Is soy bad for you?
The surprising truth behind this controversial, but magical food
Soy has been a point of concern for many people, especially those transitioning to a vegan/plant-based diet. Men seem to be worried about feminising effects such as "man boobs", and women's concerns mostly lay in the danger of excess estrogen within the body.
But where did these concerns come from? Were they created by the dairy industry to steer us away from plant-derived products and dairy alternatives? Do we need to track the amount we consume or can we live stress-free, eating and drinking soy products freely?
Soy contains phytoestrogens, should these be avoided?
The type of phytoestrogens found in soy are also known as isoflavones. People have seem to come to the conclusion that because the word estrogen is in there, that it has estrogen-esque effects on the body. Estrogen can have positive effects for our bones but can also increase changes of developing breast cancer. The great news is soy has proestrogrenic effects on tissue and antiestrogenic effects in other areas. This has been proven by studies that show how soy can help reduce breast cancer risk (antiestrogenic), whilst reducing menopausal symptoms (proestrogenic). For women, this can help ease our minds when consuming soy, and also motivate is to consume more! Researchers have also found that women who already have breast cancer and consume significant amounts of soy live significantly longer than women who ate less.
What about the men?
One study where men drink 400ml of soy milk per day, their testosterone levels stayed the same however it did slightly lower their estrone (one of three types of estrogen), which is linked to cancer-causing properties. Another study (meta-analysis), where 36 groups of men consumed concentrated soy protein packed full of isoflavones, showed that the soy protein did not affect reproductive hormone concentrations in the men regardless of their age or cancer status.
But... man boobs?
Some men claim that when they consume soy their 'man boobs' get bigger, and when they stop, they disappear. Soy milk is actually relatively low in soy and phytoestrogen. You would need approximately 12 cups of soy milk to get 1/4 cans worth of soybeans. During the processing of soy milk, most of the phytoestrogens are filtered out as well, and water makes up the most of the product.
So what food or drink actually negatively affects and changes our hormones?
One word: dairy. After drinking dairy milk, our estrone levels increase by 25%, whilst contributing to a statistically significant loss in testosterone in men. This is due to the mammalian hormones naturally occurring in dairy products. And why are people not afraid of dairy, but convinced that soy is the devil? Marketing. Straight up marketing. Advertising has made us believe that we need dairy for strong bones and optimal health, however it is contributing to the epidemic of obesity, heart disease, and various cancers we as a society are struggling to eradicate.
From miso, to tofu, to plant milk, tempeh and vegan meat alternatives, soy is everywhere. To finish up, let's have a look at the additional benefits soy brings to our health:
- Protein. Soy is a fantastic way to increase your protein intake, and increased plant protein is associated with heart health benefits and lowering blood pressure.
- Soy is naturally cholesterol-free and low in saturated fat. Most animal proteins are high in salt, saturated fat and increase your risk of heart disease.
- Edamame beans are a great source of soy (otherwise known as 'green soybeans'), and they are packed full of fibre which in turn promotes a health gut and reduces your cholesterol.
- Most soy foods are a great source of polyunsaturated fat and omega 3 fats. These types of fat have heart health benefits, and lowers cholesterol.
- As previously mentioned, soy is packed full of isoflavones which are strongly linked to preventing bone loss and certain types of cancer.
So there you have it guys, enjoy your soy and enjoy your longevity!