By Shely Salemnia, DTR, CSUN Dietetic Intern
Soy has been getting a lot of flack on the internet. This is because soy contains isoflavone, which is a type of phytochemical. It is also a type of phytoestrogen which resembles human estrogen. Estrogen is a female hormone that has been linked to breast and uterine cancers. Because of this, many people have associated phytoestrogens with increasing estrogen levels and thus increasing risk of breast cancer. Thus, many people have avoided soy with fear of developing breast cancer or re-occurrence of breast cancer. However, research has shed more light on the subject.
Many publications have studied the effect of soy consumption on health and breast cancer risk. Against popular belief, the scientific community has mounting research that soy consumption may actually decrease risk of breast cancer1. It’s a shame that soy has such a bad reputation, as studies have suggested that soy has a myriad of health benefits. Such benefits include moderate weight loss, decreased inflammation, and protection for the kidneys 2,3,4,5,6. Knowing this is important since soy is a major part of some Asian diets and is a great source of vegetable-based protein. Many people are looking for plant-based sources of protein, as plant-based diets are being encouraged by health professionals7. Research shows variable protective effects of soy based on ethnicity, age, hormone status, and type of soy food consumed 1,6. The American Cancer Society states that those with breast cancer can safely consume up to three servings of soy a day, in forms such as “tofu and soy milk” and recommends to avoid concentrated forms of isoflavones found in soy powders and supplements8.
Half a cup of soy beans contains 9 grams of protein, 8 grams of fiber, potassium, calcium, and iron9. Remember, certain soy products like tofu and soy milk are processed and may contain other ingredients, including salt, and should be consumed in moderation. Thus, natural soy as in soy beans or edamame are better choices, but smaller portions of tofu and other soy products can still fit into a balanced diet.
Try out this tasty recipe to get in a healthy serving of soy!
Warm Edamame Salad
Recipe by Martha Stewart
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 4 cups (12 oz) cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 16 oz package frozen shelled edamame, thawed
- 1 cup (4 oz) sugar snap peas, sliced in half
- 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced
- 1/2 cup jarred roasted red bell peppers, cut into 1/2-inch strips
- 8 oz can sliced water chestnuts, drained
- 1/2 teaspoon Sriracha chile sauce
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
- 1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
- Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Cook the mushrooms, stirring, until tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
- Add remaining oil to pan. Cook the edamame, snap peas, and ginger, stirring occasionally, until peas are tender and edamame is bright green, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the red pepper, chestnuts, Sriracha, and mushrooms and cook, stirring, until heated through. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat; stir in the toasted sesame seeds and vinegar. Serve hot, or refrigerate and enjoy cold.
- Morimoto, Y., Maskarinec, G., Park, S., Ettienne, R., Matsuno, R., Long, C., . . . Wilkens, L. (2014). Dietary isoflavone intake is not statistically significantly associated with breast cancer risk in the Multiethnic Cohort. British Journal Of Nutrition, 112(6), 976-983.
- Liu, Z-m, Ho, S.C., Chen, Y-m, & Ho, Y.P. (2010). A mild favorable effect of soy protein with isoflavones on body composition–a 6-month double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial among Chinese postmenopausal women. International Journal of Obesity, 34(2), 309-318.
- Zhang, Liu, Su, & Tian. (2014). The effects of soy protein on chronic kidney disease: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 68(9), 987-993.
- Wada, K., Nakamura, K., Tamai, Y., Tsuji, M., Kawachi, T., Hori, A., . . . Nagata, C. (2013). Soy isoflavone intake and breast cancer risk in Japan: From the Takayama study. International Journal of Cancer, 133(4), 952-960.
- Messina MJ, Wood CE. Soy isoflavones, estrogen therapy, and breast cancer risk: analysis and commentary. Nutr J. 2008;7:17.
- Cho, Kim, Park, Lim, Shin, Sung, & Ro. (2010). Effect of dietary soy intake on breast cancer risk according to menopause and hormone receptor status. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 64(9), 924-32.
- Cullum-Dugan, D., & Pawlak, R. (2015). Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Vegetarian Diets. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 115(5), 801-810. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2015.02.033
- Doyle C, Kushi LH, Byers T, et al. Nutrition and physical activity during and after cancer treatment: an American Cancer Society guide for informed choices. CA Cancer J Clin.2006;56(6):323-353.
- Food Composition Databases Show Foods — EDAMAME (BOILED SOY BEAN), UPC: 604215887830. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/45343528?fgcd=&manu=&format=&count=&max=25&offset=&sort=default&order=asc&qlookup=soy bean&ds=&qt=&qp=&qa=&qn=&q=&ing=