Nutritional Information for Soy

Soy foods have been part of the Asian diet for centuries. Traditional soy foods include edamame (fresh green soybeans), miso, tofu, and tempeh (fermented soybean protein). Although newer to the U.S., soy foods have gained in popularity. You can now find soymilk and soy yogurt at many grocery stores. Though commonly thought of as a food with “estrogen-like” effects due to its phytoestrogen (“phyto” = plant) properties called isoflavones, soy is actually a healthful food with great anti-cancer potential. Isoflavones, saponins, phenolic acids, and phytic acid are just a few of the compounds being studied for their anti-cancer effects.

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Benefits of Soy

Cancer Prevention Benefits

The isoflavones found in soy have been known to target cancer cells. Men eating more soy foods have been found to have less odds of developing prostate cancer. In China, men with above average blood levels of genistein, a major type of isoflavone, were shown to have 70% less odds of getting prostate cancer. A meta-analysis of over 15 studies looking at soy intake and prostate cancer risk found that those eating more soy foods had a 26% lower prostate cancer risk. And this was not a lot of soy, at most a serving a day, which, equals about 1 cup of fortified soymilk, a 1/2 cup of tofu, or a 1/2 cup of cooked soybeans.

Asian populations seem to have better protection against prostate cancer from eating soy. It may be because in the U.S. men rarely eat it, making them a harder population to study. Although more research is needed, currently soy remains a safe and healthful food for men. Having a greater ratio of plant protein versus animal protein is highly advised as a strategy to prevent cancer.  Whole grains, nuts, seeds, tofu, tempeh, edamame, beans, lentils and peanut butter are all great sources of plant protein. Oh, and don’t forget broccoli, pound for pound it has more protein than steak!

Some research suggests soy and isoflavone intake may help lower the risk of stomach and digestive cancers. For women, eating soyfoods during adolescence may reduce the risk of breast cancer from occurring as an adult. Soy products may also reduce the risk of recurrence and mortality for women previously treated for breast cancer. It doesn’t matter the type of breast cancer (hormone or non-hormone related) extensive research has confirmed that soy foods are safe and healthful for breast cancer survivors. Some of the ways by which soy products contribute to decreased cancer risk include the ability of genistein, a type of isoflavone, to increase what’s known as apoptosis, programmed cell death (where the body senses something foreign and essentially blows itself up before it causes more harm). Genistein appears to reduce cell proliferation and blood vessel growth. It has also been shown to modify sex hormones in beneficial ways. Plus, like all plant foods, soy has strong antioxidants that help fight against cancer.

Caution: When used in large amounts, soy protein concentrates and isolates have been shown to increase insulin-like growth factor I, a hormone thought to boost cancer risk. This is an effect also seen with dairy products, suggesting that traditional soy foods should be favored over soy protein concentrates and isolates (e.g., pills and powders). Choose whole soy foods, such as edamame, tofu, soymilk, tempeh and miso instead.

Men's Health Benefits

Diets centered around plants foods like soy offer more fiber and antioxidants. In some cases, plant-based diets can double a person’s fiber intake and triple their lycopene (a kind of antioxidant) intake. This kind of diet rich in fiber and antioxidants not only protects against cancer but essentially every chronic disease that exists. Take heart disease and hypertension for example. Dr. David Jenkins is a well-established researcher from the University of Toronto known for inventing the glycemic index, an indicator of how individual foods increase blood sugar. He also designed a Dietary Portfolio for Lowering Cholesterol using soy foods as a main component, along with nuts and plenty of fibrous food. Dr. Jenkins and his team has found that soy foods and plant compounds work to lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Dietary intervention in some cases work better than leading statins, cholesterol-lowering drugs. When isolating certain soy products in intervention trials, men eating a soy probiotic yogurt/drink with added isoflavones was shown to help reduce cholesterol and improve antioxidants properties.

Dietary patterns of vegetables, fruits, and legumes including soy may reduce hip fracture risk. Soy food intake may also help prevent kidney disease.

A meta-analysis looking at more than 50 treatment groups, showed that neither soy products nor isoflavone supplements from soy affect testosterone levels in men. Other research provides evidence of no connection between men eating soy and infertility or reproductive concerns.

Ways to Use Soy

  • Add edamame or baked tofu to salads and stir-frys.
  • Try noodles made from edamame.
  • Enjoy edamame in their pods for a tasty afternoon snack or appetizer.
  • Make edamame hummus.
  • Add silken tofu to smoothies or make into creamy sauces.
  • Silken tofu can be made into sweet desserts by blending with foods such as cacao powder, dates, bananas.
  • Use silken tofu to replace creamers in pie fillings, such as pumpkin pie.
  • Try a tofu scramble rather than scrambled eggs or use tofu for the base of a quiche rather than eggs.
  • Make Tofu Ricotta by mixing tofu with lemon juice, nutritional yeast, garlic, and Italian spices.
  • Sauté, broil, or grill tofu with spices/ marinades and use in place of chicken or beef in recipes.
  • Try a soy-based yogurt or use soy yogurt in recipes that call for yogurt.
  • Use ground tempeh in tacos/ burritos, casseroles, or sloppy joe’s in place of beef.
  • Swap in unsweetened soy milk in recipes that call for cow’s milk.
  • Try miso soup or use miso for salad dressings.
Resources for Soy

