Should you eat soy or not?

By now, you’ve probably heard about the downsides of eating soy…

It contains plant compounds known as isoflavones that mimic estrogen and mess with your hormones. Not to mention, over 90 percent of soy in the U.S is genetically modified.

For these reasons (and possibly others), soy is tied to health problems like endocrine disruption and possibly even breast cancer.

But don’t you remember the days when soy was considered a health food?

The idea that soy is healthy didn’t just arise out of thin air. It came from research that shows soy relieves menopause symptoms, prevents osteoporosis and improves cardiovascular health.

So what’s the deal with soy? Is it good or bad for you?

The fact is, figuring out whether soy is good or bad for you isn’t a simple task. And one of the most confusing areas of soy-related research relates to soy’s impact on breast cancer.

Over the years, studies have shown that soy contributes to breast tumors and can turn on genes that cause breast cancer to grow.

But other research shows that the isoflavones in soy can slow the growth of breast cancer cells in a lab and that women who eat isoflavones have a higher breast cancer survival rate.

Confused yet? Well, the latest research could offer clarity. It adds one more check mark in the pro-soy column by showing that soy is beneficial to certain breast-cancer sufferers, after all…

Soy boosts breast cancer survival rates

In a recent study, researchers from Tufts University found that eating more isoflavones decreases the risk of death from breast cancer for some women.

The study included more than 6,000 North American women with breast cancer and examined their intake of isoflavones to see how it impacted their breast cancer outcome. And overall, more isoflavones seemed to mean less breast cancer…

Eating more isoflavones was most beneficial to women who had tumors without hormone receptors and women who weren’t receiving hormone therapy to treat their breast cancer. For these women, eating more isoflavones meant a 21 percent lower risk of dying from breast cancer.

Although isoflavone intake didn’t necessarily benefit other women with breast cancer (like those receiving hormone therapy), it didn’t hurt them either. Its effect was neutral. This is news in and of itself… especially considering the popular belief that soy can interfere with hormone therapy treatments and that women receiving such treatment shouldn’t eat it.

You can say yes to (some kinds) of soy

If you look at all the available evidence, it seems the backlash against soy in the health world may be heavy-handed…

There is room for some soy in a healthy diet. You just have to choose the right stuff and don’t overdo it. Avoid soy meat products, energy bars and other processed soy products, and stick to simple versions of soy like tofu, tempeh or edamame.

Fermented soy foods like tempeh, miso and natto are especially good for you, because they contain beneficial bacteria and more easily-absorbable nutrients. If you’re concerned about GMOs, you can find non-GMO versions of these products in health food stores.

If you follow these simple guidelines for healthy soy consumption, it’s more likely soy will improve your health by giving you a healthier heart, stronger bones and maybe even a reduced risk of breast cancer.

  1. Genetically Engineered Crops in the United States. — United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved June 30, 2017.
  2. B. Patisaul and W. Jefferson. “The pros and cons of phytoestrogens.” — Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology. 2010 Oct; 31(4): 400–419.
  3. Soybean consumption may be beneficial for some women with breast cancer. — MedicalXpress. Retrieved June 30, 2017.
  4. Eating Soy May Turn on Genes Linked to Cancer Growth. — Retrieved June 30, 2017.


Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine,, and