We hear it constantly from carnivores, raw foodies, and Doctors alike; “Don’t eat soy.” And yet, we always wonder how (organic) soy products can be nearly as harmful as processed, cancer-ridden, anti-biotic hosting slabs of carcass on a sandwich. Therefore, we keep eating it (in moderation) regardless of the constant bad press poor ole edamame gets.
In their newsletter today, Meatout Mondays reports;
Researchers report that soy is a safe and healthy food. A study published in the August issue of the American Institute for Cancer Research dispels the confusion over stories claiming that tofu and soy milk can lead to breast growth or reduced testosterone levels.
The recent analysis combined results from several studies, revealing that men who consumed the most soy foods were 26% less likely to develop prostate cancer. Another study found that hysterectomy rates were lowest among women whose diets contained the most soy foods, suggesting that soy reduces the risk of fibroids and endometriosis.
Additionally, a study of men in their 50s and 60s found those who ate soy foods twice a day for three months showed no change in testosterone levels but a 14% drop in levels of PSA (an indicator of prostate growth used in screening for prostate cancer). Yet another study of children fed soy protein formula for more than six months showed no harmful effects.
Soy beans contain high amounts of protein, including all essential amino acids (the only such vegetable source). Soy beans are also a rich source of calcium, iron, zinc, phosphorus, magnesium, B-vitamins, omega 3 fatty acids and fiber.
A recent article on FoodConsumer.com tell us;
Asian populations tend to show a much greater drop in prostate cancer risk with soy foods than Western populations.
Fermentation may change how easily our bodies absorb isoflavones, which means that fermented soy foods (miso, tempeh, natto) may have a different effect on prostate cancer risk than non-fermented soy foods (soy milk, tofu and edamame). Some studies suggest that the effect of soy foods may depend on its interaction with other food compounds; the lycopene from tomatoes is one such interaction under study.
While we wait for more answers about the possible protection from soy, men can feel safe eating one or two servings of soy foods daily. Soy foods are nutritious, low in saturated fat, and men have consumed them for generations without harm. However, until we know more about isoflavone safety, research does not show benefit or safety of consuming large amounts of isoflavone supplements in hopes of achieving protection.
Still not comfortable enough to throw some marinated tofu on the grill? How about a Doctor’s opinion? One of America’s most respected Doctors, Dr. Andrew Weil tell us;
I’m aware of Internet paranoia on the subject of soy and the contention that only fermented soy is safe to consume. That is simply not true. Some of the best forms of soy – edamame, tofu and soy nuts – are unfermented and are much more likely to help you than hurt you.
Claims that unfermented soy foods (such as tofu and soy milk) contain toxins that block the action of enzymes needed to digest protein, and that these toxins cause pancreatic enlargement, cancer and stunted growth in animals are misleading. While soy does contain substances (trypsin inhibitors) that may adversely affect the pancreas in animals, there’s no solid evidence that they cause similar problems in humans. Furthermore, trypsin inhibitors are found in all of the vegetables of the cabbage family as well as in beans other than soy.
Other concerns about soy safety focus on the following issues:
* Breast cancer: Here, the idea is that high levels of isoflavones, active ingredients in soy that behave like estrogen in the body, may increase the risk of breast cancer. While high levels of isolated isoflavones may do so, it appears that the total mix of weak plant estrogens in soy protects the body’s estrogen receptors. This protection may reduce the effects of excess estrogen exposure from such external sources as meats and dairy products from hormone-treated cows as well as artificial chemicals and industrial pollutants that act as foreign estrogens. Japanese women whose diets contain a lot of soy foods have only one-fifth the rate of breast cancer that occurs among Western women.
* Thyroid Problems: Excess consumption of soy can affect thyroid function, but only if you have a thyroid disorder to begin with or if you’re not getting enough iodine in your diet (a rare deficiency in the United States). If you take medication for hypothyroidism (low thyroid), and are concerned about the effect of eating two daily servings of soy, have your thyroid levels checked regularly.
* Mineral absorption: The idea that substances in soy called phytates block absorption of essential minerals is also in circulation, but there is no scientific data suggesting that soy consumption leads to mineral deficiency in humans.
All told, based on the evidence to date, I see no reason to worry about eating soy foods, whether fermented or not. I still recommend consuming one to two servings of soy per day, an amount equivalent to one cup of soy milk, or one half cup of tofu, soy protein (tempeh) or soy nuts.
So stop your whining… and enjoy your dang soy. It’s fabulous protein and (when organic) better for you than any dead animal or animal bi-product you could consume, by far.