Soy and Your Health

It seems as though there are new soy foods added to the market every day. It’s hard to know which ones we should be adding to our diet and if we should be adding them at all.

I have recently received many questions and/or concerns about soy safety. They include:

I’ve heard soy can cause thyroid problems.

Is soy safe for cancer survivors?

Has soy been shown to cause breast cancer?

I’m approaching menopause and am having horrible hot flashes. My doctor told me to drink soy milk , does it help?

Soy products have recently enjoyed increasing popularity. Soy products include soybeans (also called edamame) and any other items made from soybeans, including soymilk, tofu, tempeh, miso, and vegetarian meat and dairy substitutes like soy meats and soy cheeses. Like most other plant foods, the most healthful choices are those that are minimally processed so they retain all of their original nutrients. Soy foods contain compounds called isoflavones, phytochemicals found to behave like the sex hormone estrogen. But because soy products are so widely consumed, some people have raised the question as to whether they are safe. Let’s take a look at what medical studies show:

Thyroid Health
Clinical studies show that soy products do not cause hypothyroidism. However, soy isoflavones may take up some of the iodine that the body would normally use to make thyroid hormone. The same is true of fiber supplements and some medications. In theory, then, people who consume soy might need slightly more iodine in their diets. (Iodine is found in many plant foods, and especially in seaweed and iodized salt.) Soy products can also reduce the absorption of medicines used to treat hypothyroidism. People who use these medicines should check with their health care providers to see if their doses need to be adjusted.

Other concerns include whether soy has a negative effect on reproductive health. However, studies in both men and women have shown that soy did not hinder reproduction.

Male Hormones
Soy products have no adverse effects on men and may help prevent cancer in men. A study published in Fertility and Sterility, based on more than 50 treatment groups, showed that neither soy products nor supplements that contained soy isoflavones affect testosterone levels in men.

Breast Cancer
Studies have shown that Asian women who have consumed traditional soy products since childhood or adolescence have significantly lower rates of breast cancer. There have also been some conflicting studies on the breast cancer preventing effects of soy. Overall, however, large reviews of studies (called meta-analyses) show that soy consumption either has a beneficial impact on breast cancer development, or no impact, but it does not pose a risk.

Treatment of Menopausal Symptoms
Studies on the benefits of soy isoflavones on various menopausal related symptoms have shown generally favorable improvements in hot flashes.

Evidence to date indicates that soy products do not adversely affect fertility, may reduce the risk of breast cancer and breast cancer recurrence. They do not appear to have adverse effects on the thyroid gland, but may reduce the absorption of thyroid medications. The benefits of soy products appear to relate to traditional soy products, not to concentrated soy proteins.

Eat only organic, non-GMO, traditional soy foods, particularly fermented forms (organic fermented miso, tempeh and Nama Shoyu), as a small part of an overall healthy, plant-based diet.

Eat soy, in moderation, as a small part of an overall healthy, plant-based diet. Soy should only be a complement to your diet, not a mainstay. I generally recommend a maximum of 2-3 servings/week.

Soy Allergy
Soy is a common food allergen. If you are allergic – or even sensitive (you have digestive or other symptoms after you eat it) — avoid it, or work with your primary doctor to see if an elimination diet with later re-introduction is a possibility. Organic, non-GMO soy may be less allergenic.

The Bottom Line

Many people enjoy eating soy products, the key, is balance. While it is possible that there are those who gain substantial health benefits from soy, there may be others who do not. So, if consuming soy worries you, don’t eat it. But remember, many plant-based foods contain similar phytoestrogens.

The best possible suggestion is always to listen to what your body is telling you.


Meatless Monday: Italian Stuffed Zucchini Boats

Are you looking for a new mouth-watering Meatless Monday meal idea? Look no further than these Italian Stuffed Zucchini Boats! And the best part? They’re absolutely delicious and so easy to make! For a super low-carb meal, just eat these alone or include some roasted veggies over a salad made up of your favorite fresh greens! This is a dish that is sure to please your family and friends.

