soy - Cook for Your Life

Featured imageControversy, confusion, and cancer have come to surround soy in recent years. Studies have found that, depending upon who conducts or is included in any given study, the legume can inhibit, aid, or have no effect on cancer growth, leaving many of us wondering whether we should stay away from soy products or eat them religiously.

According to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and the Mayo Clinic, we should neither banish nor gobble up soy. Moderate amounts of a soy product — about one to two servings a day – isn’t likely to have harmful effects, and can be a great, economical way to consume plant-based protein and other nutrients. Soy provides essential amino acids, fiber, vitamin C, thiamin, folate, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and manganese.

Some may advise against eating soy and soy-based products, especially for women who have hormone-positive breast cancers and take tamoxifen or aromatase-inhibitor medicines. That’s because soy contains phytoestrogens, plant hormones that are thought to potentially mimic estrogen found in our bodies.Phytoestrogens were discovered in the 1930s and have since been studied for their potential to reduce the risk of breast, prostate and uterine cancers, all of which can be hormone-triggered. Because phytoestrogens are a much weaker form of the hormone than our bodies create naturally, scientists have speculated that a diet rich in the compounds from a young age can actually protect against certain types of cancer, possibly by replacing the stronger estrogens in our systems with the weaker ones from plants. For women, specifically breast-cancer survivors or and those wary of the plant’s possible relationship to that cancer, soy appears to be safe if consumed in moderation. According the AICR, a 2010 study of Chinese breast-cancer survivors found that eating large amounts of soy was linked to a lower recurrence and death rate. Population-based studies comparing Japanese women, who have high levels of soy intake, to American women, who do not, find that there is actually a lower rate of hormone-based breast cancers among the Japanese. However, this finding may be a result of the mostly plant-based diet in Japan and the fact that Japanese women eat soy products from infancy.As for men, studies have found that a normal intake of soy isoflavones will not have negative effects on male hormone levels and may help lower blood levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA), which at high concentrations can indicate prostate cancer.

Soy may also play a role in the prevention of heart disease. Research has shown that having two portions of soy daily can reduce your bad cholesterol by 10%. There are likely to be even more benefits if you use the soy in your diet to replace something more unhealthy- for example, by switching processed meat to tofu in a recipe.

To get just the right amount of soy in your diet, remember that soy comes in many forms, such as tofu, soymilk, miso, soy nuts, tempeh, soy yoghurt, soy ice cream, and soy flour. One serving works out to be approximately half a cup of tofu or tempeh, a cup of soymilk, half a cup of cooked edamame, or an ounce of soy nuts.

Ann’s Tips

Soy comes in many forms. Soy milk, tofu and fermented products like tempeh and miso are just some of them. Soy products are great for those who are lactose intolerant, but try other lactose-free alternatives as well as soy so as not to overload. When buying soymilk, look for the plain unsweetened varieties; the flavored ones tend to be high in sugar. Tofu comes in different consistencies, such as silken, medium, firm and extra firm. Choose a consistency that fits your needs or the demands of the recipe. Silken tofu can be really useful if treatment makes food hard to swallow. Blended into soups and smoothies, smooth silken tofu softens texture while adding a great protein boost. Medium, firm and extra firm tofu are excellent for baking or stir-frying.  Tempeh is a great meat alternative, while miso adds great flavor to soups and stews.

Recipe Tips

Baked tofu will take on the flavor of any spice and always makes a delicious dish. Use firm tofu in CFYL’s Lemon-Soy Baked Tofu, a simple recipe with a tasty marinade. For a treat, try our Orangey Tofu Chocolate Pudding made with silken tofu, semisweet chocolate and orange zest. Miso is always delicious try making our Pumpkin Miso Soup. If you’ve never tried tempeh before, it’s worth a shot. Its texture is heartier and denser than tofu, but it will also take on other flavors in the dish. Try our Thai-Style Tempeh Curry. Don’t forget simple edamame, which you can add to stir fry’s or use to create a healthy dip. You can usually find frozen soybeans year-round. They just need a quick blanching and a little sea salt to make a great appetizer or snack.

Registered Dietitian Approved

There are many misconceptions about nutrition and cancer in widespread media. By using current scientific literature, plus recommendations of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Institute for Cancer Research, the National Cancer Institute, and the American Cancer Society, our Registered Dietitian, Kate Ueland, MS, RD, and our team of editors work to help our readers discern truth from myth.

The statements on this blog are not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease. Always consult your physician or registered dietitian for specific medical advice.

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