How Healthy Is Soy Really?

By Amy Paturel, "How Healthy Is Soy Really?," January/February 2011

The pros and cons of soy for your body.

Pros & Cons to Eating Soy

+Heart: You may be able to significantly lower your “bad” LDL and total cholesterol levels by eating 25 grams of soy protein each day (e.g., about 1⁄2 cup soy nuts; 11⁄4 cups of tofu or edamame; 31⁄2 cups soymilk), suggests a review of 30 studies. According to one hypothesis, soy protein directly lowers cholesterol levels by helping the liver clear more LDL from the body, says Mark Messina, Ph.D., adjunct associate professor at Loma Linda University and executive director of the Soy Nutrition Institute. You reap an even greater heart benefit when you replace meat and full-fat dairy with soy as you’ll naturally eat less saturated fat—and research shows that saturated fat increases LDL.

+Menopause: Good news, ladies! A new analysis of 17 studies—presented at the international soy symposium in October 2010—shows consuming isoflavones from soy (compounds that act as weak estrogens) cuts both the frequency and severity of hot flashes in half.

+Prostate: Studies in Asia show that men who consume about two servings of soy per day are about 30 percent less likely to develop prostate cancer than those who eat less. And for men who already have prostate cancer, preliminary research suggests that soy may inhibit the progression of the disease.

Next: Cons to Eating Soy »

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