Dietitians Separate Good Food From Bad
Nutritionists solve five big food controversies.
“Stay away from soy,” my mother recently warned me. “It’ll increase your risk of breast cancer.”
As a 20-year survivor of the disease, I can see why my mom is on the lookout for cancer-causing foods. As I move into my 40s, the issue is certainly on my mind as well. I’m getting closer and closer to the age when she was diagnosed. But wait a second, I thought later on. Doesn’t soy decrease your chances of getting breast cancer? So I researched the health benefits of soy online and was left more confused than ever.
A study conducted by Dr. Motoki Iwasaki of the National Cancer Center in Tokyo found that women with the highest levels of soy-derived isoflavone (cancer-fighting antioxidants) had the lowest breast cancer rates. Counter those findings with a study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which suggested that purified soy supplements and foods may promote the growth of certain pre-existing breast cancers. As a lover of tofu stir-fry and crispy edamame in Japanese restaurants, I can’t make up my mind if I should keep eating these foods—or ban soy from my diet forever.
And it’s not just soy getting mixed reviews. How about red meat? It’s a great source of iron, but doesn’t too much of it raise the risk of colorectal cancer? Fish promotes heart health, but what about mercury risk? Red wine is also good for the heart, but there’s that significant link between alcohol consumption and liver disease and other health problems. We all love peanut butter. It’s an economical source of protein. And yet I wonder about consuming aflatoxins (a type of carcinogen found in several types of foods, including peanuts) whenever I spread my favorite brand on a piece of bread.
When I talked with nutrition experts respond that portion size, preparation and type or brand all play a part in choosing healthy and sensible options for each of these foods: