By Barbara Broggelwirth, RDN, CDN
With all of the nutrition misinformation circulating out there, soy foods have been demonized the most. The truth of the matter is this: soy is one of the most studied nutrients (it has been the subject of nearly 2,000 papers annually) and the evidence does not support the bad health claims(1).
In fact, soy is a very healthy alternative to meat. Soy is a high-quality source of protein, contains all of the essential amino acids, soluble and insoluble fiber, vitamins and minerals, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, no cholesterol, and very little saturated fat. So why the bad press?
Some of the earlier soy studies suggested that genistein, a primary isoflavone in soy, promoted breast cancer growth in rodents. But as research advanced, scientists found that rats and mice metabolize genistein differently from humans. Therefore cancer growth in rodents cannot be compared to humans. In fact, in 2006, the American Cancer Society concluded that breast cancer patients can safely consume up to three servings (3 oz = 1 serving) of traditional soy foods per day (2). Additionally, studies in Asian women have found a lower risk of breast cancer with greater soy food consumption (2).
So what is the best source of soy? These days’ supermarkets have entire aisles dedicated to soy products, but they are not all the same. A processed soy nugget is the same as a processed chicken nugget, it just doesn’t contain chicken, but it is still processed.
Here are some tips for adding soy foods to your diet:
- Make tofu:Tofu can be stir-fried, grilled, added to stews and soups, and used in mixed dishes such as lasagna.
- Prepare tempeh: Tempeh is a great addition to chili and pasta sauce.
- Drink soymilk: Soymilk can be used in smoothies and on cereal.
- Eat edamame: Edamame can be used in soup, stir-fries, and salads or eaten as a snack.
- Munch on soybeans: Roasted soybeans (aka soy nuts) can be eaten as a snack or added to salads.
- Messina M, Messina V. The role of soy in vegetarian diets. Nutrients. 2010;2(8):855-888.
2.. Doyle C, Kushi LH, Byers T, et al. Nutrition and physical activity during and after cancer treatment: an American Cancer Society guide for informed choices. CA Cancer J Clin.2006;56(6):323-353.
Barbara Broggelwirthis a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who is currently working with Bariatric and Medical Weight Management patients. She works with patients to help them achieve their health and weight loss goals.