Soy: good or bad for our health?

March 30, 2009 by  
Filed under CANCER

japanese_tofu-mealSoy is traditionally a part of a typical Asian diet. Researchers at the U.S. National Cancer Institute investigated whether soy consumption can render protection against breast cancer.

According to senior researcher Regina Ziegler

Historically, breast cancer incidence rates have been four to seven times higher among white women in the U.S. than in women in China or Japan. However, when Asian women migrate to the U.S., their breast cancer risk rises over several generations and reaches that of U.S. white women, suggesting that modifiable factors, rather than genetics, are responsible for the international differences.”

However, the lifestyle factors that predispose Asian women living in the US to breast cancer have never been identified.

The study looked at Asian women (of Chinese, Japanese and Filipino descent) living in California or Hawaii. The researchers interviewed 597 of these women (aged 22 to 55 years old) with breast cancer and case-matched with 966 controls. In addition, whenever possible, the mothers of the women were interviewed regarding the participants’ diet during their childhood.

The results of the study show:

  • Consumption of or large amounts of soy during childhood was linked to a 58% reduced risk for breast cancer
  • high soy consumption during adolescence and adulthood was linked to a 20 to 25% reduced risk.

The study authors concluded:

Soy intake during childhood, adolescence, and adult life was associated with decreased breast cancer risk, with the strongest, most consistent effect for childhood intake. Soy may be a hormonally related, early-life exposure that influences breast cancer incidence.

Soy is rich with isoflavones. The authors speculate that these compounds may have estrogenic properties that may cause changes in the mammary tissue. Animal studies have shown that soy consumption results in early maturation of breast tissue and increased resistance to carcinogens.

I myself am of Asian descent and therefore found this study rather interesting. We Asians consume soy in the form of tofu (coagulated soy milk) or soya sauce. Soya milk is also used as a substitute formula for lactose-intolerant infants. The food products come from the soya bean plant Glycine max.

Soy used to be considered the wonder superhealthy food but has become somewhat controversial lately as more and more research studies have linked soy consumption to adverse health effects ranging from memory decline to cancer. In 2007, the Cancer Council of New South Wales, Australia issued guidelines that warn cancer patients about the dangers of high-soy diets and soy supplements. The guidelines especially emphasized the dangers for those suffering from hormone-dependent cancers, including prostate and breast cancers.

Clearly there is a need for more studies before we can clearly say whether soy is beneficial or detrimental to our health.

photo credit: stock.xchng

Best Arthritis-Friendly Foods

May 31, 2008 by  
Filed under ARTHRITIS

If you dig into my old posts, I have always mentioned that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fish and non-fat dairy is good for people suffering from arthritis.

Once more from Reader’s Digest. But this time, a list of nutrient-rich food that is best for people with arthritis:

1. Salmon – one of the riches sources of healthy fats and omega-3 fatty acids. I guess most fish will be good as well?

“…especially because it’s less likely than other cold-water fish to harbor high levels of toxic mercury. In addition to its fatty oils, salmon contains calcium, vitamin D, and folate.”

2. Bananas — though best known as a rich source of potassium, bananas also contain arthritis-fighting vitamin B6, folate, and vitamin C. The first thing that my doctor “prescribed” to me was eat lots of bananas. One good thing is that, you can prepare bananas in many different ways. You can eat the ripe ones as is, you can preserve it or put them into your salad. More so, you can blend it with other fruits such as berries or peaches to turn into into a nice fruit drink.

3. Sweet peppers – also rich sources of Vitamin C, vitamin B6 and folate.

4. Shrimp – I love shrimps. Thankfully it is rich in nutrients too! Too bad for people with shrimp allergies.

Taste and convenience make shrimp the most popular shellfish around. But shrimp also deserves acclaim as one of the few major dietary sources of vitamin D, with three ounces providing 30 percent of the recommended daily amount — more than a cup of fortified milk. Shrimp also contains omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin C, along with other nutrients essential for general health, including iron and vitamin B12.

5. Soy products – for somebody like me who isn’t very much a fan of dairy milk, I find this a good alternative. I need not even drink milk, I can just eat soy foods.

But soybeans also protect bones, thanks to compounds called isoflavones and significant amounts of both vitamin E and calcium. Long a staple of Asian diets, soy can also be found in soy milk — a boon for people who want to avoid lactose or cholesterol in regular milk.

