I must begin this article by saying that if you have had or currently have breast cancer or are being treated with any breast cancer drug, always discuss everything that you do, eat or drink with your physician. I am not a doctor. There are many conflicting studies concerning the use of soy in breast cancer because it contains a type of plant based estrogen. The use of soy is a personal decision that has benefits for many, but may not be best for everyone. If you have the gene mutation associated with increased breast cancer risk, please do your own research. Again, I am not a doctor and cannot diagnose, treat or cure any disease.
I have had women tell me that they have trouble getting enough protein because they’re not big meat eaters. While that is not a real problem for me, I do eat soy products for some extra protein that has added benefits for a lot of women. I don’t believe soy to be a great source of protein for men because of the phytoestrogens in the plant. For some of us, that’s a plus!
Many of our currently available commercial hormone treatments originate with soy. The rates of breast cancer among Asian women who were raised on a diet rich in soy products is significantly reduced compared to North American women. (1) This is a long observed phenomena. I must inject here, however, that I have to wonder if the BMI of these women may come into play because North American women do have a higher BMI. We’re just fatter as a nation so I’m not entirely sure that soy is the entire picture here. I do believe that soy plays a part. Good scientific evidence indicates that soy is a strong piece of this puzzle. In one study it was noted that Asian women metabolize soy differently. Without delving too deeply into physiology here, I still wonder about the BMI.
Soy has also been shown to reduce hot flashes, excessive sweating and heart palpitations which are associated with menopause. There are some women who develop weakness and tingling and numbness in the limbs after menopause. Soy has been shown to reduce these parasthesias. (1) I have known many women who were affected by all of these issues in menopause. They said that they would do anything for relief. The problem is that when they were confronted with the idea that “anything” might involve eating healthy and exercising, they were not willing to do that. They wanted a pill to fix their symptoms without them having to do anything other than pop it in their mouths. We have to take personal responsibility for our health, ladies. While soy isn’t going to fix everything, it can make a real difference. I won’t be without soy protein in the house and I have never had a single hot flash.
When plant protein replaces excess carbohydrates in the diet, blood pressure may be lowered.(1) Soy foods are cholesterol free and low in saturated fat so anyone who is trying to lower their intake of saturated fat without giving up the protein that can be found in red meat can benefit from soy.
While the idea that soy can enhance female characteristics is controversial, I do believe it to be true. This is strictly a personal opinion based on the effects that I have noticed in myself. I am a strength trainer and am always trying to get more lean and defined. The problem with that, for some women, is that the breasts contain fatty tissue so when we get leaner, we naturally tend to lose a few curves. I can tell a difference in my overall body shape when I use soy.
Milk protein is a commonly used supplement for protein shakes. Everyone can’t use milk. Soy is a great alternative for women who don’t tolerate milk protein well. You can use almond, soy, coconut or lactose free cow’s milk or water to mix your protein. The soy protein that I use is tasteless and I add Swerve sweetener, which is a natural, calorie free sugar substitute, and cinnamon and coconut oil for a wonderful shake. I add eggs but do not advocate that you do. Sometimes I add dark cocoa and/or peanut butter powder. The possibilities are endless. You can even make a fruit flavored shake by adding Swerve and crushed berries. It’s delicious. Swerve comes in granulated, confectioner’s and brown and it’s all delicious and natural. Swerve is not an artificial sweetener.
While the consumption of soy is studied and argued, I see it as a food. If you have special health concerns that plant based estrogens may affect, by all means, discuss the use of soy with your physician. I do not have those concerns. I always have soy protein in the house. It’s a quick protein source that has many benefits for me. You must decide for yourself and if you do decide to use soy, you may have trouble finding it. GNC has a sugar free soy protein that I like that has 13 grams of protein per serving and 60 calories. Be cautious if you look for soy products because when I first started using the protein powder, the only one that I found contained over 20 grams of sugar per serving. Read the label. If it is flavored, it may contain added sugar. The same is true of soy milk. The original flavored soy milk has 6 grams of sugar per serving and in the ingredient list you will see “cane sugar”, as if putting the word “cane” on there makes it any better. Proceed with caution. I hope this helps you in your quest for better health.