For thousands of years, soy has been part of the traditional Asian diet. Soy foods started hitting it big in the 1990s, with it being attributed to the lower rates of heart disease, obesity, and cancers in Asia. Today, soy is consumed in its many available forms both as a plant-based protein and as a component in processed foods. Soy is available as whole soy products, fermented soy products, soy-based processed foods, and soy supplements. Soy is an important source of nutrients. It contains calories, carbohydrates, proteins, fiber, and vitamins such as vitamin C, K, E, B6 thiamine, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, niacin, and folic acid. Soy also contains important minerals such as iron, magnesium, manganese, copper, zinc, phosphorous, and other numerous useful phytochemicals.
Despite its nutritional benefits, soy consumption remains controversial, with soy having potential positive and negative effects on health.
Possible Health Benefits Of Soy
Several studies propose that soy can boost levels of cholesterol in the body. These studies suggest that consumption of soy foods may reduce LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and raise HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol). Eating soy also reduces total cholesterol. The fiber in soy is attributed to the cholesterol-lowering effect of soy. However, these studies say that consuming soy supplements may not have the similar cholesterol-lowering result as eating soy foods.
Soy is may enhance fertility in women undergoing fertility treatment and those trying to conceive. Soy has been proven to increase ovulation rates and monthly cycle as well as higher pregnancy and implantation rates. Soy also has a protective influence against the BPA chemical that negatively impacts fertility.
Soy contains isoflavones, a group of phytoestrogens. These isoflavones act as weak estrogen, reducing the symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes in women post-menopause.
In other studies, soy has been linked to a reduced risk of prostate cancer in men. Consuming soy can also reduce the risk of gastrointestinal cancer and other chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes.
Soy’s benefits for heart health have not been proven, despite it being linked to the reduced risk of heart disease.
Potential Negative Effects Of Soy
Soy is a potential hormone disruptor. It contains isoflavones that mimic estrogen, which can result in hormonal overload.
The estrogen-like chemicals in soy (isoflavones) are thought to increase the risk of breast cancer. This fact is because many breast cancers depend on estrogen to grow. However, other studies have found no association between breast cancer and soy consumption while some have even found that soy consumption reduced the risk of breast cancer.
Soy may negatively impact thyroid function. This effect is attributed to goitrogens in soy, which block iodine absorption. Some test-tube and animal studies have shown that consumption of soy can block thyroid hormone production, but with little impact on humans.
What Is The Bottom Line?
How you choose to incorporate soy into your diet can make all the difference. Eating plant-based soy may be more beneficial than consuming soy supplements. Besides, experts recommend to consume organic soy and stay away from GMO soy which has been shown to contain glyphosate residues and a poor nutritional profile.