Soy Isoflavones

Written by Sarah Provost
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Soy isoflavones have been recommended by some experts on "natural" wellness as a way to supplement low levels of estrogen after menopause, thereby relieving symptoms such as hot flashes. There is controversy about the efficacy of taking supplements of soy isoflavones, however. Many wellness experts feel that you can get all you need, much more safely, by simply eating tofu and other soy-based foods.

The only in vitro studies done on the effects of soy isoflavones have been on lab animals. Some of these studies have found no positive effect. Others seem to indicate that soy products help reduce the risk of osteoporosis and some cancers, but they aren't sure whether it's a result of the isoflavones or some other element in soy.

Soy Isoflavones: Tofu or Tablets?

There are two reasons why most authorities recommend getting your soy isoflavones from a soy-rich diet rather than from pills or tablets. For one thing, the supplements aren't regulated, so there's no way of knowing exactly how much of each isoflavone you might be getting. Secondly, there is no concrete evidence that it's the isoflavones that provide whatever health benefits are evident. It could be some other element found in soy, which you wouldn't get by taking supplements.

There are many ways to incorporate soy into your diet. Tofu, tempeh, and soy-based "dairy" products such as milk, cheese and yogurt are widely available. If you find these foods unappealing, you can supplement your diet with soy powders. These powders contain the entire spectrum of soy ingredients, not just the isoflavones, and can be added to your ordinary diet by mixing them into soups, sauces, oatmeal, etc. The usual dosage is 50-100 mg., once or twice a day. Note that if your diet is high in fiber, you might want to increase your intake of soy.

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