Soy for Health with Lila Ojeda, R.D.

WebMD Live Events Transcript

Research has shown that consuming one to three servings of soy daily can help reduce one's LDL levels by six percent. Join Lila Ojeda, RD who will discuss how to incorporate soy into your diet.

The opinions expressed herein are the guests' alone and have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

Moderator: Please welcome Lila Ojeda, RD. We are discussing the benefits of soy. Hello Lila!

Ojeda: Hi. I'm glad to be here tonight. Thanks for having me. This will be a fun topic!

Moderator: What exactly are the benefits of soy? Hey all... Feel free to ask a question anytime.

Ojeda: Well, there are basically 4 major benefits that are in the spotlight these days. Those include: cholesterol, cancer, osteoporosis and menopause (helping those of course). Some list as many as 10 benefits from eating soy, but these have the most research done on them. Is there one in particular you'd like to hear more about?

Moderator: Let's begin with cholesterol.

Ojeda: Sounds good. Studies have shown that eating about 20-50 grams of soy/day (we can go into how to get this amount of soy later) has shown to decrease total and LDL (or the bad) cholesterol. The overall ratio of HDL:LDL is improved (HDL stays the same), which means there is less risk of heart disease, atherosclerosis and blood clots which can lead to heart attacks. But there is one very important fact to remember about most of these studies: Most are comparison studies, meaning the Asian population (that generally eats more soy) was compared to the US population. And there other factors to consider. Americans not only eat a high fat diet, but are also very sedentary AND eat little soy. Asians are generally just the opposite and eat more soy along with more whole grains and fruits and veggies. So, it is hard to say if the soy alone is causing lower cholesterol and other benefits, or if their all around healthier lifestyle (compared to Americans) is the reason. The Asian diet consists of lots of beans, fruits and veggies, is low fat and contains 24-45 mg of isoflavones (the type of plant chemical in soy that contributes to benefits), while Americans eat a diet that is too high in fat and calories, few fruits and veggies, and only contains 5 mg of isoflavones (20 mg of soy isoflavones is found in 8-10 grams of soy protein). The FDA recommends about 25 grams /day to get cholesterol lowering effects, but this can be done quite easily. For example, 1 cup of soy milk contains 8 grams and there are some GREAT flavors out there. There are tons of ways to incorporate soy into your diet. Any questions? I could go on and on.... :)

Moderator: What is the best source of soy?

Ojeda: There's no "best" source of soy. It all depends on what you like to eat. There are a variety of ways to get soy in your diet: soy milk, cooked soybeans, tofu, TVP, premade soy products such as breakfast links, corndogs, burgers, etc. There is also soy flour that you can use in place of some of your regular flour when you bake. There are soynuts and soynut butter (tastes similar to peanut butter and is quite yummy). All are good sources of soy. Some may be easier for you to incorporate into your diet depending on what you like. 1/2 cup of soynuts has 34 grams of protein - that's all the soy you'd need in a day. But be careful, those nuts are almost as high as all the other nuts in fat! But it's definitely a better type of fat for you. They just about have soy everything these days!

dhwilkins_WebMD Am I the only one here?

Moderator: Nope. We're all here.. Do you have a question for Lila Ojeda, RD?

dhwilkins_WebMD This is about Soy, right?

Moderator: Yes.

dhwilkins_WebMD I was diagnosed ~6mos ago with Type2 diabetes, and read some information (here) that soy might, among other things, be good for diabetics. So, today I bought some powder stuff (isolate shake stuff) and some roasted nuts (salted). Which is better for my condition.

Ojeda: Neither is "better" for your condition. Again, it's just a matter of how you'd like to incorporate soy into your diet. I haven't read any information saying that soy will help diabetes but it's something that everyone can add into your diet. If you substitute some soy protein here and there instead of eating a lot of animal protein (that is generally high in cholesterol and saturated fat), this will be good for you.

dhwilkins_WebMD What (generally) are the differences between soy protein and albacore tuna?

Ojeda: The soy nuts may have a higher fat content, in which case this may add unnecessary calories to your diet which can cause weight gain.

dhwilkins_WebMD I get confused about what the "good" and "bad" type of fat is - saturated or unsaturated (I know trans is BAD).

Ojeda: Soy and tuna are two completely incomparable foods. Soy is the only plant that contains a significant amount of the isoflavones (genestein, dadizein and glyciteine) which are thought to be responsible for the benefits. Fish has omega 3 fatty acids that are shown to improve triglyceride levels and also help cholesterol.

Moderator: Would you like to move onto its benefits for prevention of cancer?

dhwilkins_WebMD I originally thought that protein was only good for muscle reconstruction - but the infomercial stuff I read here led me to believe that protein was also very needed in endurance exercises, like biking and running.

