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The soy debate: Proceed carefully

Know your medical history. Phytoestrogens are often helpful in providing post-menopausal women with the hormones needed to control hot flashes and other symptoms. If they can accomplish that, what are all these female hormones doing to men, children, and women who already have plenty of estrogen?

Phytoestrogens may affect individuals differently. The biggest risks involved are tumor growth, hormonal imbalances, and thyroid depression. If you are already at risk for any of the above, avoid soy.

Other dangers aside, soy can be hard on the digestive system; in traditional Asian cultures, it is fermented for several days before consumption. If you eat soy regularly and suffer from indigestion, try cutting out soy for a while and watch for changes.

Stick to small amounts. Perhaps the darker side of soy has come into the spotlight in recent years because people Americans are consuming so much more of it now than in the past. Keep in mind that most of the soy we eat is hidden in pre-packaged foods. Check labels!

Know what your kids eat. Remember that even if soy is safe for you, the stakes are higher when dealing with the effects of estrogen-imitating compounds on children. Kids in the U.S. are being fed large amounts of soy without their parents’ knowledge. According to an article last November in Scientific American, 25% of all infant formula is soy-based. Public schools are even adding soy to their hamburger patties.

Keep it natural. According to a study published in the journal Carcinogenesis, the correlation between soy and low breast cancer rates in Asia is not what we’ve been led to think it is (For one thing, we eat more soy than they do). Dr. William Helferich of the University of Illinois says that soy is not a major breast cancer culprit in Asian populations because their soy foods are generally made from minimally processed soybeans. In contrast, soy is competing with corn as the top genetically modified and processed food in the U.S. It is from this highly processed soy that our protein protein supplements, soy milk and infant formulas are made. Stick to whole, traditionally fermented soy, or seek out other protein alternatives.

Do your homework. New research studies are released every day. If your lifestyle calls for the consumption of soy, make sure you’re up to date on recent medical findings.

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