One of the most common criticisms of a plant based diet that seems to be a legitimate concern at first glance has to do with the consumption of phyto-estrogens from soy. The idea is that soy, being high in phyto-estrogens, represents another source of estrogen like toxicity. I say another because many of the things we think about as pollutants in our modern environment namely plastics and chemical residues are toxic because they mimic estrogen in our bodies. Estrogen can promote cell division, with a large supply of “estrogen like” compounds around cell division can ramp up out of control. Uncontrolled cell division is another way of saying cancer.
So, soy has something similar to estrogen it is estrogen like. Other estrogen like compounds can be linked to cancer. Soy must be causing cancer and we should avoid it right? Actually, it isn’t so simple. It turns out that soy is full of lots of things, seeing as it is a living organism itself. It has not just estrogen like effects on the body but also anti estrogen like effects as well! As we can see from this study conducted in Hong Kong women with a previous diagnosis of breast cancer who were already at risk of death had a 21% lower risk of dying than women who ate soy once a week or less.
Ok so women who already have breast cancer can benefit from soy consumption; but what about soy consumption in general? Well another study cross referenced colo-rectal cancer mortality and heart disease mortality against self reported dietary logs across 44 prefectures in Japan. The results showed that soy consumption was significantly correlated with lower rates of death from both colon cancer and heart disease!
So, if you’ve been thinking about eating more plants because of the health, environmental, and ethical benefits don’t let fear mongering about soy slow you down! Let this be just one more reason that eating plants can be an easy and healthy decision for along and fruitful life.