Soy is considered to be extremely nutritional – however, we cannot carelessly decline the many controversial accusations that circle around! It seems that the soy case needs to be reopened! Some claim that soy is a winning combination of healthy and tasty, others are under the impression that it might even be the cause of hormone imbalance and even cancer!
There is another, more modest approach claiming that soy can be positive in terms of disease prevention. To start with, what is soy?
Basic Soy Facts
According to the Wikipedia source, soy is a legume originating from Eastern Asia and is also named Soya bean or (glycine max). It is known as a vegetarian protein source. Soy contains 30-50 % of proteins, 14-25 % carbohydrates and 13-25 % of unsaturated fats. Major soybean producers are the USA, Brasil and Argentina.
Due to the new health and food trends and lifestyles, soy has become more popularized by the vegetarians and vegans as they use soy as a meat replacement, being a sustainable protein source.
Nowadays, soy can be found in bigger supermarkets or health food stores in the form of products such as tofu, soy crumbles, tempeh or soy milk. There’s even soy based ice cream, yoghurt, soy cream, and margarine. For people who struggle with milk allergies, soy has been promoted for years as a healthy milk replacement (while for some it might be an allergy source!).
Additionally, healthy eating trends guide us to eat as less meat as possible and to get our protein by eating legumes (beans, lentils, and peas), cheese, and mushrooms or by additionally eating soy. And this is where the contradictions come in!
Those who are opponents of soy vigorously claim that phytoestrogens in soy disrupt the hormone balance, while other sources claim that soy is healthy exactly due to phytoestrogens as they assist in menopausal complaints and can even contribute to the cancer prevention!
So, what are we to believe about soy? Let’s explore both sides of the soy story and make own conclusions later!
What Are Soy Health Advantages?
Nutrition research is dynamic and we are almost daily bombarded by the new discoveries regarding health trends – to name here a few of the scientific research findings promoting soy as good for:
Prevention of cardiovascular disease – soy allegedly decreases bad cholesterol levels. Another independent scientific research claims that this should be taken with a note of criticism. On the contrary, soy promoters believe that soy is extremely healthy for our blood vessels and heart as it provides fiber, minerals and unsaturated fats and is, in their eyes, a much healthier option than meat.
Prevention of prostate and breast cancer – research done in Asian countries has shown that a moderate intake of soy on a daily basis may be beneficial for the reduction of prostate cancer. Further, a group of women who suffer from breast cancer underwent a scientific study resulting in claims that soy consumption can improve their chances of breast cancer survival. Still, soy supplements containing phytoestrogens are advised against as they can be contra-productive in breast cancer treatment.
Reduction of menopausal complaints – hot flushes are seemingly reduced with soy consumption; however, yet another scientific analysis suggests that there is no obvious benefit from soy protein in menopausal symptoms.
What Are Soy Health Disadvantages?
In the abundant sea of modern age information, one can find tons of warning articles on soy consumption; here summed up are some of the most impressive potential dangers of soy consumption:
- causes cancer risks
- causes growth problems with children
- causes thyroid-hormone blockage
- causes allergies
- causes infertility risks
Personal choices and beliefs!
One must admit that all the mentioned soy consumption risks are rather hard to digest! Certain articles inform us about at least 170 existing studies showing proof against soy consumption.
Equally optimistic in their beliefs are the soy defenders who ensure us that with moderate soy consumption we run no health risks and that Asian population is a good proof for that – an Okinawa Centenarian Study showed that 900 persons over the age of 100 who moderately ate fruits, veggies and soy and exercised on a regular basis, had reduced risks of heart diseases, cancer or osteoporosis, in comparison to their Western peers.
Soy is further consumed on a regular basis by vegetarians and vegans as a part of their healthy lifestyle – certain scientific studies on vegetarian and vegan lifestyles confirm soy health benefits.
Whether we chose a positive or a negative approach towards soy consumption will eventually depend on our personal beliefs and choices. However, one thing is sure – what seems to be the key to a proper nutrition regime is modesty and variation in consumption of any type of food, including soy!