Italian Stuffed Zucchini Boats
Makes 2 to 4 servings

2 medium zucchini
2 garlic cloves
1 medium tomato, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh mushrooms, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup vegan grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise. Scoop out the pulp and seeds, leaving a 1/4-inch-thick shell (use a small spoon for this). Chop up the pulp from the zucchini. 20140728-063827-23907144.jpgCombine the zucchini pulp, garlic, tomato, mushrooms, basil, oregano, crushed red pepper flakes, olive oil and 1/2 cup of the vegan Parmesan cheese in a medium bowl. Divide the mixture among the zucchini shells.

Place the stuffed zucchini in a 13-inch-by-9-inch baking dish and cover with foil. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the zucchini is tender.

Bake uncovered for 5 minutes more. Top with the fresh basil. Enjoy!

20140728-064032-24032861.jpgRecipe adapted from The Comfort of Cooking


The Health Benefits of Laughter

Have you ever experienced that exhausted feeling after a good laugh? You know, the one where your side hurts, your eyes water, you can hardly catch your breath and your body’s totally spent. The type of laugh that feels like you’ve just finished working out at the gym. 20140723-063823-23903318.jpg
Laughter Triggers Healthy Physical Changes in the Body

Laughter has a powerful effect on health and well-being. Laughter and exercise may have more in common than you think — most notably, both can boost your health. Sure, you know about the infinite benefits of an active lifestyle, but did you know that laughter can support the immune system, improve blood pressure, stimulate the organs and reduce pain?

Many studies have been done to investigate the benefits of laughter and researchers have found amazing results. 20140723-064007-24007457.jpg
1. Laughing lowers blood pressure
People who lower their blood pressure, even those who start at normal levels, will reduce their risk of strokes and heart attacks. So grab the Sunday paper, flip to the funny pages and enjoy your laughter medicine.

2. Reduces stress hormone levels
You benefit from reducing the level of stress hormones your body produces because hormone-level reduction simultaneously cuts the anxiety and stress impacting your body. Additionally, the reduction of stress hormones in your body may result in higher immune system performance. Just think: Laughing along as a co-worker tells a funny joke can relieve some of the day’s stress and help you reap the health benefits of laughter.

3. Fun ab workout
One of the benefits of laughter is that it can help you tone your abs. When you are laughing, the muscles in your stomach expand and contract, similar to when you intentionally exercise your abs. Meanwhile, the muscles you are not using to laugh are getting an opportunity to relax. Add laughter to your ab routine and make getting a toned tummy more enjoyable.

4. Improves cardiac health
Laughter is a great cardio workout, especially for those who are incapable of doing other physical activity due to injury or illness. It gets your heart pumping and burns a similar amount of calories per hour as walking at a slow to moderate pace. So, laugh your heart into health.

5. Boosts T cells
T cells are specialized immune system cells just waiting in your body for activation. When you laugh, you activate T cells that immediately begin to help you fight off sickness. Next time you feel a cold coming on, add chuckling to your illness prevention plan.

6. Triggers the release of endorphins
Endorphins are the body’s natural pain killers. By laughing, you can release endorphins, which can help ease chronic pain and make you feel good all over.

7. Produces a general sense of well-being
Laughter can increase your overall sense of well-being. Doctors have found that people who have a positive outlook on life tend to fight diseases better than people who tend to be more negative. So smile, laugh and live longer!

Learn more at: www.mayoclinic.org


Meatless Monday: Spaghetti & Beetballs

Today’s Meatless Monday recipe is Spaghetti & Beetballs! I absolutely love beets.

Ingredient Spotlight: Beets

Beets are high in immune-boosting vitamin C, fiber, and essential minerals like potassium (essential for healthy nerve and muscle function) and manganese (which is good for your bones, liver, kidneys, and pancreas). So, whether you roast them whole, blend into a recipe, or drink them as a juice (like the Olympians do), beets are low in fat, full of vitamins and minerals and packed with powerful antioxidants!

Now for today’s recipe….

