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How Healthy is Soy

Updated on September 27, 2012

Soy as a Dietary Supplement

Soy can be beneficial to health, but the same ingredient within soy that can help improve health and potentially prevent many health conditions and cancers can also be a detriment to your health.

Soybeans are processed so that the soy proteins can be extracted in a powder form, which can be fortified with other supplements and used to help make different foods, beverages, and condiments.

The isoflavones within soy is the active ingredient that is the potential reason behind the health benefits, but it's also one of the causes to the problems. Although, it has not been directly proven that soy can cause any health problems, it's still something that should be kept in mind when you're on a high soy diet.

The most important thing to remember is that moderation is the key. You don't have to completely cut out soy from your diet if you're scared of the problems, but you don't have to pile it on your plate if you're more concerned about the benefits.

Soy sauce, for example, is a soy product, but it has very little soy in it, as the main ingredient is water. Tofu is pretty packed with soy, so you may not want to make it a main course meal three times a day seven days a week.

Soy can be a great alternative for those who are lactose intolerant and for babies who are having trouble digesting cow's milk, powdered formulas, or mom's milk.

Soy beans
Soy beans

Benefits of Soy

It is thought that because the Asian culture has a diet that consists of many foods that contain soy, the reason behind their good health is the soy. The Asian culture has been noted for fewer cases of heart disease, stroke, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure, as well as many other health problems that are common amongst Americans and many other parts of the world.

  • Soy can slightly reduce total cholesterol and bad cholesterol levels.
  • Soy can reduce high blood pressure.
  • Soy can potentially prevent heart and blood vessel diseases.
  • Soy proteins can help reduce hot flashes caused by menopause; although, it doesn't seem to help hot flashes in women with breast cancer.
  • Soy proteins can increase bone mineral density and slow bone mineral density loss in women near or past menopause, which can reduce the risk of osteoporosis. There isn't any proof that soy can help bone density loss in young women.
  • Some researchers believe that soy can potentially reduce the risk of developing breast cancer.
  • Soy can potentially relieve breast pain and PMS symptoms.
  • Soy can reduce the duration of diarrhea in infants.
  • Soy can potentially prevent and treat diabetic nerve problems.
  • Soy can provide nutrition to infants who can't properly digest milk sugars.
  • Soy can potentially reduce the amount of proteins in urine with people with kidney disease, which can potentially slow down the progression of the disease.
  • Soy can potentially treat type 2 diabetes.
  • Soy can treat infants who have trouble digesting lactose and who have a lactose deficiency.
  • Soy can potentially help reduce asthma.
  • Soy can potentially help reduce the risk of cancer in the lining of the uterus, prostate cancer, and thyroid cancer.
  • Soy can help improve memory and memory loss.

Why is Soy Bad?

The potential health problems that are thought to be associated with heavy and long term use of soy products can include the following. Remember as stated above, the below are potential problems with eating a high soy diet, and have not yet been 100 percent been proven as caused by soy-based products.

  • Soy contains acids and inhibitors that can potentially interfere with growth of children.
  • Soy contains inhibitors that can interfere with protein digestion.
  • Soy can potentially cause pancreatic disorders.
  • Soy contains phytoestrogens which can potentially cause infertility and enhance risk of breast cancer. The phytoestrogens can also cause hypothyroidism and thyroid cancers.
  • Soy proteins can form toxic lysinoalanine and carcinogenic nitrosamines.
  • Soy can cause the body to need more Vitamin D.

  • Soy does not allow Vitamin B12 to be absorbed properly, which increases the need for it.
  • Soy contains high amounts of aluminum, which is toxic to the nervous system and kidneys.
  • Soy milk can interfere with the way children with cystic fibrosis process proteins.
  • Soy isoflavone tablets can potentially increase pre-cancerous changes and abnormal tissue growth in the lining of the uterus.
  • Soy products can potentially increase the risk of kidneys stones.
  • Soy products can potentially increase the chance of bladder cancer.
  • Soy is a common allergy, especially among people with asthma and hay fever.

Soy products can potentially be unsafe for pregnant women, women who are breast feeding, children, and infants.

Soy proteins can be safe, and taking soy supplements on a short term basis (6 months or less) is safe. But, if you consume high amounts of soy products in your diet, you may suffer mild side effects like constipation, bloating, and nausea, as well as allergic reactions such as rash and itching. If you continue a high soy based diet for a long term period, you are increasing your risk of health complications.

Disclaimer: Please be aware that the advice in this article should in no way replace that of a licensed doctor. Consult your doctor if you think that you may want to try a diet with higher soy proteins. If you are already on a higher soy-based diet, consult your doctor if you feel that you are experiencing any complications.


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    • seotrainingclub profile image

      seotrainingclub 8 years ago from UK

      I love soy beans :( Had no idea about the allergy risks (I have hay fever)

    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 8 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      I did not realise soy had such potential problems. I guess its the age old moderation in everything

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 8 years ago from United States

      This is a great article with so much information. I didn't know any of the negatives about soy and I have asthma.