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Celebrate Soyfoods Month in April by Getting the Facts and the Flavor
Learn the facts about soyfoods and your health during Soyfoods Month in April. “Myth-information” may be preventing you from getting the news—and the benefits—associated with eating soyfoods.
Myth #1: Anybody who has had breast cancer should avoid traditional soyfoods such as tofu and soymilk.
Actuality: In fact, new research studies offer evidence that breast cancer patients who consume soyfoods after their diagnosis actually fare better than patients who do not consume soyfoods. The American Cancer Society says that breast cancer patients can safely consume up to three servings of traditional soyfoods per day.
Myth #2: People in Japan and other Asian countries consume only small amounts of soyfoods and use them primarily as condiments.
Actuality: The results from large surveys—often involving tens of thousands of people—indicate that on average, Japanese adults and older adults in Shanghai consume 1½ servings of soyfoods per day. But those who consume a bit more tend to have better health—so shoot for about two servings per day.
Myth #3: Soyfoods cause mineral deficiencies or imbalances.
Actuality: This myth probably got started because soyfoods contain phytate and another plant chemical, oxalate (also found in spinach), which inhibit calcium absorption. However, the evidence unequivocally shows that calcium absorption from soymilk and cow’s milk are similar. And new research indicates iron absorption from soy is excellent. Nor surprisingly, there is no evidence that soyfoods cause mineral deficiencies or imbalances.
Myth #4: Soyfoods contain estrogen and men who eat them may experience feminization or even impair their fertility.
Actuality: Soyfoods do not contain estrogen, and the clinical evidence indicates that soyfoods do not feminize men—soy doesn’t lower testosterone levels or lower sperm concentration. The myth may have its roots in the fact that naturally present isoflavones in soyfoods are commonly referred to as plant estrogens, or phytoestrogens. The good news is that soyfoods may offer several health benefits for men. For example, evidence suggests soyfoods are protective against prostate cancer.
Myth #5: Soyfoods should be avoided because they are harmful to the thyroid.
Actuality: More than 20 clinical studies have shown that neither eating soyfoods nor using soybean extracts cause thyroid problems. This myth is based on the results from studies in which the effects of isolated soybean components (not soyfoods) on individual thyroid cells in test tubes have been evaluated.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder that affects the large intestine. IBS affects about one of out every 10 persons in the world although rates vary from region to region. Some research suggests that about 14% of Americans have IBS although the vast majority are undiagnosed.
Signs and symptoms of IBS include cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and diarrhea or constipation, or both. Some people can control their symptoms by managing diet, lifestyle and stress.
The role of food allergy or intolerance in IBS isn’t fully understood but science-based evidence indicates that the Low FODMAP Diet can help manage the gastrointestinal symptoms associated with IBS. And soyfoods can be part of the Low FODMAP Diet.
FODMAP is an acronym that stands for: Fermentable – meaning they are broken down (fermented) by bacteria in the large bowel, Oligosaccharides – “oligo” means “few” and “saccharide” means sugar. These molecules made up of individual sugars joined together in a chain. Disaccharides – “di” means two. This is a double sugar molecule. Monosaccharides – “mono” means single. This is a single-sugar molecule. And Polyols – these are sugar alcohols (however don’t lead to intoxication!).
When consumed in foods and/or drinks, FODMAPs can be poorly absorbed in the small intestine and pass through to the large intestine, where two major events happen:
- The FODMAPs are readily fermented by bacteria in the large bowel, contributing to the production of gas.
- The FODMAPs are also highly osmotic, meaning that they attract water into the large bowel, which can alter how quickly the bowels move.
These two processes can then trigger symptoms including excess wind, abdominal bloating and distension, abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhea, or a combination of both.
Many soyfoods, although not all, can be part of the Low FODMAP Diet. If you have IBS, good choices are firm tofu (as opposed to silken tofu), soymilk made using isolated soy protein, soy cheese and tempeh. Tempeh is made by fermenting whole soybeans. It has an excellent texture and is highly nutritious and may help to promote the growth of friendly bacteria, which could lead to an assortment of health benefits.