What are the common controversies surrounding Soy Health Benefits?
Is soybean a magical food with plenty of soy health benefits or is it a non-edible plant-based food that males and females should avoid? Initially, in some countries, soybean was known as the poor man’s meat and now soy has become even more expensive than regular dairy products.
Some people say you must have less than 50gms of soy or more than 10gms and such different figures to gain soy health benefits. However, no scientific study has been able to prove such quantities for soy consumption. A few YouTubers and social media influencers are spreading wrong information about soy due to the wrong viral trends. A recently published eBook called “The Whole Soy Story” had caused a worldwide scare of soybean to a great extent.
Let us see some common myths that surround soybean.
- Is soy harmful to males?
- Does soy increase estrogen levels in the body?
- How is Soy related to Breast Cancer?
- What effect does Soy have on our Bones?
- Is there any truth to Soy health benefits in Baby Food?
- What is better soy protein or animal protein?
- Is soybean harmful to women?
When and where did soy originate?
Traditionally soybean was first found in Asian countries. The consumption of soy has been a part of northern China, since 9000 BC. Ancient Chinese people considered soy as a national treasure. They also named it as the yellow jewel.
“Asian people believe that traditional consumption of soy helps them have fewer skin wrinkles and also age slowly”
However, slowly as soy got introduced to western countries the production of soy in countries like the USA increased drastically.
“Industrially produced soybeans are now grown in the United States more than anywhere else in the world”
What are Anti-nutrients and the correct ways to Consume Soy?
Well, we all know that food provides us with nutrients that are good for the growth and functioning of our bodies. But did you know that some foods also have anti-nutrients? Anti-nutrients are some natural compounds found in foods that do not allow the regular absorption of vital nutrients into our bodies.
Traditional Japanese and Chinese people have used soy as a 20% part of their daily food intake? Studies have shown very high longevity rates and very few heart diseases in the people of these countries.
“It is best that you eat everything but always in moderation”
Soy is one such grain that contains some amount of anti-nutrients.
However, if Soy is cooked and consumed in the correct way these anti-nutrients get destroyed and we can get all the immense health benefits of Soy.
Some of the other traditional ways in which soy should be consumed are as follows.
- Soy can be eaten after fermentation in salads or soups.
- Soy can be soaked overnight and eaten in the morning.
- Soy can be cooked and eaten as sabzi or vegetable.
- Tofu, temp miso, soy milk, fermented soybeans retain the good nutrients and kill the anti-nutrients.
What are the common myths around Soy Health Benefits?
In recent times soy has been under too much controversy by anti-soy groups or soy marketing groups. Either soy is overhyped or undermined. However, when consumed in the right balanced manner soy can aid in a lot of health benefits. Let us see some of the common concerns surrounding soy.
Myth 1: Soy Increases Estrogen Levels – Truth or Myth?
Soy is a unique plant. It contains phytoestrogen compounds that behave almost exactly like human estrogen.
”Estrogens are female sex hormones to enhance female hormonal activity”.
Japanese consume high levels of phytoestrogens in their diet due to which they live longer and also have fewer heart diseases. Cancer, bone health, brain health, and multiple other diseases are cured by phytoestrogens. Flax seeds and Soy have a very good quantity of phytoestrogens.
Some people feel that phytoestrogens can add too much estrogen in the body when we eat soy. Hence people concluded that since estrogen is a female hormone, soy has a feminizing effect on men. People also concluded that men would develop man boobs on the consumption of estrogens present in Soy. However, the body produced estrogen and plant-based estrogen does not function in the same way.
“The body discards plant-based estrogen in the form of urine. Since it gets removed from our body it does not cause much destruction to our bodily functions.”
Hence the high levels of estrogen that soy adds to our body, work differently unlike regular estrogen and are not harmful to males or females.
Myth 2: Soy health Benefits on Cardiovascular Health
Soy contains 10% isoflavones. Are isoflavones good for the heart? Do they have any benefit for the heart? In 2000 American heart association claimed that more than 25gms of isoflavones per day will help reduce 8% cholesterol in a person. However, on 30th October 2017, Dr. Susan who is the director of the FDA’s food and nutrition released an official statement on FDA’s website. She said that all these claims surrounding soy and heart health were not true. “Soy did not reduce cholesterol levels or has no effect on heart health.” She revoked all the previous claims that the FDA had made surrounding soy from 1999.
