If there is such a thing as a flavor of the month when it comes to natural supplements and health foods, soy is coming up on being flavor of the year. Or probably even more accurately, flavor of the decade. It seems like you can’t open a health magazine without reading another article that advises us enthusiastically to order our lattes with soy milk and to eat as much tofu and edamame as we can.
But in spite of all of the positive press that soy has received in recent years, folks in our country are really not hopping on the soy bandwagon as quickly as in other parts of the world. Many people are not that wild about tofu and switching from cow’s milk to soy milk can be a hard sell for most people. But soy is still definitely a darling of the natural health media and it is slowly but surely gaining in popularity.
But what is it about soy that makes it so healthy for us? Why should we even think about eating it or taking it in supplement form in the first place? Are there studies that back up its use?
Soy is naturally full of substances called soy isoflavones. They are potent plant substances that are similar to the female hormone estrogen. In the plant world, they are actually known as plant estrogens or phytoestrogens. Because soy foods are so full of these isoflavones, many nutritionists and researchers contend that this is why residents of countries where soy is often on the menu typically have fewer menopausal symptoms like hot flashes. Asia is one of the countries where soy is eaten far more often than in the United States, and it is definitely interesting to note that in Asia, the rates of certain forms of hormone-related cancer are much lower than in the U.S.
Soy isoflavones have become such a popular topic of discussion and so many women have already hopped on the soy isoflavone bandwagon that supplements already exist that make getting your soy isoflavones as easy as swallowing a couple/few capsules. But research has found that taking soy in supplement form is actually not the same as eating it as part of a healthy diet. Researchers believe that these findings might be explained by the possible idea that soy contains another powerful substance other than isoflavones that are leading to all of the health benefits.
So in general, the best way to gain any benefits of soy is to probably sip some soy milk or munch on a bowl of edamame the next time you sit down to watch “American Idol.” But if eating soy is truly unappealing for you, you can definitely still take the supplements and get at least some of the benefits that soy has to offer.