Time for some soy talk again. In this post, I covered some of the health benefits soy offers for men. Let’s do the same for women.
First, some soybean basics that apply to all people.
Soy is a unique legume because it is higher in protein and fat and lower in carbohydrates than most other beans. The fat in soybeans comes in the form of plant-based essential omega-3 fatty acids and some polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acids. The carbs are mostly in the form of oligosaccharides which are a type of sugar that supports the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut. Beyond that soybeans are rich in calcium, fiber, magnesium, and iron. They are low in saturated fat which also makes them a heart-healthy food.
You may have heard that soy can be helpful in preventing breast cancer. Or maybe you have heard the opposite. Let’s clear this up.
Stick with me. I’m going to explain this the best I can.
Reduces the risk of breast cancer.
Research shows that a moderate consumption of soy, about 1-3 servings a day, is not only safe for women, even those that have had breast cancer but has protective qualities against breast cancer developing or reoccurring.
There are two types of estrogen receptors cells in our bodies: alpha and beta. Estrogen can bind to both while soy isoflavones (phytoestrogens) prefer to bind to the beta-receptors. This means that estrogen and phytoestrogen act differently in our body. Estrogen has positive and negative effects on the body depending on where it’s accumulating. For example, a high amount of estrogen is beneficial for bone health but can increase the chance of breast cancer growth. What we want are “selective estrogen receptor modulators” or SERMS. SERMS have pro-estrogenic effects in some parts of the body and anti-estrogenic effects in other parts. The phytoestrogens in soy belong to the SERMS group so by consuming soy you are getting the best of both worlds.
Most breast tumors are estrogen-dependent which means the anti-estrogenic effect of soy can help prevent the growth of them.
Just look at the studies that have been done in cultures where soy products are consumed throughout life such as Japan. Historically, Japanese women have low rates of breast cancer, especially compared to women in the United States. They also historically consume soy products such as tofu, natto, and miso.
Help with hot flashes.
In this case, soy is acting as a pro-estrogen. Several dozen studies have been done on the effect of soy foods and isoflavone supplements on hot flash incidence. While in many studies, women going through menopause received a high level of relief other studies showed a much lower level. This could be because some individuals metabolize isoflavones from soy more easily than others. Or it could be that some soy foods and supplements have varying amounts of isoflavones. That’s why I believe if you are dealing with hot flashes try consuming soy foods such as tempeh, tofu, edamame, and miso on a regular basis. There is no health risk (as there are with consuming prescription drugs). The worst that could happen is that it doesn’t help. The best that could happen is that it does.
Consistently consuming a moderate amount of soy is recommended to reduce the frequency and severity of hot flashes by about 50 percent. This can be very helpful for those that suffer about 6 or more hot flashes a day.
Get the most benefit from soy.
I recommend choosing the least processed version of the food.
Soybeans, just like any other food, should be part of a balanced diet full of a variety of other health-promoting plant foods.
Tofu, tempeh, miso, soymilk, and edamame are all great ways to eat soy. I suggest buying organic whenever possible to avoid GMOs and unhealthy pesticides and chemicals. I encourage you to consume soy in these whole or minimally processed forms much more often than the overly-processed versions such as soy burgers, soy hot dogs, or protein powder that contains soy protein isolate.
Ways to enjoy soy:
1. Miso soup from the Minimalist Baker. I love having this alongside some veggie sushi rolls such as these.
2. Blissed-Out Thai Salad With Peanut Sauce and tempeh from the Minimalist Baker.
3. Speedy Veggie Noodle Bowl with Homemade Teriyaki Sauce from Oh She Glows.
4. Vegan Cobb Salad with tofu from It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken
I will be sharing a few of my personal tofu recipes in the coming days so stay tuned for that!