April is soy foods month

Many people are still confused about soy. 

The bottom line is: whole soyfoods are beneficial to health.

To ensure you're getting the maximal health benefits, always recommend consuming primarily whole soy foods like edamame (green soybeans), tofu, tempeh, some soymilks and soy nuts. Processed soy ingredients (such as isolated soy protein found in bars, snacks, and other packaged foods) leave out many of whole soy's nutritional components, including vitamins, minerals and fiber.

Read on to discover the facts behind the most common myths associated with soy.

Soy Myths and Facts:

Breast cancer

Myth: Breast cancer patients should avoid soy foods.

Fact: Not true! Recent human research shows that soy foods are safe and may possibly even be beneficial for some breast cancer survivors and for some at high risk for breast cancer.

More information: A recent study followed more than 9,500 women in the U.S. and China who had been diagnosed with breast cancer and found that those who consumed at least 10 milligrams of soy isoflavones per day (the amount in a half cup of soymilk) had a 25% lower chance of breast cancer recurrence than those who consumed less than 4 mg of isoflavones. Not unexpectedly, both the American Institute of Cancer Research (AICR) and the American Cancer Society (ACS) have concluded that soyfoods are safe for breast cancer patients.

Heart disease

Myth: Soy protein does not make much of a difference in lowering cholesterol.

Fact: Not true! Soy protein can help meet protein needs and the FDA authorized health claim for soy protein states that "25 grams of soy protein a day, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease". It may help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) by lowering low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDLC) and perhaps also by lowering blood pressure. Isoflavones may also directly improve arterial health.

More information: Recent evidence provides support for the FDA soy and heart health claim showing around a 5% reduction in LDLC. Evidence suggests that every 1% reduction in LDLC leads to a 1% to 3% reduction in CHD risk, so this is great news for those looking to improve heart health. Other recent research suggests that isoflavones rich soy protein inhibits the progression of subclinical atherosclerosis in young postmenopausal women.

Male feminization

Myth: Soyfoods have feminizing effects on men.

Fact: Not true! The preponderance of evidence shows that soyfoods do not feminize men or impair male fertility.  Eating soyfoods will not make males less masculine, lead to man-boobs, cause early puberty or decrease fertility. A literature review 1 confirms that soyfoods do not have any feminizing effects on men or boys. In reality, a balanced diet that includes soyfoods can help support healthy growth and development for young boys, and soyfoods are a great option for men looking to maintain healthy weight and cholesterol levels.

More information: Extensive clinical research shows that even large amounts of soy do not lower testosterone levels or raise estrogen levels in men. Clinical research also shows that soy does not adversely affect sperm or semen parameters. In fact, Italian researchers suggested soy isoflavones could be a treatment for low sperm count.

Soybeans contain natural, bioactive components called isoflavones, or phytoestrogens. While the chemical structure of an isoflavone is similar to that of estrogen, the two function differently in the body. A significant review of more than 30 soy studies disproved any link between soy and an effect on testosterone levels in men. Consuming a well balanced diet that includes soyfoods does not increase estrogen levels in men or boys.


Myth: Many people have soy allergies.

Fact: Not true! Although some do have allergies to soy protein, in comparison, an allergy to milk protein is 40 times more common.

More information: A recent survey found that approximately only 1 out of 2,500 adults reported having a doctor-diagnosed allergy to soy protein. The rate is higher in children than adults, as children are more likely to have food allergies in general. However, by age 10 an estimated 70% of children will outgrow their soy allergies.


Myth: Soyfoods can lead to hypothyroidism.

Fact: Soy does not adversely affect thyroid function in healthy people and does not need to be avoided for those taking medication for hypothyroidism.

More information: More than 20 clinical studies show that isoflavones do not adversely affect thyroid function in healthy people. This research includes multi-year studies in which participants consumed large amounts of soy.

Superb Soy Recipes

Tofu Satay with Nut Butter Sauce:

Serves 4


15 oz. firm tofu

1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. Meijer low-sodium soy sauce

1 Tbsp. packed Meijer brown sugar

1 Tbsp. each finely chopped green onion and cilantro

1 tsp. McCormick curry powder

1/2 tsp. crushed red chilies

1 red or green bell pepper, cut into squares

3 Tbsp. warm water

1/2 cup soynut butter (or peanut butter)

1 Tbsp. lime juice

1 Tbsp. honey

1 clove garlic, minced


1.       Cut tofu into 1-inch cubes. Drain on several layers of paper towels to remove as much moisture as possible. Place in single layer in shallow pan.  Soak wood skewers.

2.       Combine ¼ cup soy sauce, brown sugar, green onion, cilantro, curry powder and ¼ tsp. crushed red chilies (save ¼ tsp. for sauce), and pour over tofu. Marinate 1 hour turning cubes after 30 minutes.

3.       Alternate tofu and bell peppers on 4 water-soaked bamboo (or metal) skewers.

4.       Grill over medium heat or broil until browned on all sides; baste several times during cooking.

5.       For the soynut butter dipping sauce, mix remaining ingredients with a fork; if thinner consistency is desired, add more warm water. May be served at room temperature or warmed over low heat.

Nutrition Information (per 1 skewer serving): 167 calories, 16g protein, 10g carbohydrates, 3g dietary fiber, 9g fat, 363mg sodium.    Per tablespoon dipping sauce: 65 calories, 2g protein, 5g carbohydrates, 0.4g dietary fiber, 3.5g fat, 228mg sodium.

Edamame Hummus:

Serves 8-10

2 cups Shelled Edamame (such as Sunrich Naturals), thaw if frozen

4 garlic cloves, un-peeled

1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped

4 Tbsp. Meijer olive oil

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

1/4 tsp. McCormick ground cumin

1/2 tsp. McCormick chili powder

Dash of salt & pepper


1.       Roast garlic in a skillet over medium heat, turning often, for about 15 minutes (or until it turns a golden brown color). Remove cloves from skillet and let cool. Peel off skins and set aside.

2.       Thaw soybeans if using frozen edamame. If using raw shelled soybeans (edamame):  bring 8 cups of water to a boil in a large pan. Add Shelled Edamame to the pan, bring water back to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Save and set aside 3/4 cup of the water before draining the edamame. Let the edamame cool.

3.       Coarsely chop the garlic cloves in a food processor. Add the cooked edamame, cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper to the food processor and blend. Add the cilantro, lime juice, and olive oil to food processor and pulse to combine with the other ingredients.

4.       Add the cooking water (or water) a little at a time and process until smooth.

5.       Enjoy with pita chips or veggie sticks.

*Note: you may not need to add all of the 3/4 cup cooking water.

Nutrition per serving: 85 calories, 4g protein, 4g carbohydrate, 1.5g dietary fiber, 7.5g fat, 4mg sodium.


Wake Up Smoothie – Michigan Soybean Promotion Committee

Serves 1


1 1/4 cups Meijer orange juice

1 banana

1/2 cup low-fat silken tofu

2 tsp. sugar

1 1/4 cups frozen berries such as Meijer Frozen Triple Berry Blend or use frozen raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and/or strawberries


Combine orange juice, banana, berries, tofu, and sugar in a blender; cover and blend until creamy. Serve immediately.

Nutrition Information per smoothie: 162 calories, 4g protein, 2g fat, 33g carbohydrate, 4g dietary fiber, 19mg sodium. 

Content and Recipes adapted from: Oldways Preservation Trust, SoyFoods Association, and Silk®

--Tina Miller, MS RD Meijer Healthy Living Advisor, www.meijerhealthyliving.com