Soy: Friend or foe?

A generation ago, doctors would prescribe hormone replacement therapy for older women with brittle bones. The hormones helped to stave off the osteoporosis but brought a host of other problems in its place. Many women have decided that the increased risk of breast cancer and blood clots is simply not worth it.

But what about soy products? They contain what is known as phyto-estrogens (or “plant estrogens”).  Can soy products also increase the risk of breast cancer, heart disease and blood clots?

Researchers looked at over 9,500 breast cancer patients and found that soy foods were actually protective against the cancer. Those who consumed the most soy had the greatest chances of survival and also had the least chance of the cancer coming back after treatment.

And what about blood clots? Do soy foods increase them? Nope. It turns out that estrogen pills and the estrogen-like component of soy foods are treated very differently in the body.

And what about those brittle bones that inspired the use of hormone replacement therapy to begin with? Amazingly, soy foods can help with that problem too. Studies show that soy can significantly increase bone density.

Is it possible to get too much soy? Research suggests that up to 3 servings a day are safe and actually protective. Beyond that, we don’t have enough research to say.

So, don’t be afraid of a little soy milk. Unlike estrogen pills, the estrogen-like components in soy are actually beneficial to your health.

by Dorothea Sarli, Nutritionist