6. Sweet Potatoes – as a child, this was one of my favorite snacks. Even just boiled, sweet potatoes are yummy already. I do not know anybody who never liked sweet potatoes. However, since maybe I feel that I had enough of sweet potatoes as a kid, that’s why I kinda ignored this in my adulthood. Maybe I should start eating sweet potatoes again?

These tropical root vegetables (which, technically, not related to white baking potatoes) are such a nutritional powerhouse, they once topped a list of vegetables ranked according to nutritional value by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Sweet potatoes are a rich source of vitamin C, folate, vitamin B6, and dietary fiber, among other nutrients.

7. Cheese – my 5-year old son will never eat cheese. Anything with cheese, he will not touch. I often wondered why. Maybe he doesn’t like the taste of cheese? I don’t remember not liking cheese as a child, I often eat cheese still. Because I don’t drink milk, I find this a good substitute for my calcium needs.

Hard or soft, fresh or ripened, cheese in all its variety is an excellent source of calcium for bones, and protein for muscles and other joint-supporting tissues. Depending on type, cheeses (especially hard varieties such as cheddar and Colby) are also a good source of vitamin B6 and folate.

8. Lentils.

These dried legumes, with their rainbow of earthy colors, are prime sources of folate, with a single cup providing about 90 percent of your daily needs. But lentils also provide one of the richest plant-based sources of protein, contain large amounts of soluble dietary fiber, and hold significant stores of vitamin B6. These and other nutrients make lentils protect the body against heart disease and cancer in addition to arthritis.

9. Green tea! Which reminds me, I haven’t had green tea in the last two years. It isn’t my favorite, but it is okay for me to drink it. I guess I just think of its nutritional value. Otherwise, I won’t give green tea a second look.

This mild, slightly astringent tea contains hundreds of powerful antioxidant chemicals called polyphenols and has been cited for helping prevent problems ranging from cancer to heart disease. But studies also suggest green tea may help prevent or ease symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. In one study of induced arthritis in mice, green tea cut the disease onset rate almost in half, and follow-up studies by the same researchers, at Case Western Reserve University, in Ohio, show promise in humans.

So…do the above foods included in your diet? You might wanna include them already, especially of you have arthritis.

Diabetic Heart Health

January 18, 2008 by  
Filed under DIABETES

Tell me something I didn’t know, please.

This morning I read an article on the elevated risk of cardiovascular disease in women with diabetes. I would hate to have to point out to the scientists that discovered this that diabetic women already knew this. My mother has had two heart catheter procedures in the past few years, I do not know about her cholesterol, but I would guess it is not a pretty number.

Lower the pressure.

Blood pressure is always an issue with diabetics. Before being diagnosed with diabetes, my mother lived with low blood pressure, much like my own. In the years following the progression of the disease, her blood pressure steadily rose. Today she is on medication to control it and aspirin therapy. I have been incorporating better whole foods into her diet, which seems to have helped bring her sugar levels to a more controlled plateau.

At least the vampires will go away.

How do you control your cholesterol, though? Many people endorse garlic as a cure-all, the best thing for cholesterol ever. I have seen the effects of fresh garlic work on cholesterol in the past. My oldest daughter’s father took garlic supplements and ate roasted garlic spread on toast with every evening meal for a month. His cholesterol levels dropped 80 points in a month. Will that work for everyone? I cannot say that it will. Unless you have an allergy to garlic, it certainly will not hurt you to add a bit to your diet.

Caring for your heart is easy, all you need to do is exercise more and eat a diet with whole grains, plenty of fiber, and cut the junk out of your life. Ok, maybe it sounds easier than it actually is. I can guarantee you will feel much better if you talk to your doctor about the proper way to care for your heart, then follow his or her advice.

Want a heart healthy quick breakfast? With these muffins, you can prepare them the night before and grab one on the way out the door in the morning!

Blue Berry Muffins

* 2 eggs
* ½ cup soymilk
* ¼ cup vegetable oil
* 1 cup flour
* ½ cup wheat flour
* ½ cup soy flour
* ½ cup Sucralose( splenda)
* 1 tablespoon baking powder
* 1 ½ cup blue berries (frozen is fine)

Mix all ingredients except blueberries. Shake the blueberries in a zip top bag with a bit of flour. Flour helps the blue berries be suspended in the muffins instead of sinking. Add to batter, mix.

Pour into a greased or papered muffing tin. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes. Begin checking for doneness at 20 minutes. (12 muffins)

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.