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

Yield: 30 meatballs (or 6 patties)
Vegan, gluten free, soy free, refined sugar free

3.5 cups shredded beets (about 3 beets)
1 onion, diced
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup of fresh parsley, finely minced
1 tsp Himalayan sea salt
1/2 tsp fennel (optional)
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp oregano
¼ tsp liquid smoke (optional)
1 1/2 cups brown rice flour (or any other flour)
1 Tbsp oil plus more for sautéing

The Ground Beet!
Combine all ingredients except flour in a large bowl. Blend in food processor (or Vitamix) until very smooth (puréed).

Add flour (1/2 cup at a time) until the mixture is thick enough to form into balls or patties – it will get more stable after it cooks, it just needs to be firm enough to maintain its shape while you cook it.

Use a tablespoon to shape the mixture into small balls. Sauté in oil, in a skillet (I prefer cast iron) over medium high heat until evenly browned on all sides and heated throughout. You could also
bake them in a oven preheated to 350F degrees about 30-35 minutes.

Serve immediately over the pasta and spaghetti sauce of your choice. Voilà, spaghetti and beetballs!


You can also shape the mixture into patties (makes 6) and pan fry or grill, just like a burger.


Do You Have a Heat Rash?

Heat rash, also known as prickly heat and miliaria, isn’t just for babies. Though it’s common in infants, heat rash can affect adults, too, especially during hot, humid weather.

What is heat rash?
Heat rash is a skin irritation that stings and makes your skin red. If you have heat rash, your skin may feel itchy, small bumps may form, and you may feel some “prickly,” tingling pain.

Heat rash occurs most often in hot, humid weather. If you sweat too much, sweat can get trapped under your skin and block your sweat glands. If your pores cannot clear out the sweat, you may get a rash.

Where is heat rash most likely to appear?20140716-084058-31258625.jpg
Adults usually develop heat rash in folds of skin and wherever clothing causes friction. Adult heat rash is most likely to appear in the following places:

Underneath the breasts
Elbows (in the creases)

What causes heat rash?
Although heat rashes are most common in newborns and infants, they can also affect adults. It is usually triggered by sweating too much, having a high body temperature, being overdressed or being in a very warm environment. Babies who are bundled in too much clothing and people who are not used to hot weather are most likely to get heat rash.

How can I treat heat rash?
The most effective treatment for heat rash is to keep your skin cool and dry.

Cool down. Avoid hot and humid places. If possible, stay in air-conditioned areas, or use fans to circulate the air. Use cool compresses to bring down the temperature of the affected skin.

Dry off. Keep the irritated skin dry. Use a fan to dry the skin off faster and to reduce sweating.

Reduce friction. Wear loose clothes to prevent irritation caused by clothing that rubs against the skin.

Treat fever. If you have a fever, treat it with an over-the-counter drug, like acetaminophen (brand name: Tylenol) or ibuprofen (some brand names: Advil, Motrin), according to the directions on the package.

There are several topical treatment options available to ease the irritation. Applying calamine lotion on the affected area can help relieve itching and burning. Aloe vera gel is another good way to soothe heat rash, but keep in mind that too much of these or any other lotions or ointments can further exacerbate the rash by maintaining moisture.

If your rash is severe, your doctor may prescribe a lotion to help relieve your pain or discomfort.

When should I go to the doctor?
In most cases, heat rash goes away on its own. If your heat rash doesn’t go away after 3 or 4 days, or if it seems to be getting worse, talk to your doctor. In some cases, heat rash may be caused by an infection. See your doctor if your itchiness is severe or if the rash area swells or oozes pus. If you feel dizzy, nauseous, or confused, or you have trouble breathing, go to the emergency room right away. These symptoms can be signs of serious heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion or heatstroke.

How can I prevent heat rash?
In hot weather, dress yourself or your baby in lightweight cotton clothing. Cotton helps absorb moisture to keep it off of your skin.

If the weather is hot, turn on the air conditioner, or use a fan to help you stay cool and dry.

Learn more at FamilyDoctor.org


Meatless Monday: Vegetable Lasagna Wontons

Lasagna in a muffin tin? Yes, it’s possible! Instead of lasagna noodles, wonton wrappers are used. Wonton wrappers, tofu ricotta, (vegan) mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce, zucchini and mushrooms are made into cute yet delicious vegetarian friendly cupcakes. Perfect for lunch, dinner, or parties!

