Lots of people use soy, thinking it’s a healthful alternative to foods they are allergic to.

Soy milk, soy butters and cheeses are very popular. Tofu is as well. But is soy really as healthy as you think?

Let’s check some of the claims and risks.

Reduced Risk of Heart Disease

It’s true. Eating 50 grams of soy each day lowers LDL (he ad kind of choleserol) by 3 percent, but that’s not nearly as much as statin drugs, which drop LDL by 50 percent. Don’t stop taking your meds.

Cooled Hot Flashe

“There is no doubt that soy reduces menopausal symptoms,” explained Mindy Kurzer, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Minnesota. Hot flash frequency and severity can be reduced by 50 percent by eating two to three servings a day.

Increased Bone Density

Studies are contradictory and inconclusive. Most studies have been conducted in China, where women consume a lot more soy over a lifetime. Age could also be a factor. There may be a benefit, but we don’t know for sure.

Breast Cancer Risk

Soy’s isoflavones have a weak estrogen-like effect, but researchers disagree about what this means. It could mean aggravating already-existing breast cancer. Without evidence one way or the other, women with breast cancer may want to avoid soy products.

‘Feminization’ Risk

Some parents worry that soy-based formula or soy products given to their baby boys will impact their gender development. This relates to the estrogen content, but there is no evidence that supports this. “There is absolutely no evidence that soy is detrimental [to infants],” noted Kurzer.

Lower Sperm Coun

This one is true. Estrogen lowers testosterone, and consuming soy and phytoestrogens may impede fertility by reducing sperm count. Only half a serving a day can impact sperm count.

Soy is one of the top food allergens

This is true too. Soy is on the top ten list for food allergens. Just because it is a flexible and easily available food doesn’t mean that it’s good for everyone. You food allergies may be related to soy.

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