By David Grotto, RD, LDN
On October 31 I wrote a blog post on the subject of beans. A few guys e-mailed me with specific concerns about one type of bean – the soybean. Both men had the same burning question – “To soy or not to soy?” They were most concerned about whether this bean was “man” enough for them as they saw ample controversy on the internet that might indicate otherwise. Well the Guyatitian is here to set the record straight! As with all controversy, we must first look to see what science has to say.
First of all, what is soy? Soy is an edible legume that grows in a pod. “Whole soy” is the form in which the whole soybean and/or its nutrients are kept intact. Leading experts agree that it is the whole soy food form that offers the greatest nutrition and health benefits. Whole soy is a rich source of fiber and contains more protein than any other bean. Soy also boasts healthy fats and vitamins and minerals including folate, potassium, magnesium, zinc, iron and calcium. Soy also contains plant nutrients called isoflavones which are thought to act as weak estrogens.
The Controversy: Soy and Men’s Health.
Question: Is soy safe for men to consume?
Answer: In the December 2010 Journal of Nutrition (Supplement), consensus was found on the leading soy science issues including soy and men’s health, women’s health, heart health and overall nutrient adequacy and safety.
Question: Does soy cause the development of breasts in men or have other feminizing affects on men?
Answer: No! Although soy has been suspected of lowering testosterone and raising estrogen levels in men, a 2010 meta-analysis in the Journal of Urology found that soy foods neither raised nor lowered male sex hormones. The good news for guys is soy contains a plant chemical called genistein that has been shown to have a protective benefit of fighting prostate cancer. In fact, a recent Japanese randomized placebo-controlled study found a significant reduction in prostate cancer occurrence in men 65 years of age or older in the soy group compared to the placebo group.
Soy on boys!
Let’s not forget the ladies…
Recent research supports the findings that moderate consumption of whole soy foods appears to be safe for women at risk for or with a history of breast cancer. Furthermore, soy has been found to be protective for breast health when consumption starts before puberty, though many health professionals continue to discourage consuming high doses of soy isoflavone supplements or soy protein isolate for women diagnosed with estrogen driven breast cancer. Best to consult with your health professional to see if soy supplements are right for you.
Bottom line – whole soy foods are safe to consume in moderation and may offer a variety of health benefits including the reduction of heart disease, improving bone density, supporting healthy cholesterol levels and helping protect against certain reproductive cancers.
Here are some easy ways to incorporate whole soy into your diet:
- 1/2 cup edamame (great on its own or as a side)
- 1/2 cup canned soybeans (you can mix these into a salad or chili recipe or blend them with olive oil to make hummus)
- 1/2 cup tofu (you could use tofu in a classic stir fry or pad Thai recipe)
- 1/4 cup dry roasted soybeans (mix into trail mix or snack on these on their own)
- Look for whole soy nutrition bars
Try this great edamame salad featured in my book 101 Optimal Life Foods. Enjoy and let me know other ways you add soy to your diet!
Barley Salad with Edamame
2/3 cups pearled barley
2 cups shelled edamame
1 cup shredded carrot
3 cups shredded cabbage
1/2 cup chopped green onion
Low-fat Asian dressing to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Prepare barley and edamame according to package instructions. In medium bowl, toss all ingredients until dressing is evenly distributed. Serve warm or cold.
160 Calories, 3g Total Fat, 0g Sat Fat, 0mg Cholesterol, 190mg Sodium, 25g Carbs, 6g Fiber, 7g Protein