Soy what's the deal?
The deal is that soy is one of the best sources of plant protein.
I am soy glad that I can clear up the huge misconception about soy.
Recently I have had a couple men ask me about the estrogen in soy, if it causes breast cancer and if they are going to get moobs (man boobs).
I know for a fact that it soyyyyy does not cause man boobs, so to the men reading this… don’t worry.
Before I get into the facts lets break soy down.
What is soy?
Soy, which is often used as shortened version of soybean, is a legume that is native to east asia. If you’ve had edamame beans (young soybeans) before, you would recognize that soybeans are very similar to beans as they grow in pods. This legume is oh so very versatile and shows up in many forms such as soybeans, tofu, edamame, soy milk, tempeh, soy sauce and many other products.
Is soy a good source of protein?
Not only is soy an AMAZING source of protein is THE ONLY plant based protein that is a complete protein. This means that soy provides all nine essential amino acids that our bodies need to make proteins and function properly.
Check out this table below for a comparison to other sources of protein:
As you can see, the numbers are comparable. The protein content in soy varies depending on the form it is in and how it was processed.
Soybeans in their natural form are one of the densest sources of protein. (They are also a great crunchy snack.) Soybeans are also a great source of folate, fiber and Vitamin K.
These jam packed beans also have a multitude of beneficial properties that are described below.
Does soy increase our estrogen levels?
I believe this claim came from the mix up between phytoestrogen and estrogen. Phytoestrogen is found in many plants (not only soy) and human estrogen is produced by mammals. The most common phytoestrogen that is mentioned is isoflavones, in which the levels in plants can vary widely.
Phytoestrogen is not used by our bodies, because we aren’t plants. It is similar enough to estrogen that our body recognizes it but cannot use it. It actually blocks some of our human estrogen from getting absorbed which decreases our estrogen levels and thus the risk of certain types of cancer in WOMEN AND MEN.
There is A LOT of research to back up the claim that soy decreases the risk of breast cancer in women. In an epidemiological Asian study, breast cancer risk was reduced up to 1/3rd with higher soy consumption. Overall, the various research shows an overall risk reduction in women. It was also highlighted that the moderate consumption of soy in early years (children and adolescents) may be more beneficial to reduce risk later in life.
Furthermore, a systematic review and analysis of thirty articles related to soy consumption and prostate cancer showed significant reductions in risk of prostate cancer in men. Increased intake of soy foods and isoflavones is shown to favour lower rates of prostate cancer in multiple studies.
What are the other health benefits of soy?
An analysis of multiple randomized controlled trials showed that soy products can impact lipid levels. Specifically, reducing LDL cholesterol (the bad stuff) and increasing HDL cholesterol (the good stuff). This impact was more significant with those that already had high cholesterol levels. ALSO these reductions were stronger when whole soy products were consumed such as soybeans and soymilk versus processed soy products.
The decrease in lipid levels may also be due to the substitution of soy for meat proteins. In replacing meat with plant based proteins it reduces the overall intake saturated fat, which will positively impact your blood lipid levels.
Organic soy vs regular soy?
The main difference between organic soy and regular soy is that organic soy does not have any GMO’s (genetically modified organisms). GMO’s have been very controversial over the years, due to the alteration of plant genes for various purposes.
Research was done on soybeans from the state of Iowa and they found that organic soybeans were overall more nutrient dense with more protein, natural sugars are zinc. The GMO soybeans had high levels of glyphoshate residue which is a chemical in pesticides and herbicides. Although this was just one state, it is possible that results may be similar from other places.
I believe this comes down to personal preference, values and finances. I do think it is important to reduce our exposure to as many chemicals as possible. I would suggest buying organic soybean products when able to.
I big fan of soy and plant-based proteins in general. I often cook using plant-based proteins, not only for the health benefits but it is also extremely economical. Myself and my bank account are happy campers :)
Not only from personal bias but I also like to look research as well as real life examples of lifestyle and dietary habits to see long term outcomes. How eating patterns manifest in real life is great proof to support or oppose a way of living. Some of the healthier nations are ones that incorporate more plant-based proteins into their diet, which is a good testament to the health benefits of these foods.
Soy please don’t be scared of soy ladies and gentleman!