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Sensible About Soy in Your Diet

Written by Lauren Long

Eating soy is recommended as part of a healthful diet. But too much of this good thing can be very bad for you.

Low in saturated fat and cholesterol-free, soy protein cuts cholesterol absorption and increases its excretion from the body. All this and it actually tastes good too—what with all the veggie dogs and turkey dinners made entirely of tofu out there.

There is no research on the effects of high amounts of soy protein in the diet, so it's wise to stick to the FDA-approved 25 grams a day.
Drink green tea instead of soy milk or soy drinks.
Consume soy in its whole form rather than in soy isoflavone tablets.
Grocery List of Soy products:
Edamame (great snack)
Silken Tofu (use for shakes)
Extra Firm Tofu (use for stir frys and salads)
Ice Cream (Yes, Ice Cream. You can't tell the difference!)

This makes eating the FDA's recommended 25 grams of soy a day, a piece of cake (made with soy milk, of course). The equivalent to one soy drink and one serving of tofu the size of a deck of cards, 25 grams of soy a day has been found to reduce serum cholesterol and prevent heart problems.

Yet after several years as the "magic potion," says one nutritionist, soy is now controversial. Nutrition experts are looking at the way Americans have been consuming soy, and calling it too much of a good thing.

"There is compelling evidence that we should include soy in our diet, but not eat massive amounts of it," says Shari Lieberman, Ph.D., and author of Get Off the Menopause Roller Coaster.

A rich source of natural estrogen, soy is also recommended for the prevention of hot flashes in menopausal women. In pre-and perimenopausal women, it can help prevent PMS, irregular periods, cramping, fatigue, infertility and hormonally triggered depression, according to Soy Smart Health, by Dr. Neil Solomon.

But these benefits are linked to sensible soy consumption.

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"There are women eating soy 24 hours a day," observes Lieberman. "They will have eggs with soy bacon or sausage and a soy shake for breakfast and then tofu with vegetables and drink more soy milk at lunch and then have texturized soy for dinner."

High doses of soy can change the menstrual cycle and cause breakthrough bleeding during mid-cycle. Consuming more than 60 grams of soy a day can cause the resumption of periods in menopausal women, says Lieberman.

The low rate of breast cancer in Japanese women is often cited as one reason to consume soy-although the Japanese consume a diet substantially different from typical Western fare.

"There is a level of toxicity of soy, but I never see it in Japan because they don't do what we do," says Lieberman. "The Japanese eat very high-quality, usually fermented soy in small amounts."

Americans are different, says Lieberman. "We think if one aspirin works, why not take the whole bottle?"

Sally Kravich, a natural health expert in Los Angeles, agrees. "Some vegetarians are living on soy milk and soy patties," she says. A proponent of limited amounts of soy in its whole form like tofu or edamame (green vegetable soybeans in the pod), Kravich says problems can arise when soy becomes more than 50 percent of the diet. "You can become sensitive to it and develop food allergies," she says.

Kravich's advice is to rotate soy products in your diet: soy milk on one day, rice milk the next. Eat other legumes and beans as well as soybeans, and don't forget to eat your vegetables.

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