Soy milk is the most popular non-dairy alternative to cow's milk. Soy milk delivers a variety of essential nutrients including proteins, fiber, vitamins and minerals. It also contains isoflavones and other antioxidants that are highly beneficial to your health. These qualities of soy milk make it a wonderful source of nutrition for people who are lactose intolerant or have a milk allergy. However, drinking soy milk may not be a good idea for everyone. There are some controversial qualities of soy milk that can result in an elevation of certain health risks. Weigh your choices carefully against your specific health needs to decide if soy milk is right for you.
Pro: Soy Milk is Heart Healthy
Perhaps the most notable health benefit of soy milk is its ability to reduce cholesterol and promote cardiovascular health. Unlike cow's milk, which can be high in cholesterol and saturated fat, soy milk is naturally cholesterol free with a significant load of essential monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. These fatty acids are commonly known as "good fats," because they help reduce plaque forming triglyceride and low density lipoproteins (LDL) in the blood. There are also evidences to show that regular intake of soy can increase high density lipoproteins (HDL), which can further improve your blood profile and keep you safe from strokes and heart attacks.
Con: Soy Allergy
Soy allergies can be quite common and are more prevalent in young children than in adults. If you are allergic to soy, drinking soy milk can cause symptoms like hives, swelling, vomiting and diarrhea. In more severe cases, it can even send you into anaphylactic shock.
Pro: Soy Milk Provides Hormone Therapy for Postmenopausal Women
Soy milk contains a high level of phytoestrogen, which mimics the functions of the female sex hormone estrogen in humans. Women who are going through menopause suffer from a sudden drop of estrogen production. This can instigate a number of health problems. Postmenopausal women can experience a drastic increase in blood pressure and blood cholesterol. They are also more at risks of diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis and psychological disorders like depression, insomnia and mood swings. Phytoestrogen can help balance the hormone levels in postmenopausal women and prevent these adverse side effects.
Con: Phytoestrogen May Raise Breast Cancer Risks
Some studies have shown that regular intake of soy products can increase breast cancer risks in women. Other studies, however, have found the exact opposite. Soy estrogen can also interfere with breast cancer chemotherapy and medication. If you are a current breast cancer patient or have a history of breast cancer, you should consult with your doctor before drinking soy milk.
Pro: Soy Products Help Prevent Male Prostate Cancer
Men can definitely benefit from drinking soy milk. The phytoestrogen and antioxidants in soy products can lower the blood testosterone level and prevent cell mutation. Studies have shown that regular intake of soy can significantly reduce the risks of prostate cancer in men.
Con: Soy May Inhibit Male Fertility
One study in 2008 has linked soy intake with a decrease of sperm count. But this finding is argumentative because the population studied was only limited to overweight Caucasian men. The effect of soy on male reproduction is still debated.