Oh, soy! The pros and cons of adding soy to your diet
June 5, 2014
By Laura Van Wert
Ten years ago, I returned to my parents’ home for winter break from my first semester of college a different person.
Like most 18-year-olds, I triumphantly started my vacation with a whole list of positive and noticeable changes: I had four new (rebellious) body piercings. I had lost 15 pounds due to a healthier diet, which included a swap from skim to soy milk and eliminated soda and peanut butter completely. Guess which change made my mother freak out. Hint: You’d be wrong if you thought it was the body piercings.
My parents’ household was and still is a “Skim Milk Only” zone, meaning when my 91-year-old late grandma attended dinner there, she’d bring half-and-half milk for her post-meal coffee. I returned home in December 2004 and requested that my mother buy soy milk. In her mind, getting calcium from a soybean is just as foreign as drinking it from a cactus. I digress.
Still, a battle wages on between the benefits and concerns of a diet that contains soy. A recent study by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality states that there is no conclusive evidence of any adverse effects of a diet with soy protein. But some people will even urge you to eliminate soy from your diet. Such controversy for something that starts as a bean!
We’ll take the diplomatic approach and point out the pros and cons of specific soy products. Let’s take a look:
A regular diet that includes soy has some great health benefits. Soy is high in protein, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium and other vitamins and minerals, while low in saturated fat. Soy milk and soy beans, in particular, also are linked to lower cholesterol, boosting weight loss, preventing postmenopausal symptoms in women and lowering the risk of prostate cancer in men.
The jury is still out on the negative side effects of soy.
For example isoflvones and phytoestrogens — which act like the hormone estrogen — come from soy. The complexity of these two mean that estrogen levels can increase or decrease. Likewise, and depending on the research, soy is linked to breast cancer as both a cause and preventative measure; could be harmful to the way children with cystic fibrosis process protein; could increase likelihood of kidney stones; and could increase risk of bladder cancer.