Whether you eat tofu as a meat substitute or have steamed soya milk with your morning americano, soy products have increasingly become part of our diet as a supposedly healthy alternative to animal products. But, studies claiming it can actually have a negative effect on a woman's health have emerged and set alarm bells ringing for many of us. So, is soya good or bad for you? Keep scrolling to read both sides of the argument, and find out our verdict - once and for all.
The case for soya being healthy
There are many reasons why soya could be wonderful for your health. If you're vegetarian - or indeed if you're not - there's no arguing with the fact soya is the only complete non-animal protein. "It's a source of eight amino acids," says nutritionist Stephanie Taibe. "It is a healthy source of fibre, B vitamins, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids," she adds.
In particular, the fibre found in soya is worth noting: it's high in specifically insoluble fibre, making it extra-beneficial if you suffer from constipation, high cholesterol or type-two diabetes.
The case for soya being unhealthy
The main reason why soya is viewed as being "unhealthy" is an increasing concern that it causes hormonal imbalances - particularly in women. Soyabeans are naturally high in something called isoflavins, which are essentially a natural form of oestrogen. However, what many people don't know is that it's a far weaker form of oestrogen than that found in our bodies. So, you'd have to eat pretty large quantities of soya for negative effects to start taking hold (we're talking drinking a whole bottle of soy sauce). But, what this means on the flip-side is if your oestrogen levels are low, soya could help restore your hormone balance.
Many of us have heard the rumours that these hormonal properties of soya can trigger oestrogen-sensitive breast cells, and maybe even cause cancer. But, experts say there's no real sufficient evidence to support this claim.
Whether or not you choose to avoid soya or embrace it depends on your body's unique hormone balance. If you suffer from PMS, or even more serious conditions like endometriosis, it's likely your oestrogen levels are naturally higher - so, limiting your soya intake could be beneficial. If on the other hand your oestrogen levels are lower, eating tofu, edamame beans and drinking soya milk regularly could have a positive effect on your body's balance.
However, there are some situations where it may best to avoid consuming lots of soya. If you've suffered from oestrogen-related breast cancer, or it's happened in your family, there could be a benefit to reducing your soya intake. "If you have too much oestrogen, then eating large quantities of soy might exacerbate the hormonal imbalance," advises nutritionist Dana James. But, with the levels of oestrogen in soya being low by comparison to our body's hormones, it's still safe to have some soya. For most of us, it's safe to eat soya and we can reap the health benefits. So, there's no harm in nibbling on a few edamame beans next time you're at a sushi restaurant!
The best way to lower any negative side-effects of eating soya is to make sure you eat organic and unprocessed sources wherever possible. But, ultimately, we all metabolise and process soy differently: there's no harm in trying it and seeing if it works for you.
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