Throughout the years, soy has gained notorious popularity as individuals have debated over the healthy and unhealthy consequences of the food group. While individuals have expressed their mixed opinions with regards to the vague rumors surrounding soy, I am here to provide you with the scientific facts behind the benefits of soy.

1. Soy Is a Type of Phytoestrogen

dairy product, milk, cheese, dairy, tofu, goats cheese
Helena Lin

You may have heard of the controversy behind soy and tofu, but the great amounts of scientific research done on soy ultimately break up the debate. Soy contains phytoestrogens—exogenous estrogen molecules that originate outside of the body and affect the hormone receptors within. Phytoestrogens like soy provide a multitude of benefits, including the prevention of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, cardiovascular disease, and osteoporosis. 

2. The Benefits of Phytoestrogens Are Much Greater Than Its Estrogenic Effects

legume, vegetable, pea, pasture, cereal, soy, mung bean, lentil
Emanuel Storch

You may have heard of the myth that tofu and soy products can affect the levels of endogenous estrogen in the human body and cause infertility. However, the benefits of soy far outweigh its effect on the body's estrogen levels. At the molecular level, phytoestrogens can either stimulate or block normal estrogenic activities in the body by outcompeting stronger estrogens found naturally in the body. For example, if a molecule of estrogen binds to a breast estrogen receptor, it could potentially cause breast cancer. A phytoestrogen can outcompete the estrogen molecule and inhibit it from binding at the site—thereby preventing the risk of developing breast cancer. 

3. Phytoestrogens in Foods Reduce the Risk for the Development of Hormone-Dependent Diseases

dairy product, vegetable, tofu
Jocelyn Hsu

In a study conducted to discover the effects of a soy-dominant diet, researchers have proven that a diet rich in soy has led to decreased risks for breast cancer. Other studies have shown that individuals living in Asia have a higher consumption rate of soy in comparison to American individuals. As a result, high intake of these soy products may be at least partly responsible for the lower risk for breast cancer development, diabetes, postmenopausal symptoms, cardiovascular disease, and obesity in such populations. 

So How Can I Incorporate More Phytoestrogens Into My Diet? 

vegetable, stir-fry, tofu, pepper, noodle, meat
Katherine Baker

Whether or not you are vegan or vegetarian, I encourage you to incorporate phytoestrogens into your diet at least once a week. Phytoestrogens are found in a variety of foods—not just soy! You can reap the benefits of these fantastic molecules from a variety of superfoods: flax seeds, sunflower seeds, pomegranates, apples, oats, yams, lentils, barley, and of course, soy products like tofu, tempeh, and soybeans. If you are not a fan of tofu and tempeh, try out some new recipes to change your palate or stick to unprocessed plant-based superfoods for your phytoestrogen dosage. 

While it is important to know of the benefits and detriments of different types of food groups, it is crucial to live our lives in moderation. Consuming too much or too little of one food group may have adverse effects on our health, so it is most advantageous to our bodies if we incorporate a little bit of everything into our daily diet.