Is soy for or against breast cancer?

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“Eat soy, it’s good for you. No! You should avoid it, it can cause breast cancer!”

You hear it both ways, right. No wonder you may feel confused or even afraid of eating soy. After all, that’s what confusion does. It creates fear, in this case it keeps you away from enjoying the superfood soy can be.

When you focus on the whole picture rather than fragments of information, you’ll find out soy is here for your benefit. Unprocessed, in its natural form, it’s extremely nutritious and cancer protective. The same as any other legume. After all soy beans are rich in fibre, Magnesium, Iron, B vitamins, vitamin K and omega 3 fats. They are a complete protein containing all the amino acids so your body can make hormones, antibodies and build muscles.

Since soy seems so healthy, where is its negative reputation coming from? It’s the soy’s phytoestrogens.

Some people believe that these compounds which are similar to your own oestrogen, can contribute towards breast and other hormonal related cancers.

But before you give into this notion and turn your back on soy, let’s explore the whole picture.

 

 

Scary phytoestrogens… Really?

You find phytoestrogens in legumes and also in other foods like oats, wheat berries, sesame seeds and flaxseed. Soy just happens to be high in these protective compounds which help balance out your own oestrogen.

Imagine you have oestrogen receptors which look like an open palm waiting for oestrogen to sit in. When this happens, oestrogen gets activated and starts doing its job. Now, when you are overloaded with this hormone (you can read more in the post here), soy’s job is to stop the surplus oestrogen from becoming active.

How does it do that? The phytoestrogen from soy attaches itself to the oestrogen receptor. This leaves the oestrogen you don’t need in the inactive form. Then fibre from soy catches this oestrogen in your intestines and sends it out with your next bowel movement.

Since oestrogen is an important hormone in the regulation of your menstrual cycle, if you happen to be low, again soy can step in. In this instance, the phytoestrogens have a mild pro-oestrogenic effect.

 

Soy as superfood

Soy truly is doing the best it can to balance your oestrogen levels. And that means reducing the likelihood of breast cancer (see in the study here and here). That’s why I like to compare this bean to a good old friend you can rely on in times your body is vulnerable.

But as every good friendship is based on mutual respect and certain rules, the same applies to the soy. If you want all the benefits and support it offers, you need to eat it as a superfood.

Let’s see how to do that:

1. Stick with the whole version!

Eat young soy beans (edamame), cooked soy beans, tofu, tempeh or have some soy milk in your coffee. Please stay away from all the processed types like isolated soy proteins you may find in soy protein bars or shakes, soy sausages or burgers. These are only fragments of soy highly concentrated in one food which can be hardly considered natural. Not only you get almost no benefit from eating them but you are also adding processed foods to your diet. And I know you can do better than that ?

2. Buy organic!

With soy more than any other food, do buy organic whenever you can. It’s one of those common genetically modified plants and sticking to organic is the best way to avoid GMO.

3. Enjoy 1- 2 servings per day.

Soy has been studied many times by many organisations. If you want some quality information turn to American Institute for Cancer Research.  They report up to 2 servings of soy per day as protective and three servings as safe. It applies to preventing cancer, before or after menopause or even if you have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Two servings are 1 cup of soy milk & palm sized tofu or 1/2 cup edamame & a cup of miso soup or a small pot of soy yogurt & palm sized tempeh.

4. If you have a thyroid issue, be cautious about soy as it may interfere with the absorption of iodine from your food. You need iodine to produce thyroid hormones. That’s why if you suspect or have been diagnosed with under-active thyroid gland, it’s better to check with your GP before you start enjoying soy regularly.

Soy as any other health food, can be used for good or bad. When you’re looking for some convenience it’s easy to turn this whole food into a scary and potentially dangerous monster.

But when you stick to the natural form and enjoy it now and then, soy will pay you back by protecting you against breast cancer and other disease. That’s why I hope that your relationship to this humble bean is now more peaceful and comforting, the same as this food is.

 

And now, I’d like to hear from you in the comments below:

Have you feared eating soy before and if so, why? 

Thank you so much for sharing and next time you eat Japanese, enjoy some edamame.

With love

Lenka

 

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