Have you ever wondered if soy was bad or dangerous? On Instagram @AndreaHardyRD, I talk all about the misconceptions about soy and whether or not it is safe to eat.
So, is soy bad for me?
No! There’s a lot of misconceptions about soy. In particular, people are concerned about soys estrogenic effects, especially in breast cancer.
Well! Let’s set the record straight.
Soy contains a type of phytoestrogen compound known as isoflavone. It’s a type of food chemical that has a similar structure to estrogen. This does NOT mean that soy contains estrogens, however, this phytochemical and its metabolites may have weak binding capacity to estrogen receptors.
That being said, it doesn’t really appear that this ability to bind to estrogen receptors has a hugely measurable benefit or risk on human health. In theory, it may help with menopause or bone health, in reality, we don’t see a ton of measurable differences in large scale studies (though these types of studies are VERY hard to measure cause and effect and likely vary person to person.)
Where soy has shown benefit is in observational studies looking at those that consume a higher soy diet with those that consume a lower soy diet.
These studies have found trends towards a lower associated risk of breast, prostate, and lung cancer, and possibly heart disease.
Was it the soy? Or was it what the soy displaced that provided the benefits? Likely a mix of both.
Interestingly, gut microbiome researchers are beginning to uncover the mechanisms in which soy may provide benefit by way of your gut bacteria. In interventional studies, a variety of different soy products, both fermented and not, show positive impacts on the gut microbiota, increasing abundance of bifidobacteria and lactobacillus. The increased presence of these bacteria is associated increased production of short chain fatty acids (SCFA’s), and a reduction in inflammation. Researchers postulate that this might explain why we see a benefit in terms of reduction of certain chronic diseases in patients with higher soy intakes.
We do need more research to determine causation, but for the time being, there is no need to fear this versatile source of protein – it may actually be protective!
If you enjoy soy products like edamame, tofu, tempeh, or soy milk, go ahead and enjoy them – without the fear!