Harvard Heart Letter

Heart Beat: Soy it ain't so!

Heart Beat

Soy it ain't so!

Tofu, tempeh, edamame, soy milk, and other foods made from soybeans don't lower cholesterol as advertised. But eating them is still good for the heart and blood vessels.

Back in 1999, the FDA let companies claim that foods containing soy protein "may reduce the risk of heart disease." The claim was based on early research showing that soy protein lowered levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol. A number of solid studies done since then have tempered this finding. Eating about 50 grams of soy each day (more than half the average person's protein requirement) lowers LDL only about 3%, according to a comprehensive update of soy research by the American Heart Association's nutrition committee, published in the February 21, 2006 Circulation.

But don't toss out your tofu, says the committee. Even though soy foods have little effect on cholesterol, they are good for the heart and blood vessels because they usually replace less healthful choices, like red meat, and because they deliver plenty of polyunsaturated fat, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and are low in saturated fat.

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