The Joy of Soy - Tastes Great, Less Cancer!

Yo soy healthy!Yo soy healthy!
Soy Milk, Tofu, Miso and Natto (strong-tasting fermented soybeans) are essential components of the traditional Japanese diet - and they should become part of yours! Now the anti breast cancer properties of soybeans and soy products have been confirmed in a 10-year long study of 25,000 Japanese women.

Genistein... it's an isoflavone compound found in soybeans and other soy-based products, and scientists have zeroed in on it as the source of soy's anti-cancer properties. The markedly lower rate of breast cancer among Japanese and other Asian women has been noted before, but only lately has the medical establishment agreed with folk wisdom that soy products loaded with genistein are the reason.

"Edamame" soybeans - boil, salt & eat!"Edamame" soybeans - boil, salt & eat!
The study, conducted by the National Cancer Center in Tokyo, monitored approximately 25,000 Japanese women between the ages of 40 and 69 for an average of 10 and a half years. The results indicated that women who had high levels of genistein in their bodies had less of a chance of developing breast cancer compared to women having lower concentrations of the compound.

So, how easy is it to boost your daily genistein intake naturally with soy and soy-based foods? It's not hard at all, especially if you live in a larger town or city that has a few oriental markets to shop at. Here are a few of the better-known and easily available soy-based products just waiting to be added to your anti-cancer diet:


SOY MILK - You'll almost forget it comes from beans!

Soy milk has always been a popular alternative to dairy milk but with the new buzz on soy's anti-cancer properties, manufacturers and marketers have shifted into high gear. Soy milk can now be bought at non-Asian supermarkets and comes in classic flavors like Vanilla, Strawberry and Chocolate, plus new trendy tastes such as Pomegranate and Blueberry.

TOFU - The white food at the right time!

Tofu is commonly sold in cardboard trays or immersed in water inside round plastic tubs. For the latter, be sure to rinse the tofu and change the water every day until you've eaten it all. There are multitude of ways tofu can be prepared, and since it has a very light, delicate natural flavor, it goes well with just about anything!

MISO - A great way to "soup" up your diet!

Miso is a type of fermented tofu with the consistency of peanut butter. He usual types are Red Miso and White Miso. Although in Japan miso can be used in many ways, typically it's eaten as a soup to which is added tofu cubes, vegetables, even meat and seafood. You can make your own miso at home, but for those who don't want to wait months to enjoy it, just pick up a pouch or tub at your friendly Asian market.

NATTO - Not only for the brave!

A taste well worth acquiringA taste well worth acquiring
Then there's Natto... definitely an acquired taste, Natto is usually sold frozen in single-serve styrofoam trays. Thaw it out, mix with the small packet of mustard usually included, top with a raw Quail egg if you like, then eat with rice. The flavor is best described as "nutty"... which is being kind. It's said the true test of a foreigner who's become acclimated to living in Japan is whether they can eat Natto - even many Japanese can't stand the sticky-icky stuff!

  One notable finding of the National Cancer Center in Tokyo's study was that when it comes to genistein, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. It seems that isoflavone compounds like genistein are best consumed in their natural form, not via powdered or encapsulated supplements. Overdoing it, in the words of the study, "may actually raise the risks of breast cancer". Just one more case where the natural way is most definitely the best way!
Mar 7, 2008
by Anonymous

Let's not forget about the phytoestrogens in soy products.

Although I find the study to be of interest, let's not forget that soy products are a large source of phytoestrogens. The research regarding phytoestrogens, while somewhat conflicted, has shown that increased levels of phytoestrogens is a risk factor for developing breast cancer. I do believe that soy is a good source of protein, however I would never prescribe to one of my patients an increase of soy as a means to prevent cancer. The evidence is still not strong enough. Besides, Asian woman have already shown a lower tendency towards the development of breast cancer. Plus, there are so many other factors involved in the etiology of breast cancer that it's difficult to look at one risk factor and determine based solely on that whether or not one is at risk for developing it or not. In this case, I feel that the researchers have neglected to look at the bigger picture here. Especially when it comes to taking a comprehensive look at the all the research that has been done on soy products and any links to breast cancer. If the research fails to point out any of the possible negative outcomes of increasing one's intake of soy products, then I am led to believe that the research was improperly biased and thus the outcomes are not reliable. There is still much more research that needs to be done on this issue.

Thank you.

Phillip Shaw, D.C. L.Ac. BA BS Hpt

Mar 8, 2008
by Steve Levenstein
Steve Levenstein's picture

not a panacea...

Thank you Dr. Shaw, you are correct in cautioning that soy products are not a panacea when it comes to reducing the incidence of breast cancer. As i mentioned, consuming soy products beyond a certain amount can actually increase the incidence. Certainly more research needs to be done (and likely is), yet we can be heartened that in the case of soy products the indicators are for the most part very positive.

Mar 8, 2008
by Anonymous

Lived in Japan for 5 years

Natto isint that bad, its AWESOME with rice and egg, or by itself

Mar 10, 2008
by Anonymous


In china,TOFU is wonderful.In dIfferent place we have different TOFU.Though they taste different,they are all nice.TOFU can be cook with any other nice food.