4 Guidelines for Eating Soy and the Surprising Science Behind Them

Last week I had my first plant-based meal prepared for me by a Finnish friend and it was delicious!  We feasted on a veggie stir-fry over rice, creamy spinach and of course, I made some sweet potato fries too (I couldn't help myself).  My friend cooked up some tofu special, just for our meal, but explained how normally, he tries to avoid soy foods.  He's concerned about the hormonal effects it may have on his body.

And he is absolutely not the first person I´ve met who tries to avoid soy.  Another women at a cooking demo of mine and was told by her physician to avoid soy like the plague because she had breast cancer.


What does the totality of research soy about soy?  Do you really need to be worried about eating soybeans?

Here's the outcomes from six different studies:

1.  A meta-analysis found that soy foods and isoflavone supplements do not affect testosterone levels in men.  This review included 15 placebo-controlled trials, and was published in Fertility and Sterility (1).

2.  The consumption of soy foods were associated with a reduction of prostate cancer risk of about 26%.  The consumption of tofu and soy milk was associated with an even lower risk of about 30%.  This study was a meta-analysis which included 14 studies and was published in the Americn Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2).

3.  In this meta-anlysis, the lowest risk of breast cancer was found in people consuming the highest level of soy foods.  This review reviewed eight different studies, and was published in the British Journal of Cancer (3).

4.  Published in the Journal of the American Medical Associationthe Shanghai Breast Cancer Survival Study, found an inverse association between soy food intake and breast cancer mortality and reoccurrence.  In other words, those eating the highest amount of soy had the lowest rates of mortality from breast cancer and breast cancer reoccurrence (4).

5.  The Singapore Chinese Healthy Study found a statistically significant reduction in hip fractures of approximately 30% in women consuming at least 1/4 cup of tofu a day (5).

6.  Amy Lanou, PhD concluded in her review on soy foods and bone health, that soy as part of a dietary pattern, supports bone health, while isolated soy extracts have shown mixed results.  Dr. Lanou analyzed 13 different studies in this review (6).

There's much more that could be said about each of these studies and the 'why' behind whole soy foods having a health promoting effect.   For now, the take home message is... the weight of the evidence supports whole soy foods as being beneficial for breast cancer, prostate cancer, bone health and doesn't affect testosterone levels in men.  So, if you like soy foods, eat them!  

If you want more information on soy and health, here's a PDF from the Physician's Committee for Responisble Medicine.  It references 21 different studies, is easily understandable and you can show it to your doctor if need be.  


So how do you put this information to use in your daily life? 

Here's 'Four Simple Guidelines for Eating Soy Foods.'

1.  Choose whole, soy foods like edamame or soy beans, tofu, soy milk, miso, tempheh or bean curd.

2.  Avoid isolated/processed soy products such as isolated soy protein, hydrolyzed soy protein, highly processed soy burgers, soy bean oil and soy protein shakes. 

3.  Eat soy as a condiment.  About 40% of soy's calories come from fat so don't sit down and munch on tofu chunks and soy foods all day long.  Simply add some tofu to a stir-fry or some soy-milk to your oatmeal.  This way you'll get the nutritional benefits without eating too much fat and extra calories.  

4.  If you hate soy foods, don't eat them!  Although the evidence supports whole, soy foods, you can still eat a health promoting diet without soy.  

Basically, eat soy like an Asian!  Eat whole, soy foods and treat them as condiments.

Now it´s time for you to put this information into action because what is knowledge if you don´t do anything with it?  Useless!

Answer this week´s Take Control Now question and put your answer in the comments section below.

Take Control Now 

What is one plant-based meal that includes a soy food you could enjoy?

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