Today, soy is available in a variety of food products in the U.S., including milk, ice cream, miso, burgers, oil, soy sauce, tofu, and edamame. Sitting behind these products is much confusion, including for midlife women, as to whether soy is beneficial or harmful to health. Here’s the straight talk on soy and midlife women’s health.
Heart Health: Consuming 25 grams of soy protein a day has been shown to lower blood
cholesterol levels which may help lower the risk of heart disease.
Breast Cancer: An old myth suggests that soy increased breast cancer risk. The reason for this
myth is that isoflavones, which are found in soy, are plant estrogens. High levels of human
estrogen have been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. However, food sources of soy
don’t contain high enough levels of isoflavones to increase the risk of breast cancer. Over time, research has identified that there are different types of isoflavones in soy. One of them, genistein, has actually been found to inhibit the growth of cancer cells, based on research that women in soy food-consuming countries have much lower rates of breast cancer than in Western countries. Further refinement of this research suggests a regular intake of soy foods during adolescence has the impact on breast cancer reduction.
Cognition: Preliminary studies indicate that post-menopausal women who consume 60-160 mg isoflavones a day may see benefits in executive function and memory, but more research is
needed to confirm a benefit.
Hot Flashes: There’s good news for women experiencing this most common complaint of
menopause – studies suggest that getting a daily dose of 50-60 mg total isoflavones, 20 mg of
which is genistein may lower the frequency and severity of soy foods.
If you’re looking to add more soy to your eating habits, aim for 15-25 grams soy protein a day
or 50-100 mg isoflavones a day.