HEALTH CLAIMS ABOUT SOY ABOUND. It’s been a staple of vegetarian diets and health food programs for decades, and a key ingredient in Asian cuisine for centuries. However, this seemingly wholesome protein-filled plant food has come under scrutiny in recent years by Western science. Some studies seem to suggest it contributes to breast cancer, others state that eating soy food in childhood and adolescence may protect against it. The media tells us soy is a thyroid poison, but recent research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that soy had no negative effects on thyroid function or hormone levels. With all of these mixed messages, what are we to believe?
In my recent interview on The Dr. Oz Show and in my blog on The Huffington Post I have attempted to unravel the myths surrounding soy and show how current scientific evidence can guide us in making sensible choices regarding this controversial food. Below you will find some highlights from my blogs and books about the benefits of including soy in responsible ways as part of a whole foods diet and some delicious recipes that will reinvigorate your relationship with this ancient food.
Soy: Blessing or Curse?
“EATING SOY WILL KILL YOU!” Scan the media reports and surf the Internet, and you’re bound to come across scary claims that would lead you to believe this is true. You may have heard:
• Soy will give you breast cancer.
• Soy formula is dangerous to babies.
• Genetically modified soy foods may modify you.
• Soy foods block your thyroid function.
• Soy prevents the absorption of minerals and interferes with digestion.
• Tofu causes Alzheimer’s disease.
As some of you may be aware, I often recommend soy as part of a whole foods diet. Many people question why I include these foods in light of such startling media coverage on the dangers of soy. The reason is relatively simple.
I have reviewed reams of research and many claims for and against soy foods. From the studies available, I can tell you that soy is neither as good as the proponents say, nor as evil as the critics claim. I wish we had more convincing science to report, but we don’t. The key is to take all the available evidence together and see what shakes out.
I have done that for you. I will review some of the recent data for and against soy, and provide you with a few guidelines and things to remember when choosing soy foods.
Read more …
Delicious Soy-Based Recipes
Here are a few of my favorite recipes that include soy. Cook, eat, enjoy!
Soy-Marinated Tofu with Asian Vegetable Salad
Vegetable Tofu Scramble
Strawberry Tofu Smoothie
Soy Facts and Tips
- Choose whole, non-processed, non-GMO soy foods both to obtain the full health benefits and to avoid supporting a federally subsidized industry that is, in part, driving the production of junk food on which the majority of Americans currently live.
- Include low-glycemic foods like edamame–the Japanese soybeans in a pod–in your diet to help balance your blood sugar. By slowing the release of sugar into your bloodstream, these foods help stave off insulin resistance–a condition that contributes to obesity, high blood pressure, and heart problems.
- Soy is extremely high in magnesium–a mineral that is responsible for over 300 enzyme reactions in your body. If you experience anything that is “stiff or crampy” (including headaches, joint pain, or muscles cramps) or if you are under excess stress, you need more magnesium. Include soy foods in your diet to get it.
- Dr. David Jenkins from The University of Toronto showed that using a combination of soy, fiber, almonds, and plant sterols could lower cholesterol levels as much as statin medications. Use soy foods such as soymilk, edamame, soy nuts, tempeh, and tofu, to help lower cholesterol by as much as 10 percent.
- Despite common beliefs, soy probably does not significantly impact thyroid function. A well-designed study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined the effect of realistic amounts of soy protein on hormones–including thyroid hormone–and found that it had no significant impact.
- You may improve hormonal balance, reduce toxic testosterone levels, and minimize PMS symptoms by including traditional soy foods like tofu, tempeh, miso, natto, and edamame in your diet.
- Fermented soy foods are typically easier to digest and may contain more health benefits than non-fermented soy. Soybeans (like other beans, nuts, and seeds) contain phytates–potentially harmful compounds that bind to minerals inside your body. Fermentation breaks down these proteins thus diminishing their impact on health.
- Despite all of its benefits, soy is a problem for some. If you think you have a sensitivity to soy, try eliminating it for a week or two then reintegrate it into your diet. See how you feel. If you feel better off soy try eliminating it for a longer period of time (up to 12 weeks) or stay away for the long term.
For More Information
See the following resources to learn even more on soy:
- Dr. Hyman’s appearance on The Dr. Oz Show
- Dr. Hyman’s blog in The Huffington Post
- The Effects of Soy on Health Outcomes—This report from the Agency for HealthCare Research and Quality reviewed thousands of studies about soy.
- A Brief Historical Overview of the Past Two Decades of Soy and Isoflavone Research–Published in the The Journal of Nutrition, this study provides a fascinating overview of the research to date on soy.