Soy is a high-quality protein that is high in fiber, low in saturated fat, and cholesterol free. It’s also a good source of antioxidants and is one of only two plant foods that contain all essential amino acids. With all of these health advantages, how could soy be bad for your fertility? The answer lies in how soy affects hormones.
Soy and Your Hormones
Soy is a type of estrogenic plant. When digested, the chemicals in soy can interact with the body’s natural hormone signals. Known as isoflavones, these chemicals mimic the hormone estrogen and although their not as strong as the estrogen naturally produced by the body, they are strong enough to create a system response.
Some studies have shown that consuming soybeans and various soy-based products can cause a decrease of estrogen. Low estrogen levels in women can have a negative impact on their ability to have children. While soy can be an excellent source of protein during pregnancy, it should only be consumed in moderation.
Controversy Surrounding Soy
Soy has remained a hot topic of debate in the health food industry. This species of legume, which is native to East Asia, is used to make everything from cereal and milk to burgers and baby formula. However, when consumed in large quantities the phytoestrogens found in soy have been found to cause premature hypothyroidism, irregular endocrine function, and reproductive issues.
Many soy-based products are highly processed and contain large amounts of aluminum. When these products are consumed they can be toxic to the nervous system, which in turn can negatively impact fertility. It’s not just women who have to have to be concerned about their soy intake. One study found that men who consumed more than two portions of soy a day had an average of 41 million less sperm per milliliter of semen.
Guidelines for Eating Soy
If you are worried about your soy intake, speak with your doctor or fertility specialist about your concerns. You may also want to consider the following guidelines when consuming soy:
- Soy can cause digestive upset in some people. If a woman is experiencing digestive issues, an elimination diet that requires the removal of soy may be recommended to see if the sensitivity remains. If soy is found to be a contributing factor, it should be eliminated from the woman’s diet.
- If a woman is suffering from symptoms of hypothyroidism or has been diagnosed with unexplained infertility, soy may be to blame. Thyroid testing can be used to get a more in-depth look at the situation. Soy should be eliminated if hormone levels are found to be low.
- If there are no digestive issues and thyroid function is normal, soy can be added sparingly in a diet. However, women who are trying to conceive should not consume more than an 8 oz. serving of fermented soy per day.
- Men with poor sperm quality due to the ingestion of sperm should eliminate it altogether or reduce their consumption to less than three servings per week. Soy should only be consumed in a fermented firm.
Fertility and Nutrition
Nutrition plays a critical role in your ability to conceive. If you have been consuming a lot of soy up until now, it’s important to find other proteins to replace it with. Ideally, women who are trying to conceive should eat a minimum of 70 to 100 grams of protein per day. There are many high protein foods to choose from, such as meat, eggs, dairy products, nuts and seeds, high protein grains, and whey protein powder. For further assistance with your nutritional needs preconception, consider speaking with a fertility specialist.