Healthy tips from a Registered Dietitian
Many consumers shy away from tofu and soyfoods such as soymilk. I find people often do not know how to prepare it or simply are nervous to try it. Sometimes, individuals try one form of tofu, decide it takes too different and then never try it again. And, many clients I see are nervous about the health effects of soy.
A great place to learn more about the health benefits and research on soy is www.soyconnection.com. A team of health professionals, including dietitians, professors and authors are available to answer your questions on soy foods.
As far as the basics, the FDA recognizes soy protein as heart healthy and allow the claim on food labels stating, “25 grams of soy protein per day may reduce the risk of heart disease.” Additionally, soyfoods are usually low in saturated and trans fat, making them more heart healthy than many animal proteins. It seems soy may also lower the risk of prostate, breast and colon cancers, osteoporosis and other bone problems as well as help alleviate hot flashes associated with menopause. In addition, soy is usually very easy to digest (aside from those individuals with a soy allergy) and is very satisfying.
There does, however, continue to be controversy about whether soy foods are safe. Since soy foods contain isoflavones (a type of phytoestrogren, or plant-based estrogren), many consumers are fearful soy may increase the risk or severity of hormone sensitive cancers such as breast cancer. However, most research continues to find natural soy foods safe and healthy, when consumed in appropriate amounts. The American Cancer Society deems up to 3 servings of soy foods daily for patients with breast cancer as safe. As a side note, one serving of soy foods is equal to one cup of soymilk, or 3 to 4 ounces of tofu – which both supply about 20-35mg of isoflavones. A 2008 research review in the British Journal of Cancer concluded that the amount of soy consumed by most Asian populations provides a protective effect against breast cancer.
All in all, I recommend a balanced diet where soyfoods play a role – not in high doses and not just on occasion. When possible, it is best to choose organic versions of soy, since non-organic soybeans are often contaminated with pesticide residues (in fact, they are one of the most contaminated crops of all the foods we eat). Additionally, organic versions contain no genetically modified organisms.
So, if you wish to incorporate soy as a healthy part of your diet, here are some delicious tips: