Can soy products save your heart?

Many people are asking questions about soy products. Are they heathy? There’s so much information out there, it can be confusing.

I believe there’s not just one “healthy” food that will save your heart. Heart and cardiovascular diseases increase every year in men and women. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything by yourself. Exercise, being careful about what you eat, controlling blood pressure and blood sugar levels, maintaining a healthy weight, and taking enough time for yourself to improve your mood are all key factors.

Improving your diet is an important step toward preventing diseases. No single food can make you magically healthy, so you should add a variety of healthy foods prepared in healthy ways into your diet, and this may help you create new habits for your new lifestyle.

There are some misleading facts about soy protein, however. The soybean contains essential amino acids and calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, C, zinc and is rich in vitamin B and fiber. But I personally don’t use any soy products in my diet. Why? Let’s look first at what soy is.

Soy, a plant in the pea family, and soybeans are legumes that originated in Asian diets. Now, you can find them in many foods or food additives such as tofu, soy milk and dairy and meat substitutes. Soybeans, the high-protein seeds of the soy plant, contain isoflavones — compounds similar to the female hormone estrogen (phytoestrogens).

Phytoestrogens are present many dietary supplements and used as a natural alternative to estrogen replacement therapy. Soy infant formula makes up almost a third of the US market, and soy is now added to many processed foods too.

I have studied and researched quite a lot about soy products and protein, and discovered that over 90 percent of soy produced in the U.S. is genetically modified (GMO) and sprayed with the herbicide Roundup.

That’s my first concern for not using any soy products. If you can find non-processed organic soy products, then I believe that in moderation you can add them to your diet.

Research shows that daily intake of soy protein may slightly lower levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Some studies suggest that soy isoflavone supplements may reduce hot flashes in women after menopause, however the results have been inconsistent. There is not enough scientific evidence to determine whether soy supplements are effective for any other health uses.

We can get good quality protein and fiber from many other food sources such as flaxseeds, hemp seeds, organic almond milk, omega 3 rich fish and grass fed beef.

We are all individually unique so we all react differently. Be your own researcher and always observe how your body reacts after you eat. You will then realize when your energy or mood changes, and your body will tell you which foods are good for you.

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Ayda Ersoy is a nutrition and fitness director at The Diet Doc Hawaii. She can be reached at DietDocHawaii.com,Ayda@DietDocHawaii.com or (808) 276-6892

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