Is It Safe – or Beneficial – to Eat Soy Products?
Soy has received both positive and negative press in recent years. These products are made from soybeans, which are a type of legume, and include tofu, soy sauce, miso, tempeh and other items. So, are soy products healthy and safe to eat?
Learn more about soy so you can decide if it’s right for you:
1. The benefits of eating soy. Soy has several benefits:
- Soy products are popular among vegans and vegetarians because soy can replace meat in many dishes. Soy is also filling and easy to cook.
- Several studies have found that soy can help women who are going through menopause cope with their symptoms. It seems to be especially helpful for hot flashes.
- Soy may also help people lower their cholesterol levels.
- For people with heart disease issues, replacing high-fat items such as red meat with soy can lower their risk of heart attacks. This is mainly due to reducing saturated fat by switching to soy.
2. The negative side of eating soy. Several studies have found some negative aspects to eating soy:
- Soy products can negatively affect your thyroid function. They can also affect how your body absorbs certain thyroid medications. If you already have an underactive thyroid, then you may need to limit or avoid soy.
- Soy has phytoestrogens, which are similar to estrogen hormones and can mimic them. These phytoestrogens may increase infertility, cause menstrual issues, and raise the risk of cancer. Both men and women can be affected negatively by phytoestrogens.
- Soy may also prevent the body from absorbing some minerals and vitamins. These include magnesium, zinc, calcium, and iron.
- Some people who have celiac disease and can’t eat gluten also have issues with the lectins in soy. This means their body can react to them too.
3. Confusion about soy products and Asia. There are incorrect assumptions about the amount of soy items consumed in Asia. It’s actually much lower than most people think.
- One of the reasons people think it’s safe to eat soy is because it’s popular in Asia, and people in this part of the world tend to have longer life spans and healthier bodies.
- However, studies have found that people in Asia don’t eat a huge number of soy products every day.
- They typically use soy as a condiment or part of a meal instead of an entire dish.
- Adults in Asia usually eat about 10 grams of soy per day.
4. Should you eat soy? This is a decision you should make with your doctor and nutritionist. In moderate amounts, soy is generally considered safe.
- However, if you have thyroid or infertility issues, then you may want to avoid or limit soy products.
- In addition, if you’re a woman who’s taking estrogen or other hormone medications, talk to your doctor before consuming soy items.
- If you’re limiting soy, read all food labels carefully. Soy can show up in cereals, snacks, and many other foods.
5. What is the safest type of soy to eat? In general, fermented soy products are safer.
- Choose items such as miso, which is fermented soybean paste, or try natto, which is a sticky mixture.
- Other fermented products are tempeh, bean paste, pickled tofu, tamari and soy sauce.
- You can find many of these products at your grocery store, online, or in health food stores.
Soy has both advantages and disadvantages for your health, and your doctor can guide you toward what would be best in your situation.