Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Soy Facts Versus Soy Hype

So, have you heard? Soy protein will reduce your cholesterol, prevent breast cancer, help you lose weight and, for all we know, it does laundry and windows. The fantastic claims about soy protein seem to be endless. And to think, we’ve been feeding this wonder food to cattle for years. Hunh.

Okay, so how much is real and how much is hype? A bit of reading will help clear this up and I’ll give you some links for you to check out.

Let’s start with the claims about soy isoflavones and lowering cholesterol. According to the Mayo Clinic and WebMd sites, this particular claim about soy is hype. That’s unfortunate because it seemed such an easy answer. However, they qualify this pronouncement. They report the American Heart Association study shows that while there weren’t any cholesterol lowering benefits directly attributable to the soy, substituting soy for proteins with higher saturated fats is a worthwhile part of a heart-healthy diet. Have a look at the article. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/soy/AN01289

So, can soy prevent breast cancer? This one is less clear cut. While it does seem that women who have had, throughout life, a soy-rich diet may be less susceptible to breast cancer, women who have not but have begun taking soy isoflavone supplements experience no particular benefits. In fact, according to an article appearing in Shape Magazine and on the WebMd site, there may even be an increased risk of developing breast cancer in women already considered at risk. Confusing? Just a bit. However, I want you to have a look at the information yourself . http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/truth-about-soy

In the end, what does this mean for those of us using soy as a substitute for other proteins and dairy products? In my opinion, it doesn’t need to mean a lot. It seems it is safe to say that soy should be approached in the way we see all foods. Everything in moderation. Substituting soy for some of your higher fat meats from time to time seems like a good idea. Using soy milk and cheeses should be okay in the same way. Of course, you should consult your doctor regarding any possible risks just as you would for any other major dietary change.

Knowing all this about soy protein is great but how do we eat it? There are obvious ways, of course. Aside from the soy milk and cheese we’ve already mentioned, there is the more straightforward source of the bean itself. Edamame is very, very popular in our household. In fact, we have to keep an eye on our son because he can power through a pound of steamed edamame (in the pods) by himself if no one stops him. What about tofu? Many of us are familiar with the rubbery cubes tossed in with the salad greens or when it is mixed in a great stir fry. This is not a food to be underestimated. Tofu is very adaptable to other flavors and a variety of uses. Try it as a substitute for plain yogurt in a dip or a smoothie.

Soy appears in a lot of foods in other ways and if you do have a soy allergy or are cooking for someone who does, you really need to be aware of this. Vegetable oil and shortening is usually soy based and is found in many, many packaged products in your grocery store. Many margarines rely on soy, as well. Again, you need to be very vigilant about reading labels.

I have several tofu recipes I’ll post over time and I am confident there are many more out there. Whenever you come up with a great new use or find a good recipe, I hope you’ll let us in on it.

Until then, let’s go eat that!


Anonymous said...

The beneficial effect of soy on lowering blood cholesterol is related to the soy protein not soy isoflavone content, as identified in the FDA approved health claim. A 2008 evidence based review by Harland and Haffner shows a reduction of 10% in bad cholesterol and triglycerides with 25 grams of soy protein per day. (Reference - J . Harland , T . Haffner. Systematic review, meta-analysis and regression of randomised controlled trials reporting an association between an intake of circa 25g soya protein per day and blood cholesterol. Atherosclerosis. 2008.)

Sandra Gordon said...

You are quite right that the FDA did issue a limited approval regarding soy protein. Here's a link to the FDA info. http://www.fda.gov/Fdac/features/2000/300_soy.html

As I mentioned above, the study regarding soy isoflavones showed that they do not have a positive effect in lowering bad cholesterol.

So, yes. You can certainly benefit by substituting soy in place of protein sources with higher saturated fats. The suggested quantity is 25 g per day. This is easy enough to get into your diet but it should be done daily for the long term in order to receive full benefit. That can be a bit more daunting unless you make a concerted effort to consume soy products in their whole form in a variety of ways. I'll be including some recipes in this blog that use whole soy to help introduce the needed variety.

Meg said...

I agree with everything in moderation. I found out the hard way. I really wanted to get more protein in my diet and went overboard with the soy. Well...it caused me some health problems. I mention it and some articles in one of my blog posts.

Sandra Gordon said...

Yes, it is always possible to have too much of a good thing, more's the pity. I'll have to buzz over to your blog to read more of your articles!

viagra online said...

I love soy because I'm vegetarian and of course, I feel so proud of have taken such a wise step in my life.