Soy – is it good or bad?
ByJoanne Aponte, ND •September 29, 2022
To cut to the chase, overall soy is good with many health benefits. It is a great addition to a healthy diet. But not all kinds of soy are good, it depends on the source of soy and how you eat it.
Good forms of soy – organic tofu, tempeh and miso. Soy is a great source of protein and has health benefits, but it needs to be eaten in its natural unprocessed form and always organic. Conventional soy is genetically modified and grown with chemicals. Fermented soy, such as tempeh and miso, have the most anti-cancer antioxidant benefit. But other organic forms of soy, such as soy beans (edamame), tofu and soy milk, are fine sources as well.
Bad sources of soy – this includes processed soy and soybean oil. Examples of processed soy are the vegetarian meat substitutes made with soy (i.e. soy burgers, hot dogs and sausages etc), also soy protein powder, soy protein isolate, and soybean oil.
Soy has gotten a bad reputation, and I would say unfairly so. The rumor that soy is bad is mainly based on the misconception that soy contains estrogen. And this is just not accurate. Soy contains what are called phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are plant estrogens and they are thousands of times weaker than your body’s natural estrogen. They also do not behave like our body’s natural estrogen. It’s the phytoestrogens (called isoflavones) that give soy many of its health benefits.
Health benefits of whole organic soy:
- Reduces risk of breast cancer
- Reduces risk of prostate cancer
- Lowers cholesterol in post-menopausal women
- A great source of vegetarian protein with an almost complete amino acid profile
- Reduces symptoms of post menopause (such as hot flashes)
- Strengthens bones
- Lowers coronary heart disease
These many health benefits are due to the phytoestrogens and antioxidants in soy, called isoflavones (genestein and daidzein).
What about the thyroid, is soy bad for the thyroid?
No, when eaten in moderation and in the right forms, soy will not negatively impact the thyroid. It is the processed soy and soybean oil that should be avoided.
The only reason to avoid soy would be if you have an allergy or intolerance to it. Other people have trouble digesting soy. This is not because soy is bad, it’s because there are gut microbiome problems which make soy difficult to digest. If you have trouble digesting soy, forms such as tempeh and miso are usually easier on the gut.
Ways to include soy in the diet:
Soy is a protein source so it can easily be swapped out for other protein sources like chicken, fish etc.
Here are some ideas for including soy in your recipes:
- Fiber Fueled by Dr. Will Bulsiewicz, MD
- Soy benefits and safety in breast cancer
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.