I am soy excited to tell you the answer. BUT FIRST –
Have you heard that soy milk and other soy products are bad for you because they contain estrogen-like hormones that will mess with YOUR hormones and cause problems such as with fertility and masculinity? Well I have and I did some research.
Basically, the basis for these claims are not well supported by any research. Many of the studies that have been done vary methodologically and, even when compared, are inconsistent in their results. No study to date has proven that consuming soy will cause any significant harm to either male or female reproductive systems and, in contrast, it is recommended to consume moderate amounts of soy for its many health benefits.
Benefits of Soy Consumption¹:
- Great low cholesterol alternative to meat products
- May help reduce blood pressure as well as risk of stroke and heart disease
- Good source of important minerals such as Calcium, Potassium, and Iron AND both essential fatty acids (Omega-6 and Omega-3)
- May benefit menopausal women by helping to increase bone density and by alleviating/preventing hot flashes
- May reduce breast cancer risk when consumed in adolescence* and adulthood
So what’s the deal?
Soybeans contain phytoestrogens (most notably, isoflavones) which are non-steroidal compounds that bind to estrogen receptors². These are plant estrogens which do not act the same way that our animal estrogens do. In short: these isoflavones do not have the same effect on the human body as our natural estrogen does. In addition, soy foods can vary heavily in their biological content depending on the amount of processing that occurs. But again, there is no credibly established concern that consuming soy will have any harmful effects on the human body.
Enjoy your fried tofu and soy lattes! Incorporating more plant-based proteins into your diet will provide far more benefits than any harmful effects.
Let me know: Do you eat soy foods and, if so, what’s your favorite? Not gonna lie, breaded tofu nuggets are pretty tasty!
*“When women were divided into three soy protein intake groups (low, medium, and high) it was found that high intake during both adolescence and adulthood significantly reduced breast cancer risk (hazard ratio [HR], 0.53; 95% CI: 0.32, 0.88). However, consuming higher amounts of soy only during adolescence (and low soy intake during adulthood) was almost as protective (HR, 0.56; 95% CI: 0.31, 1.00). Thus, these results support the early intake hypothesis. Interestingly, high soy protein intake during adulthood was only protective (HR, 0.63; 95% CI: 0.43, 0.91) against breast cancer among women who consumed little soy during adolescence.”¹
¹Messina, M. (2016). Soy and Health Update: Evaluation of the Clinical and Epidemiologic Literature. Nutrients, 8(12), 754. http://doi.org/10.3390/nu8120754
²Cederroth, C., Zimmerman, C., Nef, S. (2012). Soy, phytoestrogens and their impact on reproductive health. Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology 355, 192–200. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mce.2011.05.049