Myth 3: Does Soy reduce Breast Cancer?
In 2010 there has been a study by US research that when you expose human breast tissue to increased levels of chemical estrogens for a long period it can cause high chances of breast cancer. However, soy contains plant-based estrogen which is called Phytoestrogens. These do not cause any harm to the breast tissues.
“ In fact, it has been studied that the rate of breast cancer in Asian women is 3 to 5 times lesser than the rate in women in western countries.”
This is because in Asian countries women eat good and natural forms of Soy. Soybean reduces the risk of breast cancer in both premenopausal and postmenopausal women.
Soy has certain good nutrients and isoflavones which help to reduce the risk of breast cancer and prevents it from occurring again. Isoflavones are compounds that are found in soy, which can reduce breast cancers and other diseases in the body.
Research states that Japanese women who went to the US got higher chances of breast cancer because they consumed processed Soy (Genetically modified soybean). Hence when consumed in the traditionally fermented way soy is absolutely safe for women.
Myth 4: What effect does Soy have on our Bones?
Multiple studies have stated that soy is very beneficial for people suffering from osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition that makes human bones weak and brittle. Some people your bone health density will increase if you eat soy on a daily basis. However multiple studies state that soy has absolutely no effect on our bone density and should not be consumed to improve bone health.
Myth 5: Is Soy protein the best source of Baby Food?
In recent times, companies are selling soy-based baby foods as the best baby foods.
“Breast Milk is the love of the mother turned into nature’s perfect food for babies.”
The best source of baby food is always breastmilk. Baby food made using animal supplements or whey protein is the second-best source of baby food. Lastly, the third-best baby food is the one using soy protein supplements. You should always check the ingredients list behind the baby food package to know what you are feeding your baby. Some baby foods contain harmful chemicals, sugars, refined flour, and corn syrups. Such packaged foods are very toxic to your baby.
“Soy is considered a source of baby food only if the baby is lactose intolerant and cannot digest milk or milk-based products”.
Myth 6: Is Soy harmful to males and does it affect male testosterone levels?
Our Indian fitness industry is still lacking a lot of knowledge and research and is still finding its ground in the fitness world. However, extensive research shows that soy consumption does NOT affect male testosterone levels and is not harmful to males.
Scientists have done a 12 week-long study on athletes and tested them by giving them soy protein, whey protein and a blend of soy and whey protein. The entire study states that after 12 weeks there was a considerable increase in lean body mass of the athletes but there was absolutely no side effect in the quality of sperm, semen or testosterone levels of any of the athletes.
“Balanced Soy intake does not decrease or affect a man’s testosterone levels. Hence the myth that soy is harmful to men is false.”
In a review of over 15 studies, intake of up to 70 grams of soy did not affect the free testosterone levels or total testosterone levels of any men. Hence the rumor that soy affects male health, or their masculinity is nothing but a false claim.
Myth 7: Is Soy Harmful to women?
Soy is a very good source of plant-based protein, iron, zinc, amino acids, unsaturated fatty acids, and B vitamins. Soy health benefits are many for the health of women. It is said that Asian women who consume a balanced amount of soy age much lesser and look younger for a long period of time.
However, for Soy to not lose its nutrients, soy must be consumed in the traditional way like how they consumed it in Asian countries. “Women can prevent aging, skin diseases, breast cancer, heart diseases by eating soy in its traditional way like tofu, soy milk, fermented soybeans in a salad, etc.”
Myth 8: What is better Soy Protein or Animal Protein?
Soybean is a plant protein and Whey is made from animal protein like cow’s milk. Soybean contains 90 to 95% protein whereas whey contains high amounts of amino acids. However, both are excellent sources for bodybuilding, muscle recovery, and overall growth.
“Soy-based protein is a natural and complete source of protein that aids muscle building to a large extent. Soy is an alternative for people who are vegan and do not want to use an animal-sourced protein.”
Soy should be consumed by lactose-intolerant adults since it is plant-based. Soy has a nutty taste and milk has a creamy taste. However, soy milk is just a substitute for milk for bodybuilders or people who are not able to consume milk or milk products and are lactose intolerant or vegan. It is not a magical food and should not be overhyped.
Both the proteins are excellent and depending on the dietary restrictions and nutritional needs one must choose between the two since one size does not fit all.
You must have factual knowledge about the food you consume rather than blindly trusting myths. Soy health benefits are plenty and soy has been consumed by men and women across the world for years.