Soy is one of the more controversial of the health foods available today. At first glance, it seems like a healthy choice, thanks to its high fiber and plant-based protein content. However, many experts insist that soy products can be dangerous as a result of its estrogen-mimicking properties. So which is it? How dangerous is soy?
The Nutritional Benefits of Soy
Soy has a pretty amazing nutritional profile. Not only is it one of the best plant sources of protein (delivering all nine essential amino acids required to build muscle), but it’s also loaded with dietary fiber, both soluble and insoluble. Soy is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids as well, which improves heart health, slows aging, and enhances joint function. The main benefit of soy comes from its high amino acid content, but it’s truly one of the healthiest legumes on the planet.
The Danger with Soy
The problem with soy is that it contains phytoestrogens, plant-produced chemicals that mimic the properties of estrogen in the body. Estrogen is the hormone that causes you to store more fat, so higher estrogen—both the hormones produced by your body and the estrogen-like chemicals from soy—may lead to greater fat storage, no matter how much you exercise. Worse, there may be a risk of increasing hormone-sensitive cancers like breast cancer or ovarian cancer, both of which respond to higher levels of estrogen in the body.
Science Just Can’t Agree
Previous research has indicated that the phytoestrogens in soy products can be dangerous, but recent studies have been divided on the subject. Studies in the past few years have discovered that the phytoestrogens in soy don’t work exactly like the estrogen produced by your body. There are similarities, but perhaps not enough to cause serious health problem.
What the Research Says
According to the latest findings, soy may be back on the list of “good” foods, without the potential dangers. Large meta-analyses of multiple studies have indicated that there is no increased risk of breast cancer from eating soy products. In fact, natural soy may actually help to reduce breast cancer risk, though further research is needed to confirm that theory. However, science has indisputable proof that soy beans, soy milk, and other natural soy products can decrease your heart disease risk and possibly even alleviate some of the symptoms of menopause.
How Dangerous is Soy?
The truth is that the science isn’t 100% clear on whether soy is a danger or a blessing. Every new study reveals new properties and effects of soy, most of which are overwhelmingly positive. However, it’s important to be knowledgeable on the food you’re putting in your body. While soy may not be as dangerous as previously believed, that doesn’t mean you should over-eat, especially not when it comes to processed soy products like texturized proteins. In the end, the processing and addition of artificial ingredients could cause harm in a totally different way.
How to Safely Eat Soy
In the end, it all comes down to moderation and making the right food choices. Stick with a serving or two of soy per day, and make sure it comes from natural food sources that are as close to raw as possible. Avoid any soy that is highly processed or contains artificial ingredients. Make your own soy milk, eat soy beans cooked at home, and enjoy organic tofu, seitan, tempeh, and other soy-based products. The more natural the soy, the less risk of health problems. You can benefit from the high amino acid content of soy without endangering your health!