While soy polarizes opinion, we’ll look today at the possible benefits of this legume for mitigating your menopause symptoms.
We’re not here to change your opinion on soy, merely to outline some key facts so you can better decide whether soy is for you.
It really is incredibly confusing once you start probing the pros and cons. For every scientific study showing the advantages of soy there seems to be a conflicting study that casts soy as the villain.
What Is Soy?
The soybean plant came from East Asia but spread to the US in the 1700s. (1)
Ninety percent (90%) of the soybeans grown today are genetically modified.
It’s essential to cook soybeans as they are toxic when served raw.
Soybeans can be eaten whole or in the form of the immature edamame.
Soy is a core ingredient of tofu and soy milk.
In Asia, soy is frequently used in fermented form. (2)
Most of the soy grown in the US is used for soy oil.
Nutritional Profile of 100g Serving Boiled Soybeans
Here’s a glance at what a single serving of soybeans contains… (3)
- Vitamins B1, B2, B6, K
Although this is a reasonable amount of nutrients, the phytates contained in soy make absorbing these hard work so much of the potential value is lost. (4)
Rich in protein and fairly fatty, here’s the breakdown of that serving by macronutrients:
- Calories: 200
- Protein: 17g
- Carbs: 10g
- Fats: 9g
There are both positive (5), and negative (6) studies into the advisability of using soy products in your diet, but we’re not here today to probe too deeply into what is still unresolved.
We’ll look now at some common foods containing soy before examining whether or not soy can help alleviate your menopause symptoms.
Foods That Contain Soy
- Tofu: Sometime called soybean curd, is a solid source of B vitamins and high quality protein. (7)
- Edamame: Served as snacks or boiled and eaten as a side, these protein-dense, fibrous veg are readily available in most stores
- Soy Milk: Soy milk is often recommended for mitigating menopause symptoms (8) and is one of the most frequently used soy products. (8) (9)
- Miso: This salty and flavor-packed paste is a staple in the Japanese kitchen. Miso contains trace amounts of soy protein and it’s got an excess of sodium.
- Soybean Oil: The vast bulk of the soy harvested makes its way into soybean oil which is of questionable nutritional value. (10)
How Soy Affects Hormone Levels
Your estrogen levels are in flux anyway during menopause and the way in which soy interacts with your estrogen receptors can cause levels of estrogen in your body to go up or down. (11)
Soy is packed with isoflavones which are phytoestrogens, that is plant-based compounds capable of tricking and activating the estrogen receptors in your body.
It might be that soy nudges your estrogen levels up and plays a helpful role in managing your menopause symptoms.
Perhaps consuming too much soy might trip your receptors in the opposite direction and cause them to spike.
We’ll look at how soy can help out if you’re menopausal after briefly mentioning why soy tends to get a bad rep.
The Controversy Behind Soy
It’s those isoflavones that create much of the controversy that clouds whether or not soy is safe or should be given a swerve.
Some studies have linked isoflavones with an increased chance of breast cancer whereas other observational studies have shown a reduced likelihood of cancer. (12)
Soy can disrupt menstruation so be aware of this if you’re trying to identify the reason for changes in your cycle. (13)
Due to the isoflavones and the questions about health, soy is also often linked to discussions about thyroid malfunction and its use in baby formula.
How about the good side of soy?
Well, it can come into play to do some good for those annoying symptoms that strike from nowhere.
How Soy Can Affect Your Menopause Symptoms
- Bone Loss: If you’re suffering from lowered bone density as you go through the change, consuming soy can promote some relief and reduce the risk of bone loss. (14)
- Hot Flashes: We’re not going to get your hopes up here, soy doesn’t appear to be a miracle cure for those enervating hot flashes. There’s mixed evidence as to whether or not soy makes a noticeable difference either way. (15)
- Managing Weight Gain: While not directly responsible here, if you’re looking to shed a few pounds, it’s advisable to eat more plant-based proteins so incorporating soy-based foods into your diet could be a smart way to hit your goals. (16)