Soy, Should I Eat It?

Soy is one of these polarizing food which people either love or hate. For those who enjoy soy, it can be a great plant-based alternative to use in coffees, milkshakes, stir-frys and desserts; but for those in the other camp, just the mention of soy is enough to cause someone to turn up their nose. In addition to the occasional negative public perception of soy products is a belief that soy causes cancer, which can be enough to turn fence-sitters into anti-soy advocates. But is this belief justified?

Firstly what is soy, and where does this myth come from?

The soybean is an extremely versatile plant which is high in protein, fibre, iron and cholesterol-lowering plant sterols. It can be eaten simply steamed as edamame, fermented and processed into tofu or tempeh products, used as a dairy replacement (think soy milk, yogurt, cheese or even ice cream!), and also added into other products for extra flavour think soy sauce or soy and linseed bread.

In addition to all of this, soy also contains chemicals called phyto-oestrogens which can mimic the effect of oestrogen in the body, hence where this myth came from. Hormonal cancers such as breast cancer in women stem are linked to high oestrogen levels in the body, so people are scared that soy may increase their oestrogen and therefore increase their risk of the cancers.

However; there is currently NO evidence to support this in humans, as any studies supporting these theories were conducted in rats using extremely high levels of soy supplementation far beyond that which we could expect to consume from food.

In fact, there is even some evidence that soy may actually be protective against breast cancers, with studies finding that women living in Asian countries with higher levels of soy consumption have lower levels of breast cancer than women in Western countries. The Cancer Council of Australia supports this by stating that soy from food is completely safe when consumed in moderate amounts (up to 2 servings per day), but that high doses of soy-based supplements should be avoided.

So if you are trying to reduce cholesterol, reduce your red meat consumption, or if you are following a vegetarian diet and need to increase your iron or protein intake; soy is a great protein to use.

There’s also a lot of options!

Firm tofu can be substituted into any stir-fries or curries where you would usually use meat, and can even be marinated and grilled for Tofu kebabs, burgers or salads. There are even soy-based sausages, burgers and schnitzels available for those who still want the illusion of eating meat. Similarly, soy-based dairy products can be substituted directing in place of any cows milk products and also have a similar calcium and protein content so you won’t be missing out on any essential nutrients.

If you are interested in booking in a specialised dietetics consultation with Optimum Health Solutions, then contact us on (02) 8599 6275.

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