American Institute for Cancer Research: www.aicr.org

“Foods that Fight Cancer” from AICR: Soy

Nutrition Facts: www.NutritionFacts.org

Physicians Committee: www.pcrm.org

USDA Nutrient Database: Edamame

Citations
  1. Kim S, de Souza R, Choo V, et al. Effects of dietary pulse consumption on body weight: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr. Published ahead of print Mar 30, 2016.
  2. Messina MJ, Persky V, Setchell K, Barnes S. Soy intake and cancer risk: a review of the in vitro and in vivo data. Nutr Cancer. 1994;21(2):113-31.
  3. Cardoso Umbelino Cavallini D, Jovenasso Manzoni M, Bedani R, Probiotic Soy Product Supplemented with Isoflavones Improves the Lipid Profile of Moderately Hypercholesterolemic Men: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Nutrients. 2016;8(1). pii: E52.
  4. Mínguez-Alarcón L, Afeiche M, Chiu Y.  Male soy food intake was not associated with in vitro fertilization outcomes among couples attending a fertility center. Andrology. 2015;3(4):702-8.
  5. Jenkins D, Jones P, Frohlich J, et al. The effect of a dietary portfolio compared to a DASH-type diet on blood pressure. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2015;25(12):1132-9.
  6. Dai Z, Butler LM, van Dam R, et al. Adherence to a vegetable-fruit-soy dietary pattern or the Alternative Healthy Eating Index is associated with lower hip fracture risk among Singapore Chinese. J Nutr. 2014;144(4):511-8.
  7. Ramprasath VR, Jenkins DJ, Lamarche B, et al. Consumption of a dietary portfolio of cholesterol lowering foods improves blood lipids without affecting concentrations of fat soluble compounds. Nutr J. 2014;13:101.
  8. Jenkins D, Jones P, Frohlich J, et al. The effect of a dietary portfolio compared to a DASH-type diet on blood pressure. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2015;25(12):1132-9.
  9. Jenkins DJ, Kendall CW, Marchie A, et al.: Effects of a dietary portfolio of cholesterol-lowering foods vs lovastatin on serum lipids and C-reactive protein. JAMA 290:502–510, 2003.
  10. Lin PH, Aronson W, Freedland SJ. Nutrition, dietary interventions and prostate cancer: the latest evidence. BMC Med. 2015;13:3.
  11. Tse G, Eslick G. Soy and isoflavone consumption and risk of gastrointestinal cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Eur J Nutr. 2016;55(1):63-73.
  12. Wu Y, Zhang L, Na R, et al. Plasma genistein and risk of prostate cancer in Chinese population. Int Urol Nephrol. 2015;47(6):965-70.
  13. Dewell A, Weidner G, Sumner M, Chi C, Ornish D. A very-low-fat vegan diet increases intake of protective dietary factors and decreases intake of pathogenic dietary factors. J Am Diet Assoc. 2008;108(2):347-56
  14. Carmody J, Olendzki B, Merriam P, Liu Q, Qiao Y, Ma Y. A novel measure of dietary change in a prostate cancer dietary program incorporating mindfulness training. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2012;112(11):1822-7.
  15. Kolonel LN, Hankin JH, Whittemore AS, et al. Vegetables, fruits, legumes and prostate cancer: a multiethnic case-control study. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2000;9(8):795-804.
  16. Yan L, Spitznagel E. Soy consumption and prostate cancer risk in men: a revisit of a meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;89:1155-1163.
  17. Hamilton-Reeves J, Vazquez G, Duval S, Phipps W, Kurzer M, Messina M. Clinical studies show no effects of soy protein or isoflavones on reproductive hormones in men: results of a meta-analysis. Fertil Steril. 2010;94:997-1007.
  18. Habito R, Montalto J, Leslie E, Ball M. Effects of replacing meat with soyabean in the diet on sex hormone concentrations in healthy adult males. Br J Nutr. 2000;84(4):557-63.
  19. Jenkins DJ, Kendall CW, Connelly PW, et al. Effects of high- and low-isoflavone (phytoestrogen) soy foods on inflammatory biomarkers and proinflammatory cytokines in middle-aged men and women. Metabolism. 2002;51(7):919-24.
  20. Zhang J, Liu J, Su J, Tian F. The effects of soy protein on chronic kidney disease: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2014;68(9):987-93.
  21. Bette J. Caan, Loki Natarajan, Barbara Parker, et al. Soy Food Consumption and Breast Cancer Prognosis.Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2011;20:854-858
  22. Gonzales J, Barnard N, Jenkins D, et al. Applying the precautionary principle to nutrition and cancer. J Am Coll Nutr. 2014;33(3):239-46.
  23. Adlercreutz H, Mazur W: Phyto-oestrogens and Western diseases. Ann Med 29:95–120, 1997.

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