Ojeda: Soy is a polyunsaturated type of fat which decreases LDL but may also decrease HDL (good cholesterol) a little which isn't preferred. We're going back and forth between proteins and good fat/bad fats now.... Everyone needs protein, carbohydrates and fat in their diet - all in reasonable amounts. Yes, soy is also thought to decrease cancer risk, but the mechanism is unclear with this.

dhwilkins_WebMD sorry for jumping around - Yes, let's move onto the cancer benefits. How much soy should I incorporate into my diet to realize some benefits? (you sure are a fast typist).

Ojeda: The data seems to go back and forth with breast cancer, but it may be beneficial there and with prostate cancer as well. Again, most of these studies are observational type. With prostate cancer, there is the same amount of cancer in Asian American and American men, yet the cells do not progress to prostate cancer in Asian American men as they do in Americans. Soy may also help with osteoporosis. This may surprise some of you, but the calcium in soy is absorbed just as well, if not better, than the calcium in milk. 1/2 cup of firm tofu has about 258 mg of calcium and a class of milk has about 300 mg. of calcium If you get tofu that is processed with calcium salts, it can have as much as 750 mg. About 1200 mg of calcium is recommended.

dhwilkins_WebMD Interesting. My neighbor is a pharmacologist (sp?) and he is doing some research into the low incidence of migraine headaches in Asian cultures. Their research shows that when in America,

Ojeda: also, the isoflavones seem to decrease the postmenopausal bone loss.

dhwilkins_WebMD Asians have about the same incidence of migraines. They are investigating a soy supplement to treat migraines - Have you heard of this?

Ojeda: More studies need to be done with this. Recap: if you're just starting to eat soy, shoot for 10 grams of soy protein/day. Work up to maybe 20. Don't go ALL soy and go overboard, just add it here and there to your diet.

dhwilkins_WebMD He is in Birmingham at UAB. Thanx - I'll lurk awhile and give someone else time to talk...

Moderator: Are there any drawbacks to soy consumption?

Ojeda: migraines...I received information today saying that those who ate soy or tofu twice a week had more "cognitive" or thinking trouble. However, this was just based on what people told them and they were then asked to take a test. There are MANY other reasons as to why these people may have scored lower on these tests!!! It could have been attributed to a number of things, but they chose to blame it on tofu.

dhwilkins_WebMD The only exposure I have to tofu is Chinese food - generally loaded with MSG.

Ojeda: Americans right now eat a high fat diet, red meat, pesticides in foods, aspartame, processed food, etc. etc. Soy is MUCH healthier than how we normally eat. It can't hurt to eat a little soy and it's actually very good!

Moderator: Can soy completely replace meat in an average person's diet?

Ojeda: But there are no clear answers that soy IS the answer and will cure all. Americans are always looking for that magical pill, substance, food, etc and there's nothing like that. Moderation with everything is key. If you want it to...if you don't eat meat, there are still tons of other protein sources out there that you can eat. I eat soy because I like it! but I was raised a vegetarian and ate plenty of foods besides protein. It's actually quite easy, but maybe not at first if you don't know where to start. I mean, "besides soy protein".

Moderator: What's your favorite dish that incorporates tofu? And how are the tofu corndogs?

Ojeda: But yes, soy can be the main protein source if desired. It is equal, protein wise, to those that are of animal origin.

Ojeda: The corndogs are pretty good! The chicken nuggets are even better - but watch out, those processed foods are fairly high in fat. I love to throw grated tofu in lasagna or stir fries and a sauce. This week I've been adding sliced, marinated and baked tofu to my sandwiches, add some lettuce and tomatoes and there you go! it's quite good. :)

Moderator: The tofu remains uncooked for the sandwiches?

Ojeda: Actually, tofu is cooked when you buy it. You can eat it as is, but I always cook it and add a sauce because it tastes better and will soak up any flavor. I soak the tofu in a sauce I like and then you can grill on the stove (both sides) in a pan coated with nonstick cooking spray, or bake it in the oven for 30-45 minutes.

Moderator: Does soy have any other benefits that we have yet to discuss?

Ojeda: Be sure to slice it first. I don't reheat it for the sandwiches, you can do hot tofu sandwiches if you wish, or cold. Avocado slices taste great with a little salsa or whatever. 

We pretty much covered all of them. some of the less proven ones are decreasing blood pressure, increasing immunity, decreasing kidney disease (probably because it's not so tough of a protein to process) and possible other cancers: colon and lung.

Moderator: Anybody have any questions for Lila?

Moderator: Well, the hour is about up. Any great soy tips?

Ojeda: Asians have: fewer heart attacks, less breast cancer, prostate cancer, hip fractures and hot flashes (oh ya, it helps decrease menopausal symptoms apparently), but all of this can't necessarily be contributed to their soy intake. Have fun with soy: explore. There are TONS of products out there. Remember, soy doesn't have to mean tofu. That is just one type of soy products out there! There are yummy Genisoy bars that contain 14 grams of soy protein. That might be a good place to start. Then you'll realize just how much is out there to find!

Moderator: Thank you Lila! That was great!

Ojeda: Thank you so much! Hope you all learned something about the joy of soy!

Moderator: And thank you members for your questions!

Ojeda: Good night!

Moderator: Good night.

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