I’ve heard that soy foods can decrease testosterone levels. Is this true?
Q: I know that I should cut back on red meat to lower my cholesterol and the risk of heart disease. I’m trying to eat more fish, chicken, eggs, and beans as protein sources in many of my meals, but my girlfriend also suggested I give tofu and edamame a try. However, I’ve heard that soy foods can decrease testosterone levels. Is this true?
-Nick E., California
A: This question is so timely because June is Men’s Health Month! Heart disease is the #1 cause of death among men. Kudos to you for taking action to decrease your disease risk! As for soy foods, you are safe to eat them. A 2010 meta-analysis reviewing 32 studies and 36 treatment groups, published in Fertility and Sterility, found no evidence that soy consumption affects testosterone concentrations in men. Another review, written by Dr. Mark Messina, also concluded that soy intake does not have feminizing effects (i.e., altering testosterone or estrogen levels, influencing sperm count, increasing risk of erectile dysfunction, etc.) on men. Although a few case reports have reported feminizing effects, the individuals in these reports consumed very large amount of soy foods—well beyond the amounts typically eaten in the usually high-soy Asian diet. Look here to read more about these studies. As with any food, moderation is key to a healthy and balanced diet. Visit the MyPlatewebsite to learn how much protein you need each day and how soy products can help you meet your proteinneeds.
If knowing that soy foods won’t reduce your testosterone level is not enough to convince you to make them a regular part of your diet, consider the many other benefits of soy foods. Soy foods, including tofu, edamame, tempeh, soy milk, soy meat alternatives and many more, are naturally low in fat and cholesterol-free. They have been shown to lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure, both important in the prevention of heart disease, and may protect against prostate cancer. And for the icing on the soy-flour-based cake, there are endless ways to incorporate soy into your diet; check out some of these recipes!