The Truth About Soy

Written by Jamie, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

Soy is one of nature’s most protein-rich plant foods, offering numerous health benefits. In recent years, soy has had a bad rap for its alleged harmful effects on our body’s hormones, leading to potential health dangers. Touted as problematic by much of the media and health enthusiasts, many people have sworn off soy entirely from their diets. Sadly, the substantial health benefits of soy are not only undermined but also unbeknownst to many people.

Soy is a plant native to Eastern Asia. It was first cultivated in China in 1100 BC and has been consumed regularly by Asian populations for centuries. In Japan, the high consumption of soy has been correlated with the country’s low rate of breast and prostate cancer and high life longevity.

Believe it or not, whether fermented or unfermented, soy is one of the healthiest plant foods, providing an array of nutrients that include fiber, iron, calcium, omega-3s, essential vitamins and minerals as well as phytochemicals. Not to mention, soy is the only plant with a complete amino acid profile, which makes it a reliable high quality and abundant source of protein for vegetarians. The inclusion of soy in vegetarian diets has linked with having lower rates of chronic diseases.

Due to the functionality of soy, the health claims around it, as well as the controversies surrounding it, soy is one of the extensively studied foods of all time. A large body of scientific research shows the addition of 25 grams of soy protein a day to a diet that is low in saturated fat and cholesterol might help to reduce the risk of heart disease. Also, soy is associated with lowered cholesterol, less risk of heart disease, possible reduction of hot flashes, and reduced risk of breast, prostate, or endometrial cancers. Research on soy has been monitored and reviewed by trusted organizations such as the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, and the FDA.

Moderate consumption of soy is safe for those not allergic to it, and the health benefits you receive from soy can outweigh any risk they may pose. To gain the nutritional benefits from soy, make sure to consume 25 grams of soy protein per day from sources such as soybeans (edamame), tofu, tofu burger, and soy milk, along with a healthy diet.

To read about popular myths surrounding soy and how these myths are busted, click here.

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