Soy – concentrated plant power
I have already presented you with the national enemy number one at the beginning of the year. Now, I’ll show you public enemy number two: Soy. Everyone is talking about it in the last few months. Soybeans are found in many different forms: flour (gluten-free), sauce, tofu, chunks, milk, cream, edamame, tempeh, etc.
But soy is controversial: Men supposedly grow breasts. The cultivation of soy may contribute to the deforestation of the rain forest and it is said to be totally unhealthy, bad and harmful for humans and our climate. But what is behind this? Only a nutritional myth or is it a fact?
The positive effects of soybean consumption
Soybeans are leguminous plants and contain all essential amino acids. Therefore, they are an optimal protein source. They also contain many dietary fibers as well as vitamins (B1, B2, E, folic acid), iron, and calcium. They also provide phytoestrogens, including isoflavones and lignans.
Numerous studies have shown many positive effects of eating soy and phytoestrogens. The risk of developing breast and prostate cancer can drop by as much as 50 % (!). This also explains the comparatively low breast and prostate cancer rate in Asians / Asian women compared to the western world. In Asia, much more soy is eaten than in Europe or the US. A 30 % lower probability of developing ovarian cancer and a 50% lower probability of developing uterine cancer are the result of numerous studies focusing on a soy diet.
There is also a significant link between the consumption of soy and a better bone density. Thus, it can also protect against bone fractures and osteoporosis – quite in contrast to milk consumption (to be detailed soon). Menopause symptoms can also be alleviated. Even a cup of tofu, soybeans, or -milk daily can cause all these positive effects.
Are there negative effects of eating soy?
The consumption can have negative consequences, but only if you are allergic to soy. About 0.5% of all Americans and thus only one in 200 has an allergy – in comparison, 5% are allergic to peanuts.
But here, too, the dose makes the poison. You should not drink more than 1-liter soy milk or eat more than 1 kg of tofu daily. Everything else would lead to a one-sided, unbalanced diet.
Are men growing breasts because of eating soybeans?
Again and again, I hear that men supposedly grow breasts when eating soy. The phytoestrogens which can be found in it, are to be blamed for this. However, phytoestrogens are not normal estrogens, which are female sex hormones. Similar confusion also exists in the case of sugar alcohols, such as xylitol or erythritol. Both are chemically sugar alcohols, but they have nothing to do with the alcohol we drink.
Phytoestrogens are phytochemicals and therefore only found in plants such as soy. They protect the plant e.g. from herbivores, fungi, and bacteria. In addition, they have similar effects as antioxidants, which also belong to the group of phytochemicals.
To answer the question: NO, men do not get breasts because of eating soy and phytoestrogens. This is a clear nutritional myth and not true.
If you want to avoid female sex hormones as a man, it would be more useful to avoid animal products. The consumption of meat, eggs, and dairy products necessarily leads to the consumption of estrogens. Here, female hormones occur naturally. It is the female animals that give milk or lay eggs. Those female sex hormones are contained in these products, should be clear to everyone. Especially in cows’ milk, dairy products, and milk protein (whey protein) they can be found in quantities which should not be underestimated – read *here* more.
Is soy always genetically modified?
I can also answer this question clearly with “No!” Soy products, which we can buy at the grocery store in Europe and partly in the US, are almost exclusively organic. In my blogpost about the Bio-Label, I have already explained that only genetically not modified products are allowed to be named organic. To conclude: If you buy soy products in the supermarket, you can hardly buy genetically modified soy in Europe. This is different in Asian supermarkets.
That’s different when dealing with soy, which is used as feed for the meat industry. In industrial livestock farms, almost exclusively genetically engineered soy is used. If you eat animal products, this genetically manipulated food gets indirectly on your plate, too. Above all, large-scale farmers swear by genetically engineered soy: It can be cultivated more uncomplicated, can carry higher yields, and is more resistant to drought.
98 % (!) of the world-grown soya is produced for the feed for industrial livestock farming. Almost every second, a large area of forest land is cleared to create arable land for the cultivation of feedstuff for the livestock industry.
Only 2% of the soya cultivation is processed to tofu, soymilk, etc. More and more German manufacturers are growing their soybeans biologically in Germany, Austria, and France. So, soy bought in Germany is not only organic but often also cultivated regionally.
Each to his own
My partner does not like the taste of soy in general. But I love eating soy products in all variants. So, I refine my salad with smoked tofu, drink my cappuccino with foamed soy-vanilla milk and my breakfast is porridge topped with soy yogurt. I like the taste of soy but I hear from many that they avoid tofu, which is however mostly a matter of preparation. Meat is only eaten seasoned or roasted, so, that’s what you should do with tofu, too. Otherwise, disappointment is inevitable.
Do you like soy and its products? Do you have favorite tofu you would recommend? 🙂
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Here are all studies for this blogpost.
Hartman, G. L./West, E. D./Herman, T. K. 2011: Crops that feed the World 2. Soybean—worldwide production, use, and constraints caused by pathogens and pests, in: Food Security, Vol. 3, 2011, No. 1, pp. 5-17.
Lydeking-Olsen, E./Beck-Jensen, J. E./Setchell, K. D./Holm-Jensen, T. 2004: Soymilk or progesterone for prevention of bone loss – a 2 year randomized, placebo-controlled trial, in: European Journal of Nutrition, Vol. 43, 2004, No. 4, pp. 246-257.
Myung, S. K./Ju, W./Choi, H. J./Kim, S. C. 2009: Soy intake and risk of endocrine-related gynecological cancer: a meta-analysis, in: BJOG – An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Vol. 116, 2009, No. 13, pp. 1697-1705.
Ollberding, N. J./Lim, U./Wilkens, L. R./Setiawan, V. W./Shvetsov, Y. B./Henderson, B. E./Kolonel, L. N./Goodman, M. T. 2012: Legume, soy, tofu, and isoflavone intake and endometrial cancer risk in postmenopausal women in the multiethnic cohort study, in: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Vol. 104, 2012, No. 1, pp. 67-76.
Somekawa, Y./Chiguchi, M./Ishibashi, T./Aso, T. 2001: Soy intake related to menopausal symptoms, serum lipids, and bone mineral density in postmenopausal Japanese women, in: Obstetrics and Gynecology, Vol. 97, 2001, No. 1, pp. 109-115.
Vlerk, K. A./Koehler, K. M./Fein, S. B./Street, D. A. 2007: Prevalence of self-reported food allergy in American adults and use of food labels, in: The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Vol. 119, 2007, No. 6, pp. 1504-1510.
Wei, P./Liu, M./Chen, Y./Chen, D. C. 2012: Systematic review of soy isoflavone supplements on osteoporosis in women, in: Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Medicine, Vol. 5, 2012, No. 3, pp. 243-248.
Zhang, X./Shu, X. O./Li, H./Yang, G./Li, Q./Gao, Y. T./Zheng, W. 2005: Prospective cohort study of soy food consumption and risk of bone fracture among postmenopausal women, Vol. 165, 2005, No. 16, pp. 1890-1895.