This week we will be discussing soya and menopause including how these foods can help with menopause symptoms, the evidence and findings of clinical studies and the nutritional benefits of soya.
What is soya?
Soya is a food product made from soybeans. It can be found in foods such as:
- soy sauce
- edamame beans
- soy nuts
- soya milk
It is a great source of phytoestrogens, B vitamins, fibre, potassium, magnesium, and protein , and may provide numerous benefits for menopausal women.
Why Does Soya Help During the Menopause?
Soya products are high in phytoestrogens, specifically isoflavones. Phytoestrogens are chemical compounds found in plants. They have a similar structure to oestrogen.
Phytoestrogens are beneficial during peri-menopause and menopause, due to their oestrogenic effects. During this time oestrogen is low, causing symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats, difficulty sleeping, and reduced sex drive. An increase in the risk of osteoporosis and cardiovascular risk can additionally occur during menopause, due to a lack of oestrogen .
What does the evidence tell us about soya and menopause?
A meta-analysis into the efficacy of phytoestrogens for menopausal symptoms, found that phytoestrogens appeared to reduce the frequency of hot flushes in menopausal women. However, there is little evidence into their effects on other menopausal symptoms .
In terms of osteoporosis, there are several studies into the effects of phytoestrogen on risk. Evidence points to a beneficial effect of phytoestrogens on reducing the risk of bone loss and preventive effects against osteoporosis. Phytoestrogens have additionally been cited as an alternative to be considered for hormone replacement therapy, which is often unsuitable for women due to its side effects .
Furthermore, epidemiological data has indicated that women who consume high amounts of phytoestrogens have less incidence of cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, and uterine cancer. This is particularly true when phytoestrogens are introduced in the diet through soy products, like edamame, tofu, soy nuts, tempeh, and sprouts .
Nutritional value of soya
Soya products also contain B vitamins. B vitamins are important throughout menopause. They can help to reduce stress, aid cognitive function, maintain bone mineral density, and to prevent fatigue .
Magnesium, found in soya products, is additionally important in maintaining bone health. One study found that low magnesium intakes correlated with a low bone mineral content in post-menopausal women . Magnesium deficiency is said to contribute to osteoporosis by inhibiting crystal formation in bone cells. Therefore, an adequate intake of magnesium is recommended . To read more about magnesium and menopause, click here.
Finally, protein is another nutrient of concern during menopause. An adequate intake of protein prevents loss of muscle mass and function related to ageing. Soya products are a great source of protein, especially if you choose not to eat animal products.
How much soya should I eat?
The amount of isoflavones commonly used in clinical trials is approximately 30-80 mg/day .
Each gram of soya protein in soybeans and traditional soya foods is associated with approximately 3.5 mg of isoflavones . The isoflavone content of soya foods:
- 100g of tofu provides about 44 mg isoflavones
- 250 mL soya milk, typically provides about 25 mg isoflavones
- 80g soya beans provides about 49 mg isoflavones
Soya protein isolates and powders will have a lower isoflavone content as they lose this during processing.
Soya products offer numerous health benefits for menopausal women. They contain phytoestrogens, B vitamins, fibre, potassium, magnesium, and protein, and can be a great option for all women, especially those who do not consume animal products.
If you like more support with your diet and menopause, please book a FREE 15-minute introductory call so we can discuss how I can help you.
Caroline Hill is a specialist menopause dietitian supporting women making dietary change. Caroline uses her extensive knowledge, skills and expertise of food and nutrition to help women manage their symptoms and weight during menopause. Caroline believes in providing sustainable, individualised, evidence-based advice to women making dietary change.