Vegetable Lasagna Wontons
Servings: 12

24 vegan wonton wrappers (Gluten-Free Paleo Wraps)
1 cup pasta sauce or spaghetti sauce
1/4 cup of your favorite vegan cheese
(I prefer Go Veggie! Mozzarella Flavor cheese shreds).

Vegetable Filling
2 ounces shiitake mushrooms, washed and thinly sliced
2-3 baby zucchini, peeled, washed and sliced crosswise
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon vegetable oil

Tofu Ricotta
8 ounces firm tofu with water squeezed out and crumbled
10 fresh basil leaves, finely cut
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste

To make the vegetable filling, heat a wok or sauté pan to hot. Add the oil and swirl to coat. Add the garlic and sauté for a few seconds, add the zucchini and cook for a minute or so then add the mushrooms and cook for another minute until the vegetables are tender. Place in a bowl and set aside.

Next, make the tofu ricotta. Crumble about 3/4 of the tofu in a bowl, add the basil, olive oil, nutmeg, garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a food processor and pulse until smooth but still slightly lumpy. Crumble in the remaining 1/4 tofu, mix to combine and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

1. Lightly coat a 12 cup muffin pan with oil or cooking spray. Layer a wonton wrapper in each cup, gently pressing down on the bottom and up the sides of the cup.

2. Divide the tofu ricotta in half. Using the first half, distribute evenly on top of each wrapper. Layer the vegetables next using the same distribution method. Top with the tomato sauce then cheese.

3. Place a wonton wrapper on top but going in the opposite direction. Repeat the layers of the ricotta, vegetables, sauce and finally the cheese on the very top.

Bake for 10 – 15 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the edges of the wonton wrappers are golden brown. Let cool in the pan for a few minutes before serving.

The best thing about this recipe is that it is highly adaptable. Use any filling and any sauce you like (spinach, cannellini beans, Alfredo sauce) as long as you stick to the assembly instructions and bake time, they’ll turn out fine!

Recipe adapted from The Chow Vegan.


Tips for Preventing Heat-Related Illness


Summer heat can be dangerous – even deadly – if you don’t take the proper precautions. We all like to have fun and be active outside, but sometimes we can get caught up in our work outs without putting safety first. It is important to be aware of the risks associated with heat and to know how to stay safe in summer weather. Find out how to properly prepare for and protect yourself and your loved ones from soaring temperatures.

Below are some tips to help you keep cool and safe when the temperatures heat up:

Drink more fluids (nonalcoholic), regardless of your activity level. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.
*Warning: If your doctor generally limits the amount of fluid you drink or has you on water pills, ask him how much you should drink while the weather is hot.

Don’t drink liquids that contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar–these actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also, avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps.20140709-072354-26634138.jpg

Stay indoors and, if at all possible, stay in an air-conditioned place. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to the shopping mall or public library–even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat. Call your local health department to see if there are any heat-relief shelters in your area.

Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90s, fans will not prevent heat-related illness. Taking a cool shower or bath, or moving to an air-conditioned place is a much better way to cool off.

Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.

NEVER leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle.

Although any one at any time can suffer from heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others. Check regularly on:
Infants and young children
People aged 65 or older
People who have a mental illness
Those who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure

Visit older adults at risk at least twice a day and closely watch them for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Infants and young children, of course, need much more frequent watching.

If you must be out in the heat:
Limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours.

20140709-140845-50925419.jpgCut down on exercise. If you must exercise, drink two to four glasses of cool, nonalcoholic fluids each hour. A sports beverage can replace the salt and minerals you lose in sweat. *Warning: If you are on a low-salt diet, talk with your doctor before drinking a sports beverage. Remember the warning in the first “tip” (above), too.

Try to rest often in shady areas.

Protect yourself from the sun by
wearing a wide-brimmed hat (also keeps you cooler) and sunglasses and by putting on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher (the most effective products say “broad spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection” on their labels).

Your best defense against heat-related illness is prevention. Staying cool and making simple changes in your fluid intake, activities, and clothing during hot weather can help you remain safe and healthy.

This information provided by National Centers for Environmental Health’s (NCEH) Health Studies Branch.