Soybeans, tofu, edamame, soymilk, tempeh, soy cheese, veggie meat, soy meat, miso… If you haven’t guessed already, all of these foods contain soy as a mean ingredient.
For vegans and vegetarians, soy is a convenient, tasty and healthy substitute for meat products. For carnivores, replacing some meat-filled meals with soy products can be a wise choice.
For one, a diet rich in low-processed soy protein can reduce factors of heart disease and cholesterol, as well as breast, prostate and colon cancer, according to Nutrition Md. Soy may also enhance coronary artery function, and improve bone mineral density, according to the same website.
Other sites like Nutrition Diva suggest that soy helps decrease osteoporosis and hot flashes, while Parade takes note that soy is rich in calcium, iron and zinc.
But are there any drawbacks to eating soy foods?
Apparently there are still many tests being conducted by the American Heart Association. However, many fear that children who’ve consumed soy products as a baby or child may be affected by low testosterone, low sperm count, or infertility later in life. In addition, babies are sensitive to hormones in the womb, and some doctors feel that while soy milk may be a good substitute for cow milk, mothers should always consider breast-feeding before choosing this option. Essentially, only time will show the test results on this matter. (Pediatrics)
Soy also can increase estrogen levels, which in term can increase the risk of breast cancer for women who’ve already had it or for women already at risk. According to Parade, it also may interfere with thyroid function, and anyone on a related thyroid medication should take it at least hours before consuming soy.
Men should particularly be aware that while soy can help equalize estrogen levels, it may have negative affects on sexual function and/or fertility if too much of it is consumed. However, according to Nutrition Diva, “Men have been eating soy and plenty of it for centuries in Asia and have not experienced population-wide fertility issues.”
One should also consider that while foods like tofu are popular in Asia, (while heart disease and cancer are not) people there most likely replace animal protein completely with soy protein. Thus, to achieve the health benefits, a cheeseburger with a side of tofu might not do the trick.
If you’re trying to be healthier but don’t want to lose flavor, I recommend replacing deli meats and cheeses with veggie meats and soy cheeses. The products are fairly inexpensive and contain just as much protein.