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Q: There is a lot of controversy surrounding the benefits and potential risks of adding soy to the diet. Can you explain the health benefits and/or risks of soy?
A: There have been a lot of contradicting facts about soy circulating in the general public that have most people confused about its place in the diet. In fact, soy has been shown to be a nutritious addition to the daily diet and is also known to have beneficial health effects including:Heart health - In October 1999, the Food and Drug Administration gave manufacturers permission to label products that contain soy with the health claim, "May help lower the risk of heart disease". This health claim is only allowed if the product has 6.25 grams or more of soy protein per serving and is low in saturated fat and cholesterol. This number came from studies that found a diet containing as little as 25 grams of soy protein per day can help to reduce LDL (bad cholesterol) and increase HDL (good cholesterol), as well as reduce hypertension.Menopause ¡V Soy has been found to relieve symptoms of menopause. The isoflavones in soy mimic the effects of human estrogen, easing symptoms associated with perimenopause and menopause, such as hot flashes and bloating.Cancer - Studies show that regular consumption of soy products may protect against some forms of cancer such as breast, uterine and prostate. Soy contains compounds called isoflavones, which are also known as phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are the plant form of estrogen. They appear to be equivalent to the human form of estrogen, without negative side effects. It is believed that isoflavones are the cancer-fighting compounds of soy, acting by blocking a protein called tyrosine kinase, which promotes the growth of tumor cells.On the flipside, soy eaten in excess can cause an allergic reaction and may exacerbate a pre-existing thyroid condition.At this time, research indicates that one to two servings of soy per day such as an eight- ounce glass of soy milk or half a handful of soy nuts, appears to be beneficial to overall health. Include high quality forms of soy into your daily diet such as miso, tempeh and tamari. Tofu is also a soy product that will take on the flavor of the spices or oils you add to it. Tofu comes in three different textures: firm, soft and silken. It is best to use silken tofu in smoothies, dips and pies and firm tofu in stir-frys. Edamame (green soybeans) are a delicious snack to include into your diet. Most edamame is sold frozen. Simply empty the contents of the package into boiling water for two to three minutes and drain. Sprinkle with sea salt and enjoy eating the pods from the shell.
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