Less than six years ago, soy fell under heavy criticism as researchers linked it with reproductive and nutritional issues. Today, with more than 31 percent of Americans consuming soy, this food product has come up again linked, this time, with health benefits. The recent addition of soy products, like soy milk and tofu, in the Caf brings this issue close to campus.
“Traditionally, soy milk was the only alternative option for any student with a dairy allergy. These days, there are huge varieties: everything from almond milk to oat milk,” said PLNU Director of Dietetics Cindy Swann.
The Point decided to bust a few myths out there with the real effects of soy.
Myth A: Soy will decrease your masculinity.
This is a cause of much debate in the soy world said Swann. A lot of research fails to cover the exact effects of phytoestrogens, or estrogen mimickers, on the body.
“The way [facts] were presented from some of those studies was inappropriate,” said Swann. “Articles surrounding soy were titled with headlines claiming that soy decreased masculinity.”
These phytoestrogens attach at estrogen connectors on the outside of cells in place of the natural estrogen your body produces explained Swann.
“When these phytoestrogens bind instead of our body’s estrogen, they can lessen the symptoms that normal estrogen brings about,” said Swann. “That’s what you see in the Asian culture, where soy levels are so high, they don’t even have a term for ‘hot flashes’ in their language.”
These phytoestrogens do not, however, have an adverse affect on masculinity according to a study published on ‘Fertility and Sterility.’ This study included 15 treatment groups and found that there were no significant effects of soy protein intake on males.
Myth B: Soymilk lacks the proper nutrients.
Soybeans, along with isoflavones (a class of organic compounds found in plants) and phytoestrogens, also contain phytic acid. Phytic acid inhibits the body’s absorption of minerals and vitamins from food.
Raw soybeans contain phytic acid. However, according to Mian Riaz, director of the Food Protein Research & Development Center at Texas A&M, these levels change depending on how the soy is used. In Nutrition Action’s recent article, “Soy oh Soy,” Riaz explains that phytic acid levels are reduced whenever soybeans are processed. As a result, soymilk, which is processed, contains significantly less phytic acid than raw soybeans and therefore does not inhibit the absorption of minerals.
Processed soybeans are offered regularly on campus in the Caf, in the form of tofu and soy milk. But Miles Rottman, the Caf’s general manager, said not all processing is good processing.
“Some soy [outside of this campus] is so adulterated and so processed,” said Rottman. “It won’t offer any health benefit … Here we use natural ingredients and make everything from scratch, so, in my opinion, [the soy options on campus] are less of a health risk.”
While there is certainly room for more research concerning the risks and benefits of soy, researchers in Nutrition Action’s article, like Riaz, have found that consuming soy products in balance with a normal diet can promote health in individuals. Soy milk also has the added benefit of being the closest in nutritional value to milk.
“[Although soy milk] does match fairly well the nutritional profile of cow’s milk,” said Swann. “Look at the label and make an educated decision, if you do choose an alternative to milk.”
Each person is different, and needs to consider all the milk alternatives in addition to how each soy product is processed, said Ted Anderson, the director of physical education and a kinesiology professor. He said considering how soy milk might affect you in advance is important.
“I think it just depends on the person,” said Anderson. “Some people handle cow’s milk well, some people do better with goat’s milk. It’s just not simple.”