Does Soy Affect PCOS? Find Out!
PCOS is quite common in women these days. Many women I know are suffering from it or have won their battle against it. It being so common, it is but natural to debate about the effects of lifestyle and diet on PCOS. Actually the rise in unhealthy living can be linked to the rise in PCOS.
In this post let us keep our debate focused on the effects of soy and products based on PCOS. Soy- to be included or not? That is the question!
What is PCOS?
Let us first have a glance at PCOS! Polycystic Ovary Syndrome has 3 diagnostic criteria of which you need at least 2 for diagnosis.
- Polycystic ovaries
- Increased levels of male hormones
- Irregular periods or absent periods
The point to be noted is that only half of the women with polycystic ovaries (PCO) will suffer from PCOS. PCO and PCOS are not the same.
Symptoms of PCOS appear in teenage and they are as follows:
- Irregular or absent periods
- Too much of body and facial hair
- Male pattern balding
- Hot flushes
- Sleep apnoea
- Skin discolouration
- High blood pressure
- Mood swings
PCOS can also lead to serious illnesses in life like heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers.
Benefits of soy
- It is a low cost protein that is rich in amino acids and is ideal for vegans and vegetarians.
- Soy has been known to be heart healthy.
- It is known to prevent osteoporosis, reduce symptoms of menopause and hormonal imbalance; it also helps lower blood pressure.
- It increases energy levels and general well being.
With all these benefits it seems that PCOS sufferers should increase their soy consumption. However, its effects on estrogen levels or thyroid health are highly debated.
What does soy contain?
Soy has phytic acid, alpha-linolenic acid and isoflavones. Let us have a glance at each of the components.
It is present in other foods also and they include grains, nuts and seeds.
The cons of phytic acid
Phytic acid is known to affect the absorption of minerals like zinc, iron, calcium and magnesium. These minerals are important for women suffering with PCOS. Phytic acid also inhibits the absorption of iron and lack of this nutrient can lead to anemia in women. However, all is not lost as cooking methods can reduce the effect of phytic acid. Cooking above 35 degree Celsius like boiling and roasting along with soaking, sprouting are helpful in negating the effect of phytic acid.
The pros of phytic acid
Lead and cadmium are two heavy metals that are two main drivers of PCOS. Phytic acid reduces heavy metal toxicity by absorbing the ions of heavy metals. It is also known to reduce triglyceride levels and act as an antioxidant. It also helps in improving the function of the gut by promoting the growth of a particular friendly bacterium. Women with PCOS usually have gut issues. By improving gut health there is an improvement in insulin sensitivity, reduction in levels of estrogen and an increase in absorption of nutrients. One study has shown that phytic acid slows down the glycemic response to legumes. Women with PCOS have insulin resistance too most often and they need to be careful of the GI of foods. The effect of phytic acid on glycemic response of food is worth noting.
Alpha-Linolenic acid (ALA) is an important omega 3 fatty acid. You need to get it from your food.
Cons of ALA
ALA gets oxidized (goes bad) when cooked. This means that foods containing ALA are not suitable for cooking at high temperatures. Due to oxidation, soybean oil is partially hydrogenated to reduce damage and increase shelf life. But this process of partial hydrogenation is bad for health. It produces trans fat that lead to heart disease.
Pros of ALA
Women with PCOS suffer from stress, anxiety, sleep disorders and fatigue. It has been found that by supplementing women with ALA, there was a big drop in anxiety, improvement in mood and ability to concentrate, less fatigue and better sleep.
ALA has shown anticancer effects too. This is quite beneficial as women with PCOS have more chances of getting cancer, in this connection ALA can be life saving. ALA also helps fight depression that is common in women with PCOS.
Isoflavones are debated often while talking about PCOS. A type of isoflavone is known as phytoestrogen that has an effect similar to estrogen in the body. Women with PCOS have higher levels of estrogen in the body. Now the argument is that when phytoestrogens (weaker than our own estrogen) are added to our food, will it add to the excessive estrogen in the system or reduce the load of extrogen in the body by replacing the stronger estrogen?
Studies show both the pros and cons of isoflavones.
Let us directly jump to the controversial question- Should women with PCOS consume soy or totally eliminate it from their diet?
Owing to the research done, there is latest evidence that soy should be included in the diet of a woman suffering from PCOS. Make sure to choose organic, non genetically modified soy along with a balanced diet with all the vital nutrients and minerals.
Hope this post has been useful!
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