Soy Foods and Health Side Effects

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Over the past decade, soy foods have been hailed as a wonder health foods. Newspapers and magazines have gone on about the benefits of soy. On multiple occasions, when we talk to people in India wanting to start a fitness program, they’ll say to me … “I know, I should eat soy to lose weight”. This statement amazes us!

Health Side Effects of Soy foodsHow did soy foods become the bane of new age health foods in India? First of all, soy does not make you lose weight. Soy is a source of plant based protein. Nutritionists recommend it to vegetarians to increase their protein intake. An average Indian diet contains relatively low amounts of protein. So, adding some soy based protein helps to increase the protein intake. It is normally recommended to decrease some carbohydrate and fat intake and replace it with this soy based protein.

The idea is that protein takes longer to digest in your system than carbohydrates, so it keeps you feeling full for longer. Also, protein is a basic building block for muscles, so its helps muscle growth.

But to get this benefit of protein, you don’t have to eat soy foods. You can get protein from meat, dairy, lentils, eggs or even protein supplements.

The other point of caution is that soy contains plant hormones called Phytoestrogens. These plant hormones have shown links to health risks in both men and women. In men, it has been linked to a decrease in male fertility. Also, it promotes the production of estrogen in the body, which is a female hormone. Effects of increasing the female hormone in men results in an increase in physical feminine traits such as man-breasts, etc. A study also linked soy with lowering testosterone levels in men. Hearsay is that tofu has been given in Buddhist monasteries to reduce libido.

As we know that it promotes estrogen production (female hormone) in the body, it is not recommended for women to increase soy consumption, since increased levels of estrogen in the female body has been linked with breast cancer.

Its important to note that soy is consumed in fermented (miso, tempeh) and non-fermented (tofu, soy milk, soy oil) state. The non-fermented state is high in phytoestrogens. Non-fermented soy foods are a modern invention and consumed in large amounts.

As is obvious, that the jury is still out on the real health benefits and risks of soy. The conclusion on all of this is that if you like soy, enjoy it in moderation.

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  • PRACHI

    OMG!
    I wonder why organizations when promoting “foods” miss out on such an important information.

    I would have never thought of “Soy” having any draw backs!
    Thanks for this information.

  • PRACHI

    OMG!

    Is this the reason why East Asian men are so effeminate looking as opposed to their counterparts across the world?

  • Pingback: Do you eat soy for health? : Fitho

  • Arnimaal

    There is an ocean of research available over the internet as well as reputed journals which are enough to dispel all these myths about soya. While isoflavones are surely harmful, the quantities found in products like soy based protein powders and other products are too low to exhibit those harmful effects. As far as male fertility is concerned, there is also a study which observed testosterone levels in males who consumed soy protein supplements while exercising and no negative results were reported. Most importantly while isoflavones do have estrogen like properties, they are not estrogens and hence cannot disturb the hormonal balance in men. And in women, isoflavones have proved to actually have benefits like regulating estrogen levels when they were high or low. Thereby regulating the menstrual cycle in young women and reducing occurence of hot flashes and improving bone health in post menopausal women. There are always two sides to a coin, but we generally get blinded by our prejudices and take into account only one side. While soy protein has many health benefits, excess of anything is bad for health. What we should raise our voices against is not soya, but the organizations with vested interests who promote it without educating consumers about the ill effects of its consumption in excess.

  • http://www.fitho.in/ Fitho

    @Arnimaal,
    If there is such information out there, please provide a link to studies that link to soy being healthy and safe.
    Also, soy protein does not have a high protein quality rating.

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