I’ve spent a great deal of my time and energy as a nutrition professional encouraging my clients, particularly men, to pursue a greater variety in their protein choices.
I do this, of course, with their best health in mind and with the knowledge that each family of protein-containing foods carries with it unique and diverse physiological benefits.
Soy foods are inevitably included in this discussion, and unfortunately are often at a perceived disadvantage because of myths and misconceptions that surround them.
In recent weeks, in partnership with SNI Global, I’ve broached the most common misunderstandings and demonstrated the scientific consensus around important topics in this corner of the nutrition world.
These topics include:
- The connection between soy foods and male testosterone, fertility levels
- Whether or not soy protein is considered a high-quality muscle-building protein
- The suitability of soy foods for the prevention and management of gout
Each of those articles provides compelling reasons that support men consuming soy, but in today’s post, I’ll offer an additional four reasons why I feel the average male would benefit from more frequent consumption of soy foods.
For those who already consume soy regularly, you’ll almost surely pick up a few more examples as to why that’s a great choice.
I could think of few better pieces of content to end Men’s Health Month on.
Let’s get to the good stuff!
4 Reasons Why Men Should Eat More Soy Foods
Here are the four most compelling reasons why I believe men should make a meaningful effort to incorporate more soy foods like tofu, tempeh, edamame, soybeans, soymilk, and related products into their diets.
Soy Helps Manage Blood Pressure & Cholesterol
Starting at age 40, and sometimes earlier, medications aimed at lowering blood pressure and blood cholesterol are consistently reported among the most frequently used by Canadian men.
I say this not to devalue the role of pharmaceuticals, but rather to emphasize the prevalence of these common health concerns.
That’s where soy comes in.
It’s perhaps unsurprising then, given elevated blood pressure and cholesterol are major cardiovascular disease risk factors, that a recent meta-analysis of observational studies found soy food intake is associated with a lower risk of heart disease and stroke.
Soy Contains Nutrients Many Fall Short In, Want More Of
While protein is thought to be responsible for soy’s cholesterol lowering effect, soy foods’ blood pressure benefits may stem in part from being a source of key minerals like potassium, magnesium and calcium. All three of which are under consumed by the average Canadian and are generally less abundant in other protein-rich foods.
Soy foods also contribute meaningful amounts of protein and fibre, two nutrients that are highly sought after.
In fact, it is also true that dietary fibre is considered a nutrient of public health concern in the United States – underlining the fact that pursuing additional fibre makes nutritional sense.
The story doesn’t end there though – the potential of soy to contribute under consumed and important nutrients leads us to point #3, which covers similar territory.
Soy Contains Unique & Useful Compounds Like Omega-3s & Flavonoids
Nutrient dense foods like soy have much more to them than just their protein, fibre and mineral content.
When speaking with my clients about soy foods, I love to highlight the unique and biologically useful compounds they contain.
Soy, for example, is one of relatively few foods that contains the short chain omega-3 fatty acid ALA – which is otherwise only available in large quantities via flaxseed, chia seed and walnuts.
Any time a food contains relatively elusive nutrients, my view is that it merits extra consideration within one’s dietary pattern.
And while the ALA may not be as well studied as the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids DHA, EPA found in fish, it remains a topic of interest in the scientific community owing to its anti-inflammatory capacity and potential to offer cardiovascular health benefits in its own right.
Soy also contains isoflavones, unique phytochemicals which are a member of the flavonoid family and are highly valued by the scientific community for their numerous health benefits.
As per the Dietary Inflammatory Index (DII), isoflavones are also considered strongly anti-inflammatory.
Observational data also suggests that individuals who consume the most total flavonoids from their diet tend to have lower risk of chronic disease and mortality – now that’s food for thought!
But the benefits don’t stop there – which brings us to reason #4.
Soy May Help Protect Your Liver from Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)
What is also intriguing about flavonoids is that their consumption has been associated with a reduced risk of fatty liver disease, as per recently published evidence.
Among flavonoid subclasses, anthocyanins (found in berries and red/purple produce) and isoflavones were the two most strongly associated with a risk-reducing effect for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Soy food consumption has also been independently observed to be protective against developing fatty liver disease.
The relevance of fatty liver disease to men’s health cannot be understated, given that it affects up to four in ten men globally, per 2022 estimates from the Lancet journal.
Soy Foods – Current & Future “You” Will Thank You
I’m not here today to tell you to drop everything in your dietary pattern at the expense of soy.
I am, however, doing my utmost to urge individuals who may be resistant to consuming soy to better understand the plethora of unique benefits doing so has to men’s health both in terms of daily life today and to optimize health in the long-term.
My hope is today’s content, and the entirety of the content I’ve produced thus far during Men’s Health Month, has contributed meaningfully to that end.
Thank you for taking it all in with me!
Andy De Santis RD MPH
This post is in collaboration with the Soy Nutrition Institute (SNI) Global, an organization leading the way in soy and health research and education, and U.S. Soy.