Soy and cancer

Soy may be beneficial for cancer survivors and those suffering from cancer

There are a growing number of research reports indicating that soy foods may help prevent and treat cancer. The active constituents of soybeans thought to be responsible for this beneficial effect are the isoflavones (isoflavonoids), of which the most important (constituting half of all isoflavones in soybeans) is genistein. Genistein has the ability to bind to estrogen receptors and partially block the disease-causing effects of estrogen. Due to this, it reduces the growth of estrogen-dependent cancers, such as breast and ovarian cancer.

In addition, genistein is able to bind in a similar way to testosterone receptors, thereby limiting the development of prostate cancer. Genistein also has other properties – it interferes with the development of angiogenesis (the mechanism by which tumors form their own blood networks that promote their growth) and enzymes (such as tyrosine kinase) that are directly involved in the growth and regulation of the functioning of cancer cells. These properties of genistein are believed to help in the fight against various cancers.

The amount of isoflavones that cancer patients need daily is found in two to three servings of soy products. A serving of soy milk is just one cup; a serving of tofu is only four ounces (a little over a hundred grams). In Japan, as well as in China and Singapore, consumption of soy foods is believed to be largely responsible for the low incidence of bowel, breast and prostate cancer. Another important dietary factor is the intake of low-saturated fats. Along with tofu, the Japanese consume miso soup, nato and tempeh, as well as other soy products. Thanks to this, their bodies receive 40-120 mg of soy isoflavones daily. The typical European diet contains less than 5 mg of isoflavones per day.

People with cancer need a high-calorie, high-protein, low-fat diet. Soy foods are high in protein and relatively low in fat. For example, approximately 33% of the calories in Japanese tofu come from fat.

Some manufacturers offer soy protein powder for drinks that contains added isoflavones, as well as phytic acid salts and saponins. This product is aimed at people who are unlikely to consume enough soy products and cannot get the required amount of potentially beneficial substances (60-120 mg per day). The powder contains 60mg of isoflavones in a 28g serving. It is also a valuable source of protein with 13g per serving and is free from soy polysaccharides that cause indigestion and flatulence. By blending the powder in a blender with yogurt and fruit, you can get a delicious dish with enough fiber, carbohydrates, vitamins, and a small amount of healthy fats. Cancer patients who do not consume soy products are recommended to consume two servings of the drink per day. This powder can be added to dishes with tofu and rice, thereby achieving a balance of proteins and carbohydrates.

People with cancer may experience problems such as decreased appetite. In part, this is a consequence of the activity of cancer cells and reactions of the immune system, and in part – the result of standard anti-cancer therapy. The amount of food consumed is reduced. Instead of three meals a day, the patient can move on to four to six meals, providing the body with the necessary amount of essential nutrients.

While specific nutrient-dense liquid foods are recommended as meal replacements, natural foods with a similar nutrient profile are much healthier; these latter, moreover, are much cheaper.

For example, tofu is a product that can be used to enrich the nutrition of cancer patients; at the same time, it provides the body with isoflavones.

As a rule, tofu is sold in bags. After opening the package, rinse the tofu, cut into pieces the required amount, and store the rest in water, in a closed container, in the refrigerator. The water should be changed every time the tofu is taken out, or at least every other day. Opened tofu should be used within five days. Tofu can be heated in the oven.

Rice is a food rich in carbohydrates and calories. It is easily absorbed by the body. One cup of cooked rice contains 223 calories, 4,1 g of protein, 49 g of carbohydrates, and 6 g of fat. The automatic rice cooker is ideal for quick cooking of rice and guarantees a good result. Leftover cooked rice can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator and reheated within a minute.

In general, tofu and rice can be sources of all the necessary nutrients – calories, proteins and carbohydrates. At the same time, they contain a minimum of fat.

Nutrient drinks are a mixture of vitamins and minerals. Dietary supplements are also available in tablet form. However, these products do not contain phytonutrients such as the isoflavones found in soy.

You can combine tofu and rice with vegetables, a source of additional carbohydrates. If additional fat is required, a small amount of walnuts (85% of their calories are in the form of fat; the rest is protein) or a teaspoon of vegetable oil can be added.

Low in fat and fiber, tofu is ideal as a snack or, with additional ingredients, as a complete meal. The volume of such food, in a chewed form, does not greatly exceed the volume of liquid products. Importantly, the cost of eating tofu and rice with vitamin and mineral supplements is one third of the price of nutrient-dense drinks. 


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