Soy, Oh Boy!

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Soy has been getting a lot of attention in the nutrition world. Not only is it delicious as chocolate milk, but also emerging studies are finding some incredible health benefits. Foods made with soy can potentially lower cholesterol, lower the risk of breast and prostate cancer, help with weight loss, and help prevent osteoporosis. A plant-made estrogen, called may be the magic ingredient that can help cause all of these health benefits. 

According to the Harvard School of Public Health, studies show that by eating soy, there may be a 20% reduction in the chance of getting cardiovascular disease; including stroke, or cardiac arrest. The American Heart Association says that by eating 50 grams of soy a day will only lower the LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) by only 3%. This is a little extreme because 50 grams of soy protein can equal 1 ½ pounds of tofu! The AHA does say that even though it doesn’t lower LDL by that much, it does have a positive effect on the heart and blood vessels. This is due to their replacement of red meat like hamburgers and also because they are a great source of polyunsaturated fatty acids, fiber, vitamin and minerals. Soy is also very low in saturated fat.

Many friends of mine have asked whether or not they should avoid eating soy products because they have heard it has been linked to breast cancer. There are some studies that show that high amounts of soy consumption can promote the growth of breast cancer. On the contrary, some studies have found that phytoestrogens, a plant made hormone from soy, can block the action of estrogen. Estrogen is a hormone produced by the body that can promote the growth of cancer cells in humans. When phytoestrogens block estrogen action in the breast, it can actually LOWER the chance of breast cancer. One study found that the more soy a woman eats during adolescence, the lower her risk is for developing breast cancer. So my advice is this; do not avoid soy as it can provide many health benefits! Just consume it in moderation.  No food is healthy in excess.

Although there are some health benefits, there is still not enough concrete evidence that soy prevents cancers. Because this is such an emerging topic in nutrition, expect to see more and more studies about the health benefits of soy. 

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