Soy Many Questions

One of the most controversial plant foods, soy has been hailed as a health food and demonized as a contributor to many diseases. Some studies suggest that consuming soy-based foods can prevent cancer, offer cardiovascular benefits, and enhance weight loss, while others suggest soy may be linked to the growth of cancer cells. Soy is also a common food allergy. “Soy” what should one do? Sun Basket’s team of dietitians dive into the research to help you make sense of this hotly debated topic.

One of the few plant foods with all the amino acids your body needs to make protein, soy also provides fiber, and can be a good source of calcium. Soy foods contain several key nutrients and phytochemicals known to fight cancer and have been found to lower risk of coronary heart disease.

Because soy contains estrogen-like compounds, there is fear that it may raise the risk of hormone-related cancers. However, studies show that eating one to two servings daily of whole soy foods does not increase the risk of breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, because of their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, consuming whole soy foods may even help lower your risk of cancer.

In addition to breast cancer, there are a number of other women’s health concerns that have been linked to soy foods. Research does not link moderate soy intake to fertility issues. In fact, consuming moderate amounts of whole soy foods, like tofu, soybeans, soymilk, and edamame may actually increase fertility, reduce hot flashes, and promote bone and heart health in women. 

Some men avoid soy out of fear that its estrogen-like compounds will affect their testosterone levels. Numerous human studies have shown men who consumed 1 to 2 servings of soy foods per day had no significant changes in testosterone levels. In fact, an analysis of 14 studies by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed increased soy intake resulted in 26 percent reduction in prostate cancer risk.

In Asia, children have been consuming soy products safely for centuries. The recommended amount of soy for children is up to two servings per day of whole soy. Although only a small percent (0.4%) of children have soy allergies, it’s something to be aware of when feeding young ones. In addition, research indicates that the majority of children with a soy allergy will outgrow it by the age of ten. 

Although research has found health benefits to eating soy foods, the same may not be true of soy supplements. Although short-term soy supplement use is considered safe according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, additional research is required to understand the impact of long-term use.