Just Say Soy!
by Catherine Wilbert, MFS, CFT, SPN
Master of Fitness Science, Certified Fitness Trainer
and Performance Nutrition Specialist
Never before has eating one simple food held so much promise for health.
Soy has been shown to reduce symptoms of menopause and PMS, protect
against breast, prostate, and colon cancer, build bone and prevent
osteoporosis, regulate blood sugar levels, protect against heart disease and
Alzheimer’s, and lower cholesterol levels. In fact, the FDA has recently given
the green light for soy food manufacturers to tout soy’s heart healthy
benefits right on the label with the American Heart Association’s seal of
Who would have imagined so much disease fighting power could be packed into one tiny pod.
For centuries, the Chinese and Japanese have enjoyed soybeans as a staple in their diet, providing an
excellent source of protein. What’s interesting is that in these Asian cultures, we see lower incidences of
breast cancer as well as PMS and menopausal symptoms in women, lower incidences of prostate
cancer in men, and lower incidences of Alzheimer’s, even thought the typical Asian lifespan is longer
than that of ours in the United States. Research has now attributed these lower rates of chronic illness, in
part, to their particularly high dietary consumption of soy.
So what gives soy such great healing power?
Soy is the only common food source of a class of plant hormones, or phytoestrogens, known as
isoflavones, which appear to offer protection against a variety of ailments. It is these isoflavones,
Genistein and Diadzein, that have been the focus of more and more research with quite beneficial
Ease Menopause and PMS
Soy is what is known as an “adaptogenic”– the phytoestrogens in soy can have an estrogen like effect if
your estrogen levels are low, and will actually bind to estrogen receptor sites and block estrogen if
levels are too high. For this reason, soy is a great natural way to balance hormone levels and can be
used as a safe alternative to hormone replacement therapy, offering most of the benefits, without the
risks or side effects. Research has confirmed that soy protein as a regular part of the diet can relieve
many of the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause, such as hot flashes, night sweats, mood
swings, vaginal dryness, loss of libido, anxiety, headaches and insomnia. For these same reasons, soy is
able to relieve similar symptoms associated with PMS as well as help regulate periods.
Studies have also shown that the phytoestrogens in soy can sharply reduce the risk of breast and
prostate cancer with their estrogen blocking effects, particularly cancer causing environmental
estrogens known as xenoestrogens. Soy is the only food source that is a powerful antioxidant and offers
many anticancer compounds that inhibit tumor growth.
Soy consumption also helps bones and offers protection against osteoporosis. Soy not only helps
prevent bone loss, but also has been shown to actually build bone – a benefit HRT cannot offer.
Additionally, many soy products contain calcium – another boost for your bones, and when you eat soy
protein rather than animal protein, your body excretes less calcium. Quite a case for the bone building
benefits of soy!
Also, ipriflavone, a derivative of the soy isoflavone diadzein, has been shown in numerous studies to
increase bone density and prevent further bone loss.
Perhaps the biggest claim to fame for soy is its ability to lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of
coronary artery disease. Soy has also been shown to have a beneficial effect on blood vessel reactivity,
which may be why it is helpful with migraine headaches. The fiber, isoflavones and antioxidants in soy
all provide wonderful cardiovascular benefits.
So Just Say Soy!
With all these health benefits, it’s hard to say no to such a miracle food. And for those of you who say
all this talk of soy conjures up thoughts of white lumps of tasteless tofu available only in health food
stores and Asian markets as a non-meat protein alternative for health fanatics - not so. Soy is for
everyone who wants to reap its many benefits. And, with so many good tasting soy food alternatives
readily avail able today - it’s easy to incorporate soy into your diet.
Here are a few particularly tasty recommendations that seem to go over quite well, even with the most
resistant soy consumer.
Try using soymilk instead of cow’s milk. Ask for soymilk the next time you order your favorite coffee from
the local coffee shop or try it over cereal or mixed with a soy protein powder for the added protein
boost. The Silk brand has a pleasant taste, comes in a variety of flavors and is good by itself as a snack.
A handful of roasted soy nuts makes a great high protein, low carb snack. The Now brand comes in an
assortment of flavors from unsalted to BBQ and Hot Cajun and they even offer a sweet Apple
Cinnamon. These seem to win out in most taste tests for both flavor and texture.
Soy Nut Butter. If you have ever tasted it, I needn’t say more. A delicious alternative to peanut butter,
soy nut butter is high in protein, lower in fat, and safe for all those allergic to peanuts. It’s only downfall
is it’s highly addictive and the excuse you are getting your daily allowance of soy isoflavones will only
work for a while.
Edamame, the steamed green soybeans popularized as an appetizer in Asian restaurants, make a
wonderful snack or compliment to dinner or a salad. They are readily available fresh or frozen, in or out
of their pods.
Tofu and Tempeh are still great sources of soy protein and are now available prepared or as Burgers and
Dogs. The Yves brand of Veggie Burgers and Veggie Wieners are particularly tasty and are enjoyed by
even the finickiest, who are reluctant to try soy.
Just try adding a couple of these items into your diet, and sampling the ever growing market of great
tasting soy products, and in just a short time, not only will you be reaping the health benefits, but you
will be looking forward to three or four serving of soy a day.