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Are soybeans healthful or unhealthful?

All plants contain chemicals that are healthful and chemicals that can harm us. Fortunately for us, our ancestors learned which plants are edible and healthful, and taught us to avoid those that are poisonous. However, if you eat very large amounts of one food, you can poison yourself, even though reasonable amounts are harmless or beneficial.

For example, soybeans contain genistein, a weak estrogen that may help to prevent breast cancer. They contain omega-3 fatty acids that help prevent heart attacks, and are loaded with fiber that helps to prevent diabetes. But they also contain small amounts of trypsin inhibitors that increase risk for pancreatic damage and cancer in animals. Hemagglutinins in soybeans could cause clots to form and travel to the lungs. Goitrogens in soybeans block thyroid function to increase your need for that hormone. Estrogen-like genistein in soybeans could stimulate immature lobules in breast tissue of infants to increase risk for breast cancer many years later. Phytates in soybeans and many other plants can block the absorption of minerals.

However, you would need to eat very large amounts of soy products to get any of these negative effects. Enjoy a moderate amount of soy foods, but do not let health claims lead you to eat huge amounts of soy to the exclusion of other foods. A healthful diet is a varied diet.

Soy Products and Vegetarian Meat or Dairy Substitutes

Checked 5/15/15

May 10th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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