Soy: The New Superfood?
The Bottom Line
It's best to approach soy as part of a healthy eating plan, not as a magic bullet. "We need to stop focusing on one particular food, and eat a number of foods known to benefit heart health," says Clare Hasler, PhD, executive director of the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science at the University of California, Davis. "For some people who eat heart-healthy oatmeal for breakfast, a handful of omega-3-rich nuts for a snack, and a glass of soy milk in the course of the day, it's conceivable that such a diet, over time, could be an effective treatment for lowering cholesterol."
"If people use soy protein to replace animal proteins such as those found in cheese, steak, or hamburger, they displace saturated fat from their diets, and that can significantly decrease LDL cholesterol levels and lower their risk for heart disease," says Alice Lichtenstein, Gershoff professor of nutrition science and policy at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, in Boston. "But by just eating cereal with 6.25 grams of soy protein per serving, I don't think they're going to get the health benefit they're hoping for."
Even if soy doesn't lower cholesterol as much as once thought, it's important to remember that cholesterol is only one piece of the heart-disease puzzle. Future studies may find that soy works to fight disease in ways that scientists haven't even thought of yet.
Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal magazine, April 2004.