Understanding How Soy Foods Impact Your Health
Hi Sweet Friends,
Oh, boy, we’re talking about soy. It’s a hotly debated topic these days,
especially in the plant-based community. You’ve probably heard mixed reviews on
this elusive bean — some good, some bad and some very ugly. I know it can be
frustrating, but don’t throw your tempeh piccata in the trash just yet. With a
little extra smarts, you can make an educated decision on how, why and if soy
should be part of your diet. I certainly include it in mine, but that doesn’t
mean I’ll be signing up for a soy-dog-eating contest anytime soon. As you’ll
learn in today’s blog, organic, non-GMO soy foods can provide many benefits when
eaten in moderation.
What types of soy foods are best, and how much should you eat?
In my fridge, you’ll find a variety of whole and minimally-processed soy foods,
such as edamame, tempeh, miso and tofu. These foods land on my plate 2-3 times
per week, although I tend to use tofu the least since it’s one of the more
processed choices in my soy repertoire. They’re all rich in nutrients,
antioxidants, protein, essential omega-3 fatty acids and phytoestrogens. A word
to the wise, almost all soy is genetically modified. That’s why I always buy
organic and search for the non-GMO label. It’s best to look for both stamps of
approval, since organic
does not guarantee 100% GMO-free food.
Eating soy as nature intended (or very close to it) can be beneficial to your
well-being in a variety of ways. Soy protein and omega-3s are important for
heart health. They also keep your arteries clear and cholesterol levels low. And
contrary to some unsubstantiated fear-based claims, phytoestrogens may actually
help reduce breast cancer risk among premenopausal women (more on soy and cancer
in the following section). In addition, whole soy foods are easier to digest and
taste better than their processed cousins. Plus, the microflora in fermented soy
products, such as miso and tempeh, are your belly’s BFF.
Again, keep processed soy foods (and processed foods in general) to an absolute
minimum. You’ll often find soy protein isolate or concentrate — both at the top
of my list to avoid—on their ingredient lists. Faux chicken nuggets, soydogs and
other fake meats not only contain processed soy, but a laundry list of food
additives and preservatives as well. While these foods aren’t the devil, they
certainly aren’t real, and therefore should never be a dietary staple. Think of
them as an occasional novelty. The one exception I’ll mention is for those
transitioning from a meat-heavy to a plant-happy diet. Eating faux meats and
cheeses as a crutch can be helpful, but they definitely shouldn’t hold center
stage for long.
We often cling to processed soy foods because of our culture’s protein paranoia.
flash sweet friends — protein doesn’t need to be the main event on your plate at
every meal. Now I’m not saying that you don’t need protein, you absolutely do.
But if you’re consistently eating a varied, plant-based diet, filled with beans,
legumes, nuts, seeds, grains and vegetables, you’re in good shape! And with such
an abundance of protein-rich choices in the plant family, are you starting to
understand why soy is optional?
If you’re still concerned about protein, simply calculate your daily requirement
using the following formula: Your body weight (pounds) multiplied by .36 equals
the amount of protein (grams) needed for a moderately active adult. For example,
a 140 pound person needs about 50 grams of protein per day. Here are just a few
of the high-protein plant foods out there: one cup of lentils contains 18 grams
of protein, one cup of quinoa contains 8 grams of protein and two tablespoons of
almond butter contains 7 grams of protein. See how easy it can be to meet your
Soy seems pretty straightforward when you’re talking about quality and quantity,
but the conversation gets trickier when you begin to explore the claims flying
around about soy and certain health issues. Next up, soy dangers demystified!
Is there really a link between soy and cancer?
You may have heard that eating soy increases your risk of cancers such as
prostate and breast cancer, but the opposite may be more likely. Recent
researchhas shown that lung cancer patients with a history of eating soy
have a better survival rate than those who have eaten less or no soy in the
past. Men who consume soy have actually been found to have a reduced risk of
prostate cancer. And then there’s the most frequently misunderstood relationship
— soy and boobs.
