There’s a lot of fear surrounding soy. I put this together to provide some clarity around some of the most common questions I get related to soy. Spoiler alert: you don’t have to be afraid of it!

Phytoestrogens

Soy provides nutritionally relevant amounts of isoflavones, a type of naturally occurring plant estrogen aka phytoestrogens, which bind to and activate estrogen receptors, having estrogenic and anti-estrogenic effects on the body.

Servings

Soy has been consumed in Asian cultures for over a thousand years. Based on these diets, research suggests that soy can be safely consumed up to three servings/day (some researchers suggest up to five servings/day) within the context of a diverse diet.

Breast Cancer

Research indicates that soy can be safely consumed by women with breast cancer. Soy intake is associated with the improved prognosis of breast cancer patients, including reductions in risk of death and disease recurrence.

Gynecomastia (“Man Boobs”)

Evidence indicates that soy doesn’t decrease testosterone levels or increase estrogen levels. Soy intake linked with feminizing effects (seen in the media) estimate that these men (there were two reports) were consuming as many as 20 servings of soy/day.

Sources of Soy:

  • Tofu
  • Tempeh
  • Soy milk
  • Miso
  • Edamame

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Resources:

Nachvak SM, Moradi S, Anjom-Shoae J, et al. Soy, Soy Isoflavones, and Protein Intake in Relation to Mortality from All Causes, Cancers, and Cardiovascular Diseases: A Systematic Review and Dose–Response Meta-Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2019;119(9). doi:10.1016/j.jand.2019.04.011

Cohen L. Soy food intake after diagnosis of breast cancer and survival: an in-depth analysis of combined evidence from cohort studies of US and Chinese women. Breast Diseases: A Year Book Quarterly. 2012;23(4):327-328. doi:10.1016/j.breastdis.2012.10.017.

Haun CT, Mobley CB, Vann CG, et al. Soy protein supplementation is not androgenic or estrogenic in college-aged men when combined with resistance exercise training. Scientific Reports. 2018;8(1). doi:10.1038/s41598-018-29591-4.