Soy is a legume known for its phytoestrogens. But it comes with good and bad aspects. That is, it is good in some forms and for some women, but not all forms and not for all women. Soy contains many phytonutrients and isoflavones, which are phytochemicals with potent antioxidant properties and many health benefits.
However, to maintain the synergistic, or combined value, of these nutrients, consume soy in natural and whole-food forms of edamame, which is a whole, green soybean, tempeh, soy sprouts, tofu, and others.
Fermented Forms of Soy Products Contain Probiotics
Fermented forms of soy products contain probiotics, particularly the friendly bacteria lactobacilli, that ease digestion and have higher isoflavone availability. Fermented soy products include: natto, miso, tamari, tempeh, soy sauces, and fermented tofu and soymilks. Of course soy forms should be organic to avoid synthetic chemicals and organochlorines. Non GMO means the soybean is not a genetically modified organism.
Less Desirable Forms of Soy
This means that the potentially less ideal forms of soy include those that are not organic, have been genetically modified, overly processed, or refined, isolated, or concentrated. While research shows that some of these forms, particularly low-quality soy protein concentrates and isoflavone isolates can inhibit protein and mineral absorption, inferior or low-quality products are often processed with chemicals and at high temperatures.
Soy Isn’t Right for Everyone
Now that we have covered different forms of soy, let’s explain why soy isn’t right for everyone. For some people, soy, especially in low-quality products, can cause allergic reactions, be hard to digest, and can reduce pancreatic enzymes. For these people, soy, particularly low-quality soy, is likely not the best choice.
Soy Can Add to Estrogen Activity
Regarding women, soy can add to the estrogen activity in the breasts of women with low estrogen, or lower estrogen activity in the breasts of women with excess estrogen.
Here’s an example. Imagine a row of seats in an auditorium or a stadium. Each seat represents an estrogen receptor site in the breasts. Now, imagine that a little girl sits in a seat. She is like a weak estrogen or phytoestrogen and now her seat, or space, is occupied. Next, imagine that a large muscular man approaches the little girl. While he is much stronger, he would not displace her from her seat. Instead, he passes by to find an available seat. He represents stronger estrogens in the body.
If there are unoccupied estrogen receptor sites in the breasts, they can become occupied by phytoestrogens and slightly add to the estrogen activity in women with low estrogen. However, for women with excess estrogen, some phytoestrogens actually compete with the stronger estrogens for receptor sites and can slightly reduce estrogen activity.