Thursday, June 11, 2009

Watch Out: Soy and Your Fertility

Because soybeans are the only vegetables to contain a complete set of amino acids, they make a great source of protein, equivalent to meat and eggs. They’re also a good source of magnesium, iron, omega 3 fatty acids and more, and have been tooted for a number of health benefits, from lowering cholesterol to decreasing risks for certain kinds of cancers.

So it’s easy to go nuts and eat all kinds of soy products. Especially if you’re giving up dairy as part of your fertility diet, you might be inclined to load up on soy milk, soy yogurt, tofu, tempeh, soy burgers, soy chips and on and on.

But watch out. Research also points to a number of concerns about eating soy, especially in certain forms, especially if you consume too much, and especially if you’re trying to conceive.

Here’s the story: Soybeans contain isoflavones which mimic estrogen (phytoestrogens). Consumed in large or concentrated amounts, this can have a serious negative impact on fertility. Also, processed soy (you know, that’s the soy cheeses, soy milk, soy burgers and so on) has been connected to impaired mineral absorption and thyroid dysfunction. Who wants that when you’re trying to conceive?

So here are some recommendations on eating soy.
  • If you choose to eat soy, do so only occasionally. Stick to no more than 3 servings a week, at most. I myself use soy milk in my cereal about three times a week. Once every other month, I’ll also eat tofu in a vegetable dish. That’s it. But I’m at my max.
  • Stick with whole soy foods, like tofu, soy milk and edamame over other forms for greater nutritional value.
  • Avoid processed soy, and opt instead for the fermented version. I’ll quote Whole Foods on this, from their web site on soybeans: “research shows that traditional preparation methods, including the use of traditionally fermented soy products like fermented tofu, fermented miso, and fermented soy sauce, are best when it comes to our health.” I know Julia Indichova supports this in her book, The Fertile Female.
So go forth and enjoy the simpler versions of soy, just don’t eat too much of it.