When a woman regularly eats protein-rich and phytoestrogen-rich soy foods,
studies show that her breast
cancer risk drops. Soy’s potentially protective
role may be due to its isoflavones which are phytoestrogens (literally
meaning “plant estrogens”) and may block some of estrogen’s activity. It could
also be the result of various anti-cancer phytochemicals in soybeans. To
get the maximum
benefit of soy’s protection, some studies show that healthy soy foods should
be part of the diet during puberty and adolescence when breast tissue is
forming. But that doesn’t mean that you should go soy-crazy. As we’ve discussed,
quality and quantity matter. For example, the ladies who participated in the
original studies connecting Asian women’s lower breast cancer risk to their
regular soy consumption were eating small, moderate amounts of whole or
minimally processed soy foods (not buckets of soy jerky!).
why are people still concerned about soy when it comes to estrogen-sensitive
diseases like breast cancer?
still not sure how much soy is safe for individuals such as breast cancer
patients and survivors, so doctors often recommend that their patients play it
safe by avoiding soy completely. But it’s important to note that soy supplements
(not soy foods) are often used in the animal studies that point an accusatory
finger at soy and cause alarm. In “Life Over Cancer,” Keith Block, Oncologist
MD, states that based on his review of the current research, “both premenopausal
and postmenopausal women with ER+ tumors can safely eat soy foods such as tempeh
and tofu about two or three times per week.” Interestingly enough, many of the
same doctors who tell patients to avoid soy altogether never mention the
abundant amounts of estrogen and other growth hormones found in meat and dairy
products! So if you’re avoiding soy as a result of a cancer diagnosis, think
twice about animal products as well.
What about soy-loving fellas?
Good news for boys and men! Despite the buzz that “girlie” phytoestrogens may
have a negative effect on hormones and fertility for males, there isn’t a single
study showing this—nothing linking these issues to soy formula for baby boys or
tofu burgers for boy scouts—nada. In fact, a huge study published
in 2009 showed that soy food consumption actually reduced prostate cancer risk
by 26 percent among soy-strong men.
If you’re concerned about male reproductive issues, it might be time to look
more closely at your dairy consumption. A recent
study found that consuming
high-fat dairy products like cheese and sour cream may lower sperm quality and
fertility, perhaps due to the naturally occurring reproductive hormone,
pesticides, chlorinated pollutants and/or heavy metals present in dairy foods.
Does soy impact thyroid health?
Another soy misunderstanding: Much like the confusion surrounding cruciferous
veggies and thyroid function, soy isoflavones do
not cause hypothyroidism or exacerbate hypothyroidism. Although, you should
be aware that they could increase the body’s need for iodine. Soy isoflavones
may take up some of the iodine needed to make thyroid hormones. But, as long as
iodine intake is sufficient, soy shouldn’t be a problem for the thyroid. Iodine
is especially high in sea veggies, which means that miso soup with tofu cubes
and wakame seaweed is not only a soothing combo, but also a match made in
thyroid health heaven.
Please note that soy foods may affect
the absorption of meds used to treat hypothyroidism. If you take medicine to
treat hypothyroidism and love soy, check with your doctor so that your dosages
can be adjusted accordingly. And still eat seaweed — it’s good for you!
If soy isn’t a great fit for me, what are the best alternatives?
While soy can be a convenient and healthy part of your diet, know that if you’re
allergic (soy allergies are quite common), feel congested after eating it or
need to avoid soy for other reasons, it’s not an essential part of a plant-based
diet and can be eliminated without compromising your health. As I mentioned
earlier, plant protein and essential fatty acids are found in a variety of
beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, quinoa and whole grains. And soy-free milk, cheese
and meat alternatives are widely available today. Be a label detective and
choose products with a short list of ingredients you can pronounce. I opt for a
variety of nut, seed and grain-based alternatives, such as almond milk, hemp
milk, flax milk, nut cheese and grain meat.
more soy schooling, check out these highly researched and credible resources:
Whether or not you decide to include soy in your diet is very personal decision
that only you can make, but hopefully you feel much more prepared to make that
choice with this knowledge under your belt.
Peace & edamame,
This is also enlightening:
Soy Myth Busters Webinar
(under continuing education).
The soy in Juice Plus+ Complete
is non-GMO and water-washed (the lowest form of processing possible); it is one
of the five sources of 13 grams of protein in each serving. Here are the labels
listing the ingredients of the
Here's what Dr. Mitra Ray (PhD
biochemist) says on this subject: "With all the controversy over soy,
this link is
an objective look at it's safety. I think it is fine. Soy is neither an
incredible health panacea nor is it dangerous. All food, even broccoli can be
bad for you if that is all you eat and there is no variety in your diet. And
Juice Plus+ Complete is such a good product and so many people have used for
over 12 years now, that I cannot believe that if there were any health
challenges, we wouldn’t know by now. The only issue I ever had with Complete is
when a person is downright allergic to soy. Other than that, Juice Plus+
Complete should be incorporated without hesitation into a person’s health
Other related articles:
To learn more please watch the Webinar
below by Jan Roberto MD,
on the role of Juice Plus+ and Juice Plus+ Complete in your health,
fitness and nutrition program.