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Soy - Nature's Little Pharmacy

By HealthLife Contributor
Updated: December 10, 2008
The magical little plant known to everyone as soy has been known for years to have amazing health benefits. From lowering your cholesterol to preventing certain forms of cancer, soy is something that most experts agree should be a part of almost everyone's diet. Among other things, soy is a plant full of complete protein, which is a rare in plants. Soy is also chalk-full of isoflavones and several important anticarcinogens.

Women are perhaps soy's biggest fans, especially those who are nearing or dealing with menopause. Hormone replacement therapy has long been the recommended approach to issues like night sweats and hot flashes, though recent discoveries linking hormone replacement therapy to an increased risk of cancer and strokes have reduced its popularity. Soy on the other hand, has seen its stock rise as a result of these findings. Besides containing natural plant estrogens that are similar to what humans produce, soy has also been shown to help women deal with some of the many symptoms associated with menopause without the associated, and negative, effects.

Any woman who is considering adding soy to her diet should consider that there are some negative issues associated with soy consumption. Like anything else, experts recommend that soy be consumed in moderation. In some situations, individuals who ate high amounts of soy as part of their diet experienced an increased rate of cancer cell growth, a decreased sexual drive, and vaginal bleeding. Experts recommend checking with a doctor before adding soy to a diet, especially any woman who has already dealt with breast or uterine cancer.

Don't fret though, because most of these detrimental factors have only been observed and measured in laboratory studies. Still, most experts caution that soy should be eaten in moderation.
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To take advantage of the many benefits of soy, doctors recommend the following:

• Soy has been shown to lower cholesterol levels in individuals. To take advantage of this effect, doctors suggest a 25-gram a day dose of soy protein to help boost the body's production of HDL, or "good" cholesterol.

• Although there is not a magical level of soy that an individual can consume in order to lower the risk of breast cancer, most experts have found that individuals who made soy a part of their diet at an early age have a decreased risk of developing certain forms and types of cancers.

• Educate yourself about the risks associated with soy consumption. Some studies have found that soy can actually increase an individual's risk of developing certain cancers. This is true mainly for individuals who have recently suffered from types of cancer like breast and ovarian cancer, as the estrogen in soy can actually promote cancer cell growth in some individuals, and can interfere with the effects of certain cancer-fighting drugs.

• Soy is healthy for you, but it is also high in fat. Even soy products that are labeled as "light" can still contain upwards of 150 calories per serving. Moderation my friends, moderation.

• To make your bones even stronger, develop a relationship with tofu. Since tofu is often processed with a compound known as calcium sulfate, it is generally considered an excellent source of calcium, which as we all know is important for bone health. It seems lie milk is not the only thing that "does a body good".

• Help deal with the issues and symptoms associated with menopause. From hot flashes to loss of bone strength and bone density, the benefits of soy have been well documented. One of the most obvious and easily-accessible benefits of adding soy to a diet, especially in women dealing with symptoms of menopause, is its ability to help women reduce the amount of hot flashes they have to deal with. According to some studies, soy in the diet has been found to have the ability to cut hot flash episodes in half.

What does this all mean you ask? The benefits of soy are still being understood, and while some studies have shown that it also comes with a few risks, the bottom line is that nature's little pharmacy does more good than harm, which is more than can be said for most of today's alternative and artificial supplements and drugs.
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