Soy is often considered to be a healthy alternative to a number of common daily foods. But, as with various other kinds of foods, special attention has to be given to the effects it can have on pregnant women, especially since some reports have called it into question.
What Is Soy?
Soy is short for soybean and it refers to a legume native to East Asia. It is one of the most versatile crops that humans currently grow because of its wide range of applications, especially when it comes to human consumption. For example, most cooking or vegetable oil is actually just soybean oil. In Japan, soybeans are eaten in their delicious raw form as an appetizer. Soybeans can also be used to make soy milk, a delicious high protein beverage that is often used as an alternative to cow’s milk (since it is free of lactose). One also cannot forget that the ubiquitous soy sauce is made from soybeans as well.
Soy is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids and isoflavones. Omega-3 has been linked to reduced incidences of cardiovascular disease and lower rates of depression. Isoflavones are thought by some experts to reduce rates of many types of cancer. Regular soy consumption has also been linked to reduced levels of harmful cholesterol.
Hidden Dangers of Soy
Unfortunately, there is a potentially hidden danger for pregnant women. Though isoflavones do purport to offer some health benefits, they also interfere and interact with estrogen receptors in the human body. Genistein is the member of the isoflavones group that is responsible for this risk. The effect seems to be most pronounced in mothers who are expecting a baby boy. The increase in estrogen receptor activity may result in the de-masculization of the developing baby. Anything that has the potential to derail the natural development of an unborn fetus is something that any pregnant woman needs to take into consideration.
Of course, the amount of genistein that will produce unwanted effects is important in determining whether soy is something to be avoided. The jury is currently out on that exact number. While it appears that moderate levels of soy consumption do not have a noticeable effect on fetus development, at what point does that start to change? Studies do seem to indicate that only abnormally massive amounts of soy consumption would be enough to trigger development interference, but it is also possible that soy itself wasn’t the exact culprit. More studies have to be conducted to get to the bottom of this, but in the meantime, it would be advisable to all pregnant women to, at the very least, consume only moderate amounts of soy.
Aside from that, there does not appear to be any other reason to question the effects of soy being consumed by pregnant women. Soy offers a wealth of benefits. To be safe, it is wise to consult with your primary physician if you have any concerns about consuming soy while pregnant.