Can I eat soy foods if my cancer is Estrogen-Receptor positive?
written by Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD 2001
Copyrighted © All Rights Reserved
Many women fear soy foods if they have estrogen-receptor positive cancers. Most health reports focus only on the 'estrogen-like' properties of soy foods. Well-meaning friends and family might comment, "Soy helps prevent cancer. You should eat it." Others may advise you avoid soy foods if you have estrogen-receptor positive cancer.
How do you sort out these conflicting messages?
- Most people know about the 'estrogen-like' ways that soy can act in the body.
- Many soy-based supplements focus on MAXIMIZING the 'estrogen' effects of soy.
- The 'non-estrogen' soy substances are EXCLUDED from many soy supplements. These type of soy-based supplements may be even MORE LIKELY to act like estrogen in your body.
- But, what about SOY FOODS?
This is only a SMALL PART OF THE PICTURE!!! Soy is an AMAZING food. Soy foods have benefits FAR beyond the so-called 'estrogen' effects on the body.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
There is NO good research showing soy FOODS are bad for you if you have estrogen-receptor positive cancer. Soy FOODS seem to contain things that slow down cancer cells. Soy FOODS may even make cancer cells less aggressive.
Research shows that certain soy phytochemicals actually may make it harder for cancer cells to spread to other parts of the body!! Soy FOOD phytochemicals may help your body fight cancer cells. This is NOT related to the 'estrogen' effects of soy.
THE SAME CANNOT BE SAID FOR SOY SUPPLEMENTS!!
If you have estrogen-receptor positive cancer, DO NOT USE SOY SUPPLEMENTS.
But.Don't skip WHOLE SOY FOODS and miss out on all the AMAZING CANCER-FIGHTING BENEFITS OF SOY FOODS.
ONE WORD OF CAUTION:
No one food or one nutrient, including soy foods, can greatly reduce your risk of cancer. Simply adding soy foods to a typical American diet that is high in fat and low in fiber is NOT a good idea. Remember, there is a lot of research evidence that shows that our total 'pattern' of diet is far more important than any one food or nutrient in our diet.
The pattern that most fights cancer?? Focus on getting the majority of your calories from whole plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes (starchy beans including soy), and WHOLE grains. We know that all Americans should eat a minimum of 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily, yet most only get one or two servings.
If you've had cancer or are at high risk of cancer, you should aim for at least 8 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Most people think, "oh, that's crazy, I could never eat that." But you have to remember that a serving isn't one per each time you sit down to eat. You might get 2 to 3 servings in a single sitting, especially if you base your meals and snacks around plant foods.
Many researchers and health experts believe that the majority of the cancer fighting benefits of soy foods are not related to estrogen properties of soy foods.
Continue learning about soy, tofu and other vegetarian options
- All About Soy: Frequently Asked Questions
- Information About Tofu
- Give me Five: Advice on Eating Fruits and Vegetables
- Strategies for Meal Planning and Preparation