People who have to give up dairy products because of allergies are often concerned that they won’t get enough calcium, but soy is a good substitute. Soya is also a high quality plant-based protein which is very digestible. Young girls should be eating soya from a young age as its ability to protect against bone loss in osteoporosis, breast cancer, and heart disease is much improved if you start young.
Japanese and other women from the far east suffer much less from these illnesses and 50 per cent of them sail through the menopause without knowing what hot flushes are, compared with only 25 per cent of women in the west. A study in Japan of 27,435 women showed that strokes came down by 65 per cent and heart disease reduced by 63 per cent in the group that ate a lot of soya.
The health benefits:
- Soya has a direct effect on LDL (harmful) blood cholesterol levels and displaces some other foods such as saturated fats – not only does it prevent cholesterol increasing but it can displaces it, lowering levels.
- It is rich in polyunsaturated fats and effective at lowering the incidence of heart disease which is very high among women in Europe.
- It can reduce hot flushes in menopausal women (by 88.5% in one trial*).
- It can improve insomnia (by 63%*) in menopausal women.
- Soya can protect against bone loss and prevent osteoporosis. A study showed a 1/3 reduction in fractures in women who ate a lot of soya.
- Early intake of soya can protect against breast cancer – and is noticeably better the younger they eat just 12 to 15g a day.
How to take soya
At supermarkets and health food stores you can find soya milk, yoghurt, ice-cream, cheese, desserts and tofu made from soya beans. Alternatively you can take soya capsules.
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Dispelling myths about soya
There are a lot of myths about soya that are dispelled by experts (and much of this is disinformation deliberately put out by companies who do not want soya to become too popular). It has no noticeable effect on fertility and no effect on thyroid function.
See also The Cholesterol Myth
Is soya environmentally friendly?
And if you are concerned about the environment, the soya on sale as food in this country is not genetically modified, and is grown in north America. It is true that large swathes of Amazonian rainforest are cut back for soy crops to grow, but this is a different crop, which is genetically modified and fed to cattle. There is no concern about the effect on the environment of the supermarket brands.
*A study in Menopause: The Journal of the North American Menopause Society, gave 38 women of 50 to 65 who suffered from hot flushes and insomnia 80mg soya isoflavones, or a placebo. There was an 88.5 per cent reduction in hot flushes, and 63 per cent improvement in insomnia in the women who were in the soya group. Hachul, H et al, Isoflavones decrease insomnia in post-menopause, Menopause, 18,2: (2010)