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Soy for Men: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
by Joel Feren

We’re currently celebrating Men’s Health Week from June 14 to 20. It’s an important initiative that shines the spotlight on men’s health issues and encourages men to take charge of their health and well-being. It’s clear that men face different health issues than women, and we also have different needs. 

Soy foods continue to polarize opinions. They are subject to numerous wild claims, many of which are unsubstantiated. So let’s settle this age-old debate once and for all, because soy foods are pretty super in all their glorious and delicious forms—especially for men. 

Soybeans are members of the legume family—their cousins include lentils, peas, and peanuts. Nutritionally speaking, soybeans are nutritional powerhouses. They are a rich source of high-quality protein and fiber, and they are low in total and saturated fat and cholesterol. Several micronutrients are also present in soybeans, including magnesium, potassium, and folate, which is essential for DNA repair. 

Soybeans are a source of hormone-like substances called isoflavones, a type of phytoestrogen that mimics the action of estrogen. This feature is why they sometimes (unfairly) get a bad rap.  

Soy foods are a staple in Asian diets, and vegans and vegetarians are encouraged to include soy foods in their diets. But omnivores should also embrace a range of soy foods, including soy milk, tofu, tempeh, and soybeans (aka edamame) in their diets. 

So let’s discuss why men, in particular, should be eating more soy foods, and address some of the common misconceptions associated with soy. 

Heart health

Research shows that soy protein can help to reduce LDL cholesterol—the nasty type that can clog your arteries. Several studies have shown that consuming 25 grams of soy protein a day for six weeks helps to lower LDL cholesterol by 3 to 4 percent. 

The exact mechanism for this effect is still unknown. However, it’s hypothesized that there is a synergistic effect between soy protein and the isoflavones present in soy foods. Soy isoflavones have been shown to have a strong antioxidant effect. What’s more, scientists have also revealed that they can improve the elasticity of blood vessels and reduce inflammation. Moove over cow’s milk; soy milk may be a nifty present for your heart. 

Male hormones

Low libido and muscle mass, mood changes, reduced energy levels, and poor bone health are all associated with low testosterone levels. The notion that the phytoestrogens in soy disrupt testosterone production and reduce its efficacy in the body might seem plausible on the surface. However, this theory has been debunked and refuted by this meta-analysis (a large study of all the studies in this area). There is, in fact, no robust evidence that soy causes elevated estrogen levels in males or indeed, has any significant effect on hormone levels. 

Muscle mass

Soy foods are a great source of plant protein. Men continue to rely heavily on animal foods to meet their protein requirements, but being more plant-focused has definite advantages. Reducing our meat intake can reduce our disease risk profile without impacting our protein intake. Including a serving of tofu and tempeh in place of meat will not jeopardize your gym gains. 

Prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men. It accounts for 15 percent of all cancers in men worldwide. The incidence of prostate cancer is lower in Asian populations where soy foods are widely and regularly consumed. An extensive analysis of the research in this area concluded that there is a significant association between soy consumption and lower prostate cancer risk.  

So don’t listen to the naysayers who say that soy is not a good food for you. The evidence well and truly indicates that soy foods are ‘soy’ good for us. You can confidently add tofu or tempeh to a stir fry, include soy milk in your morning latte, and garnish your salad with edamame beans. Your insides will thank you for it.

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This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.