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  • SeattleCancerNutrition

Eating Soy is Anti-Cancer!

Happy National Soyfoods month! When you hear about soy, what do you think? If you said cancer, bad, or even “man-boobs” you are not alone. Many people have negative connotations when it comes to soy. However, did you know that soy can be very helpful in fighting cancer? And spoiler alert, it does not cause Gynecomastia (the proper term for “man-boobs”). Although there is a common misconception floating around that soy is dangerous, this is not what studies are finding. Read on if you are ready to update your understanding of soy and how it can benefit the body.

Does Soy Cause Cancer?

Eating soy has been shown to protect the body against some cancers and that includes prostate cancer. Soy is rich in antioxidants, including isoflavones. There is some evidence that these isoflavones in soy may help to stop cancer from spreading. But if this is the case, why do people continue to think soy is dangerous? Great question, I’m glad you asked!

There have been studies done on rodents that found that the isoflavones in soy can lead to an increased risk of breast cancer. Fortunately for humans, we process soy much differently than rodents, so this is not what occurs in our bodies. In the human body, these same isoflavones that increase the risk of breast cancer in rodents actually have been found to lead to no effect or they decreased the risk of breast cancer. Therefore, you can continue on enjoying your soy in peace.

Soy and Estrogen

So what about the estrogen we hear about in soy? The ‘estrogen’ in soy foods falls into a category called plant estrogens or phytoestrogens. These plant estrogens are found in many other healthy foods such as whole grains, legumes, and vegetables. So keep in mind that you probably are already eating these in many foods, every day. Plant estrogens have health benefits and they are NOT like the type of estrogen hormone in humans and animals.

Health Benefits of Soy

Soy foods have many health benefits to offer. Many of these foods are an excellent source of protein. It is especially important for your body to get enough protein when going through cancer treatment. Protein is a crucial building block of the body that helps promote a strong immune system to fight off infections and heal wounds. Protein also helps to maintain muscle mass during treatment and to recover from treatment. In many cases, eating extra protein during treatment is necessary and soy is a great option.

I mentioned earlier that soy contains antioxidants. Antioxidants are like magnets in the body helping to neutralize cancer causing free radicals. This helps to prevent cancer from occurring and to slow the spread of cancer once it has already appeared.

4 Healthy Soy Foods

Soy is a very versatile food and as such is made into many forms. Edamame and tofu are two popular forms of soy that you are likely to see at the grocery store. Edamame are immature soybeans that can be eaten whole as a snack. These green little beans have not yet fully matured into the beige soybean we are used to seeing. Although they are not fully mature, they are still packed with nutrients. Edamame is high in protein, has been found to aid in lowering unhealthy cholesterol, and is rich in vitamins and minerals. Folate and vitamin K are two main nutrients in edamame. Folate is important in the production of healthy red blood cells. Vitamin K is important in blood clotting, which is great for wound healing.

Tofu is a processed version of soybeans. ‘Processed’ does not always mean “bad.” In this case, the processing that is required to take soybeans and transform them into tofu is similar to that of cheesemaking. Condensed soy milk is pressed into solid blocks, which is the tofu. Tofu is rich in nutrients, including protein and calcium, and low in calories. Calcium is important for strong bone health. Additionally, the heart, muscles, and nerves also depend on calcium to aid in proper functioning.

Soy can also be found in fermented forms. Miso and tempeh are two forms of fermented soy. Fermented foods provide a natural source of probiotics - good gut bacteria. A healthy gut can improve digestion, boost immune health, and aid your body in synthesizing vitamins.

What is your favorite way to eat soy? Share with me in the comments your favorite soyfoods and how you prepare them!

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