Saturday, September 19, 2020

Can I Eat Soy?


A recent question from a Cleanse Plan reader…

Are soy foods and milk bad for me?

I’ve heard so much about soy and now I am confused! Let’s look at this information about soy and see if we can sort this out. 

Soy products are derived from soybeans. Soybeans are high in protein and contain what are known as phytoestrogens. Soy may also be high in magnesium or calcium if it is in tofu and that depends how the tofu is prepared. (Look for calcium chloride or magnesium chloride on the label).

In general, soy products are excellent alternatives for anyone wanting a vegetarian and vegan source of protein that can potentially have some health benefits. Of course, it is a great choice for vegans who want to make sure they are getting enough protein or still want something that could be a sort of “meat” substitute.

Here is a summary of some advantages of eating soy and soy products:

  • Good source of protein.
  • Relatively low in fat, a very lean protein.
  • A source of protein that contains unsaturated fat.
  • Contains phytoestrogens, which can either raise or lower levels, depending on what is needed in the body.
  • Preferred sources of soy can be considered the whole food, such as edamame, cooked soy beans, or fermented soy as in miso or tempeh. 

We do know that women who consume the soy equivalent of about 1 cup of soymilk per day may have a reduced chance of developing breast cancer, and a possible “treatment” to reduce menopausal symptoms and prevent bone loss.

A JAMA study revealed that women consuming soy could reduce their recurrence. In a group of 5,042 women previously diagnosed with breast cancer, women who regularly consumed soy products seemed to have a lower rate of recurrence.

Much of the confusion about the safety or risk of soy comes from the presence of phytoestrogens in soy beans and, of course, in soy products. These phytoestrogens are much weaker than the biological hormone estrogen.

They may do the great service of blocking estrogen receptors which otherwise could be stimulated by an excess of estrogen.

Why do women have this excess estrogen?

It comes from toxins in the the surrounding environment. These include plastics, pesticides, and other chemicals that are everywhere in the environment. 

Will soy suppress my thyroid?

There is some evidence that soy beans or soy products suppress thyroid function. However, it is the concentrated derivatives of soy that could be causing the problem.

These include soy isoflavones. Soy isoflavones could be blocking the proper absorption of iodine usually available. Soy isoflavones are sometimes used in soy protein shakes or in supplements to reduce women’s hot flashes.

Avoid these concentrated forms of soy.  Soy products may have some awesome benefits, as there are studies that indicate they may reduce bad cholesterol (known as LDL). There is early evidence that they may assist in the risk of osteoporosis related hip fractures!

It does appear that the most digestible sources of soy, and likely the best to consume, are those that are fermented. These include miso and tempeh. 

Jennifer Olson
A mother of three, lover of children and keeping them (and us adults!) as healthy as can be. I have worked as a midwife and nurse for 12 years. Email:

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