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Will Soy Save the World?

Chef Jeff's Weekly Health Tip

October 26, 1998


This month’s newsletter and weekly health tips have all focused on the benefit of incorporating soy and soy foods into your diet.  These days, soy foods are being hailed as the "miracle" answer to everything from heart disease and cancer to osteoporosis and menopause.


Before we end this "month of soy", I want to put soy and soy foods in their proper perspective especially in relation to all other components of a healthy diet and lifestyle.


Animal studies have confirmed some of the suspected effects of soy products, but the doses used in animals are far higher than what people normally consume.


There are lots of observational studies in people (like in Asia) where soy is commonly eaten showing that they have less heart disease and breast cancer.  Although we could attribute this to soy, there are many big differences in diet and environment that could also account for many of these differences.


These people are thin (average BMI** of about 20), are very physically active, and eat a diet high in unrefined carbohydrates and vegetables with a very low fat, and saturated fat content.  It has been shown that ~90% of their protein calories come from plant foods.


So, we must be very careful to how much of the health benefits of the Asian lifestyle we attribute just to soy and how much we attribute to their overall lifestyle.


It would be very misleading to think that we Americans could remain overweight, inactive, and eat a diet high in fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, salt, sugar, and refined carbohydrates and then expect miracle benefits by adding a little soy in our diet.


As far as soy supplements go, there are many phytochemicals in soy (and other beans and legumes) that have potent biological activity.  Scientists have long worried that many of them actually have anti-nutritive (toxic) effects but most of these are inactivated by cooking.  While the phytoestrogens and other compounds have been studied for preventing specific diseases, we don't know all the long-term effects of taking them as supplements in large doses isolated from the other ingredients in soy.


Bottom line (and health tip of the week) ......


First....  avoid smoking, stress, excess sun, carcinogens, and alcohol and pursue leanness, activity, relaxation, a diet high in (or exclusively) unrefined, unprocessed fruits, vegetables and whole grains (with a minimal amount of high fat plant foods like nuts, seeds and avocados) ....


And then.......  go ahead and add a little soy "food" into your diet.


Have another great week, and remember...


Your Health Is Your Greatest Wealth!


In Health,

Chef Jeff

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