Some doctors believe you should avoid soy. And I've even expressed some reservations about soy in the past. It's known to induce goiter (thyroid dysfunction). However, research suggests that it takes more than soy alone to impair your thyroid. And, simply taking iodine will prevent any damage.

Plus, I've also found a growing body of research that suggests a modest amount of soy may help you. In fact, one new study suggests that soy can help you lower your blood pressure.

This study followed 60 healthy post-menopausal women. The researchers assigned each of them to a "Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes" (TLC) diet. In that diet, 30% of calories come from fat, 15% from protein, and 55% from carbohydrates. The study compared consuming protein sources from fatty fish vs. replacing 25 grams of non-soy protein with protein from soy nuts. They followed the participants for eight weeks.

In the women with hypertension (i.e., a systolic blood pressure of at least 140), the diet plus soy nuts lowered systolic blood pressure by nearly 10%. And it lowered diastolic blood pressure by 6.8% compared to the regular TLC diet alone. Even women without hypertension saw the blood pressure come down. Their systolic blood pressure fell by 5.2% and diastolic by 2.9%. Those with borderline hypertension also had a similar benefit.

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But that's not all. The participants also had an additional benefit on their cholesterol levels. The TLC diet plus soy lowered LDL cholesterol by 11% and apolipoprotein-B (a significant risk factor for heart attack) by 8%.

This is more nice news on soy. Soy has very mild estrogen-like effects. This phytoestrogen effect may be protective against the more carcinogenic estrogens your own body makes, or that you might get from animal products. If you have high blood pressure, consider increasing your soy intake. Please be sure to take at least 500 mcg daily of iodine if you do.

Ref: "Effect of soy nuts on blood pressure and lipid levels in hypertensive, prehypertensive, and normotensive postmenopausal women," Welty FK, Lee KS, et al, Arch Intern Med, 2007; 167(10): 1060-7.

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