Is Soy Healthy?
As more people move to a vegan or vegetarian diet, plant-based alternatives to meat-derived food are gaining popularity. However, alongside this increasing demand are questions regarding the health benefits and overall safety of many foods. Soy is one such plant that has come under heavy scrutiny, with conflicting reports on both its benefits and drawbacks.
Why Do People Think Soy Is Dangerous?
The main question mark over soy is the high concentration of estrogen found within the soybean plant. In humans, an elevated level of the estrogen hormone may lead to breast cancer, and so a link between soy and cancer has arisen. However, this argument has no scientific basis, as the estrogen in plants is in the form of phytoestrogens. These have different properties to the hormone estrogen and have a much weaker effect on humans.
Is Soy Nutritious?
Soy’s primary role in the diet is as a protein source. Unlike many plants, it is a complete protein, which means it includes each of the essential amino acids that your body cannot produce. Most complete proteins derive from animal products such as meat and dairy, making soy popular with vegetarians and vegans.
Like all plant-derived food, soy has no cholesterol and contains a high level of fiber and heart-healthy unsaturated fats. It is also rich in many other vitamins and minerals, including calcium, iron, phosphorus, and potassium. Significantly, it is an excellent source of B vitamins that are often missing in many vegan and vegetarian diets, although it does not contain the vitamin B12.
How Does Soy Benefit Your Body?
There are many health benefits of eating soy, including stronger bones, lower blood pressure, and reduced cholesterol. Recent research has also shown a possible link between soy and an increase in kidney function and mental health, as well as a reduction in heart disease and certain forms of cancer. However, research is still on-going, and these benefits are not yet conclusive.
What Foods Contain Soy?
For hundreds of years, soy has been central to Asian diets. While the Western world has only recently caught on, it is now in the aisles of almost all supermarkets. The most common soy-based food is probably tofu, but edamame, tempeh, and soy milk are all gaining in popularity. As well as this, several meat-like products such as veggie burgers use soy as the main ingredient.
Should Anybody Avoid Soy?
One downside to soy is that it is a common allergen. While the symptoms vary considerably from person to person, it can be life-threatening in extreme cases. If you suspect you may be allergic, then you should check with your health practitioner before adding it to your diet. Otherwise, there is no reason to avoid soy-based products.
As with any part of your diet, variety is essential to stay healthy. There is no complete food, so you should moderate your soy intake in the same way as anything else. If you don’t, you risk missing out on other vital nutrients. However, the supposed risks of soy are not scientifically sound, so it is perfectly healthy unless you have an allergy.