menopause diet blog

Time for a Change

Day 5: The Soya Debate

on June 11, 2013

First of all soy and soya are the same… the first is American and the second is English. As I am a Brit I will be calling it soya in my blog.

I have been drinking soya milk on and off for a while now. I choose only milk made with organic, non-GM whole soya beans. There is, for me, no doubt that it helps my menopausal migraines and hot flushes as when I went on holiday and stopped drinking soya milk, my symptoms returned with a vengeance. I like soya milk and usually pour it onto my muesli or use it in a smoothie. It is recommended as a source of isoflavones (one of several types of phytoestrogens) in all the menopause diet books that I have bought.

However I have been reading about soya consumption and there is a lot of controversy about how good (or otherwise) it is for you. In fact some sources say that consuming some forms of soya is actually damaging to your health. It’s a bit of a minefield with much conflicting advice (especially relating to its effect on breast cancer and the thyroid gland).

soya beans soya beans white

I am not a nutritionist or dietician, nor do I have the time to read (or the qualifications to interpret) all the scientific studies out there regarding the effect of soya on health but, I am an educated and interested woman, who wants to do the best for herself, and these are what I understand to be the main points:

  • The belief that soya is good for you comes from studies of the Asian (mainly Japanese) diet which contains relatively high levels of soya. Japanese life expectancy, particularly that of the Okinawans, is the highest in the world.
  • Soya products may be fermented and unfermented. Unfermented soy products include soy milk, tofu. soy protein powders, soy meat alternatives, all processed soy products (e.g. spreads, yogurts, ice cream, burgers etc). Fermented soy products are miso, tempeh, natto and traditionally fermented soy sauce.
  • The Japanese traditionally eat only fermented soy products. In the west we eat primarily unfermented soy products.
  • The benefits of the Japanese Okinawan diet cannot be attributed just to fermented soy. By weight, 72% of their diet is made up of vegetables, grains and fruit, 14% from soya and seaweed and 11% from fish… only 3% of their diet comes form meat, poultry and eggs. They eat hardly any dairy and do not lead sedentary lifestyles.
  • There is contradictory evidence that eating unfermented soya products results in any health benefits and there is growing evidence that eating food containing unfermented soya can be detrimental to health.
  • Today the soya bean is a heavily sprayed, genetically modified crop.
  • There is a lot of hidden soya in processed food – look out in the list of ingredients for hydrolysed or textured vegetable protein, soy protein concentrate and soy protein isolate.
  • Growing soya is a multi billion dollar industry in whose interest it is to persuade us that soya is a healthy choice.

To be honest, what I am reading is putting me off my soya milk! I am thinking that I might cut down on my soya milk consumption and try a cup of miso soup instead… more on that venture to follow. Fortunately soya is not the only food high in phytoestrogens (although it has the highest concentrations)… other pulses, sprouted beans, seeds (especially flaxseed or linseed) and whole grains are also good sources of phytoestrogens. Here is my take on what I have read so far…

  • Choose fermented soya products made from whole, organic, non-GM soya beans.
  • Avoid processed food containing unfermented soya.
  • All things in moderation.

Day 5 – Food Diary:

Breakfast: Half a grapefruit, 2 small slices of Banana Tahini Multiseed toast (see Breakfast recipes)

Lunch: Mushroom, Courgette (Zucchini)) & Rocket (Arugula) Egg Scramble on Multigrain toast, cherry tomatoes (see lunch recipes)

mushrooms, courgettes and rocket egg scramble

Dinner: Fresh Tuna Sweet Chilli Noodle Stir Fry – see Dinner recipe page

sweet chilli tuna noodle stir fry

Snacks & Drinks: Slice of Menopause Cake, 2 squares of dark chocolate, herbal tea

I have felt my will power flagging today. The weather is miserable and even a bit cold. I was sorely tempted by some chocolate in the kitchen cupboard but shut the door firmly on it! Yay.

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