It’s the great debate that both vegetarian and vegan guys have had to endure since they swapped out their piece of steak for a soy-based food item. Is soy really bad for men? In short, it’s believed that soy protein lowers testosterone levels, or exerts oestrogen-like or feminising effects, in men. Plus, it’s supposed to affect male fertility, leaving broody women no choice but to force-feed their partners exotic fish high in Omega 3 to compensate.
The reality? The high protein-based soybean is an ideal alternative to meat or dairy and reaps all the health benefits of a carnivorous diet. The misconception around the hormone effects of soy come from the fact that soybeans are rich in isoflavones, which are natural plant compounds with a similar chemical structure to the hormone oestrogen. Despite this, they are in no way identical to the hormone the human body produces, so eating them won’t result in you grabbing a box of tissues during an episode of Our Perfect Wedding. Nor will it affect your sex drive (phew!), testosterone levels, or your little swimmers.
In fact, research on humans shows that soy consumption is highly unlikely to cause reproductive abnormalities in men. Three intervention studies found that men who regularly ate or drank soy products showed no changes in testosterone levels. There was also no effect on testicular or ejaculate volume – or sperm concentration, count or mobility.
What’s more, according to Registered Dietician, Mayuri Bhawan, adding soy to your diet can actually aid in reducing the risk of prostate cancer and heart disease. “Global research shows that soy isoflavones actually have numerous benefits for bone, brain, prostate and cardiovascular health in men.”
While there have been a couple of reported cases of sex hormone changes in men consuming soy-based food, it was as a result of having far too much of it. We’re talking about drinking up to 3 litres of soy milk a day, which seems rather extra! All these reports reflect is that moderation is key, and the excessive consumption of any food type can lead to abnormalities.
The Dietary Reference Intake, for example, recommends a total serving of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. “A cup of cooked soybeans contains about 22 grams of complete protein,” says Amy Chu, Marketing Manager of The Fry Family Food Co. With stats like that, there should be no resistance to incorporating soy-based meals, like veggie burgers, into your diet.
So, what do we know? Well, for one, there’s no need to delay adding soy to your meal plan. There’s very little evidence that the plant-based food item lowers testosterone levels and enhances oestrogen-like effects. Along with their high-quality, heart-healthy protein offering, soybeans contain significant amounts of phytic acid, dietary minerals and B vitamins – essentials for the overall well-being and vitality of men, and women, alike.
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