The benefits of soy milk may outweigh the dangers for many, but this is not true for everyone. How this milk alternative will affect your body depends heavily on your current state of health.
Its potential dangers are most threatening to those that have a rather specific medical history (e.g., breast cancer or hypothyroidism). I elaborate on just how soy milk affects people dealing with these issues below.
Hopefully, this clears up the confusion.
For centuries, inhabitants of Japan and China have been hip to the benefits of soy milk, so much so, it's a staple in both cultures.
Westerners, however, have not always been accepting of the "beany" taste and texture, so companies often add thickening agents and sweeteners to cater to their sensitive palates.
Soy milk is the product of soaked soy beans and water. That's it. Well, depending on your personal taste. Like the other milk alternatives, you simply blend, strain, and enjoy.
If you're not inclined to make your own, it is available commercially. The benefits of soy milk reduce significantly when opt to buy it; additives are a major concern (some have been linked to cancer). It's available in a variety of flavors: Unsweetened, Sweetened, Chocolate, and Vanilla to name a few.
Soy milk is rich in some essential vitamins and minerals. It is a significant source of: fiber, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, and protein. The protein has been labeled both a benefit of soy milk, as well as a cause for concern. Once again, how this milk affects your body depends on your personal state of health. We'll explore the pros & cons of soy milk's protein content more below.
In comparison to some other milks on the market, it's a pretty healthy choice. Soy milk is nutritionally comparable to skim milk. So the fact that it's low-calorie, like skim milk, seems to support the weight-loss claims.
Also, the fatty acids found in soy milk are said to inhibit the absorption of fat in the body. I'd say that's a plus!
Finally, soy milk's fiber content really helps! The fiber allows the body to feel fuller longer. Feeling fuller longer does mean eating less, so I suppose one could argue this milk does promote weight loss.
One of the highly promoted benefits of soy milk is it's ability to improve heart health. Now, there is some truth to this, but there are doubts about just how much it can do.
The Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids (remember those from the hemp milk discussion?) have protective powers in the blood vessels. They help prevent hemorrhage and lesions. These fatty acids also keep free radicals from wreaking havoc and cholesterol deposits from forming in the lining of the vessels. They also increase the flexibility of cells, which in turn makes them more resilient to blood pressure.
The milk has Zero Cholesterol and mostly unsaturated fat. Hooray, no cholesterol! The unsaturated fatty acids also prevent the transport of cholesterol into the bloodstream.
Research has also suggested that regular consumption of soy may lead to a decrease in low density lipoproteins (LDLs or "bad cholesterol") and an increase in high density liproproteins (HDLs or "good cholesterol").
Some scientists, however, claim soy milk may not directly impact heart health. The fact that soy milk is generally a substitute for more dangerous alternatives may make that appear to be a benefit.
The benefits of soy milk may be extremely helpful for people with high cholesterol or a history of heart diseases.
Another benefit of soy milk is that it may help alleviate symptoms associated with postmenopausal syndrome. The phytoestrogen in soy milk is an effective replacement for estrogen.
Phytoestrogen has also been linked to osteoporosis prevention by enhancing the body's calcium absorption process. This prevents bone mass loss.
Finally, soy milk contains a considerable amount of isoflavones, which have been linked to cancer risk reduction, as well as, inhibiting tumor growth in prostate cancer patients.
Soy Milk & Your Thyroid
While there may be wonderful benefits of soy milk for some, it can cause great harm for others.
One major concern is soy's effect on the thyroid's function in the body. Researchers believe the isoflavone geinstein may prevent the thyroid from functioning optimally in the body (hypothyroidism).
This is especially a concern for people that already suffer from hypothyroidism or even an iodine deficiency.
What's Hypothyroidism & Why Should You Care?
Travel with me, if you will, back to Anatomy class for a moment. The thyroid gland is the butterfly shaped organ you see in the illustration above.
This gland is responsible for producing thyroid hormone. That's easy enough to remember, eh? The primary function of this hormone is to regulate the body's metabolism. The thyroid is in control of how our bodies use energy.
Hypothyroidism is a condition in which something is causing inadequate amounts of thyroid hormone to be produced. Thyroid hormone deficiency is usually easily detected. Some symptoms include:
If left untreated, symptoms will definitely worsen. Rarely, these symptoms progress into life-threatening issues, such as extreme depression or even heart failure.
Treating hypothyroidism is fairly simple. Doctors often prescribe thyroid hormone pills, which will alleviate most symptoms in a short period of time. Unfortunately, this is usually a life-long regimen.
One of the benefits of soy milk, phytoestrogen, is also setting off some alarms. How?
Well, scientists believe that phytoestrogen may stimulate cell growth.
This increased cell growth increases a survivor's risk of recurrence of breast cancer.
Medical professionals are encouraging survivors and patients to limit their soy intake (especially if you are taking tamoxifen)until further research is conducted.
Soy milk may also contain digestive enzyme inhibitors, which stops the digestive enzyme, trypsin, from breaking down protein into peptides in the body.
Finally, the soy protein allergy is becoming more common these days. For those that suffer from this condition, soy milk is definitely not a wise choice.