurant foods contain soy; so those avoiding soy for allergy or other reasons, or those wanting to consume a controlled amount should be vigilant about reading labels and choosing take out foods and restaurants carefully. Call ahead or ask waiters to check if soy products are used in their foods.

Where are soy products most common?
They can be found in baked goods, canned tuna, cereals, meal replacement bars and drinks, crackers, chips, infant formulas, sauces, and soups. And at least one brand of peanut butter lists soy on the label. Studies demonstrate that most soy-allergic individuals can safely eat soybean oil; this does not include cold pressed, expeller pressed, or extruded soy oil, but this is something that should definitely be discussed with your physician or allergist. Because of this, the FDA exempts highly refined soybean oil from being labeled as an allergen.

Using whole ingredients, and foods in their natural state is a great way to control the amount of soy (and of course other “nutrition bandits”) in your diet. As always, consult your physician before making changes to your diet.

As mentioned, an adequate serving to reap the benefits of soy, is just a cup of soymilk or just two ounces (or half a serving) of tofu per day - that's not a lot! When consumed in larger amounts soy's consumption becomes controversial in its health benefits; soy falls into a category of foods known as goitrogens - vegetables, grains and foods that interfere with thyroid function. Speak with you physician or nutritionist to determine if soy foods in moderation are right for you.

Information for this article gathered from US Soyfoods Directory and the Soyfoods Association of North America, and the Doctors Health Press