5 Benefits of Soy for Menopause

Last updated 12.05.2023 | by Sabrina Johnson | 11 Minutes Read

This article has been reviewed and fact checked by Dr. Karen Pike, a senior physician administrator and board-certified emergency room doctor actively working in northern California. Read more at our medical disclaimer page.


Did you know that eating soy based foods or taking soy supplements can reduce the symptoms of menopause? And that’s not all; soy can also help to maintain bone density and reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis. 

So, it’s important to understand the hormone balancing effects of soy, and learn how this natural product could help you on your menopausal journey. 

I’ve met far too many women who were unaware of the benefits of consuming soy. So, after observing the positive impact it’s had on my own menopausal journey, and seeing so many others find relief, I’ve made it my mission to spread the word about the latest research surrounding soy and menopause. 

Are you looking for a gentle yet effective way to manage your menopause symptoms? Would you prefer to try a natural treatment plan before resorting to HRT? If so, you’ve come to the right place.

In this post, I’ll be discussing the benefits of soy and exploring how it could help make your menopausal transition easier.

Why is Soy Good for Menopause?

Soy is a rich source of isoflavones. Isoflavones are a type of phytoestrogen; a naturally occurring compound found in plants that mimics the role of estrogen produced by the body.

There are many different types of isoflavones, but the primary ones found in soy are genistein and daidzein. When these isoflavones reach the gut, the body’s natural bacteria break it down into a more active and bioavailable form. These isoflavones then bind to estrogen receptors and act in the same way that your body’s own estrogen would.

How Can Soy Help me During Menopause?

Most menopause symptoms are a result of diminishing levels of estrogen. So, consuming phytoestrogens, such as the ones found in soy, can help to alleviate those symptoms.

Statistics show that the traditional Japanese diet, which contains a large proportion of soy products, can have a big impact on how women experience menopause.

For example, only a quarter of Japanese women report hot flashes during menopause, compared to a whopping 75% of women in the US. So it’s clear that women in Japan are doing something right, and scientists believe that it could be their soy-rich diet.

Soy: An alternative to HRT?

A drop in the body’s levels of estrogen and progesterone are the driving force behind menopause symptoms. And so, many women turn to treatments such as hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to find relief. 

HRT can be a game changer for those who are struggling with debilitating symptoms, but it doesn’t come without a cost. This type of therapy does carry risks, which should be carefully considered and discussed with your doctor before initiating treatment. This type of therapy carries the risk of serious side effects and increases your chances of developing life-threatening conditions such as blood clots, stroke, heart disease, and cancer.

Many women are reluctant to take HRT. Instead, they look for more natural, safer alternatives to treat their menopause symptoms. Soy is one of these alternatives.

But while countless women have found relief by incorporating it into their diet, not everyone responds in the same way. For phytoestrogens to be converted by the body, they need to be broken down by enzymes, and not everyone carries the particular enzyme needed for this process. So, the only way to know if soy could help you on your menopausal journey is to try it out for yourself.

I personally found that soy helped to relieve the frequency and severity of most of my menopause symptoms. I’ve also seen countless others report the same results. However, I do know of women who have tried incorporating soy into their diets with little to no effect at all, and some of them instead opted to take HRT.

5 Benefits of Soy for Menopause

5 Benefits of Soy for Menopause

Soy has the potential to improve any symptom connected to declining estrogen. Here are five of the most well-documented benefits of soy that can help you on your journey through menopause.

1. Fewer hot flashes

Hot flashes are one of the most bothersome and commonly reported symptoms of menopause. However, studies show that a diet rich in soybeans can significantly reduce the frequency and severity of vasomotor symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats[1].

According to a 2012 meta-analysis, extracted or synthesized soybean isoflavone supplements reduce the severity of hot flashes by more than 25%.

These symptoms were certainly reduced when I started incorporating soy based foods into my diet. I noticed my hot flashes became shorter and less severe, and my night sweats (although not that bad to begin with) were eliminated almost entirely. 

2. Protection Against Heart Disease

Menopause is associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Diminishing levels of estrogen take their toll on cardiovascular health, but consuming foods rich in soy isoflavones may help to protect your heart against further damage.

According to a 2007 study of Japanese women between the ages of 40 and 59, consuming soy isoflavones was associated with a 65% lower risk of stroke and heart attack[2].

A 2003 meta-analysis of almost 65,000 Chinese women between the ages of 40 and 70 found similar results.

3. Improved Bone Health

Estrogen preserves bone health. But when our estrogen levels fall during menopause, these bone-strengthening benefits disappear. That’s why postmenopausal women are at a much higher risk of developing osteoporosis.

However, research indicates that soy protein helps to protect bones from further damage and reduces bone resorption[3].

Soy has also been found to increase calcium retention capacity in postmenopausal women, which also helps to keep bones healthy and strong.

4. Less Vaginal Dryness

A dip in estrogen can cause vaginal dryness and vaginal atrophy, and these common complaints can continue long after the menopause transition is complete.

However, the mild estrogenic effect of soy can increase natural lubrication without the need for pharmaceutical interventions such as hormone replacement therapy.

A reduction in vaginal dryness also leads to fewer symptoms of vaginal atrophy, as increased moisture helps to keep the vaginal tissues flexible and strong.

5. Better Mood And Cognitive Function

Estrogen helps to boost your mood. It also improves brain health and increases overall cognitive function. So, it stands to reason that when estrogen levels fall, so do these brain-boosting effects.

However, some studies show that soy isoflavones can mimic estrogen’s role in brain health, regulating moods and increasing cognitive ability in women[4]. This is another benefit of soy that I have personally noticed in my own menopausal journey.

How to Consume Soy During Menopause?

Soybeans are packed with menopause-friendly isoflavones, and soy-based foods are delicious and nutritious ways to incorporate them into your daily routine.

I love adding tofu and tempeh to stir-fries or salads for a filling protein boost. Miso, a traditional fermented soybean paste, is also a great way to flavor soups and stews. Plus, the fermentation process of miso also encourages the growth of healthy gut bacteria. Alternatively, you can opt for whole soybeans in the form of edamame, which works great in salads, stir-fries, or on their own as a snack.

Soy supplements are also an effective way to boost your intake of isoflavones and harness the benefits of phytoestrogens. In fact, research suggests that taking soy in supplement form is the most effective method to alleviate the symptoms of menopause.

How Much Soy Should I Take to Improve Menopause Symptoms?

Most studies suggest consuming 2 to 3 servings of soy-based foods each day. Examples of serving sizes are ½ cup (4oz) of tofu, ½ cup (4oz) of cooked edamame, or 1 cup (8oz) of soymilk.

For a more reliable and easy-to-measure approach, consider taking soy isoflavones in supplement form. According to The North American Menopause Society, most women should start with a daily dose of 50mg and build up from there if necessary.

The health benefits of soy take several weeks or even months to accumulate, so don’t give up if you don’t notice symptomatic relief straight away. It took me several weeks of taking supplements and adding soy into my diet to notice any positive changes, but when those changes did finally arrive, they were significant.

Also, it’s important to remember that everybody responds differently, and while some people find great success supplementing with soy isoflavones, they might not work for everyone. Plus, it can take time to find the right dosage.

Always speak to your doctor before starting any new supplement, as it may interfere with other medication you are taking.

Are There Any Side Effects of Soy?

Soy is generally considered a safe and gentle alternative to conventional therapies such as hormone replacement therapy (HRT). However, there are several precautions you should be aware of before incorporating soy products or supplements into your routine.

GMOs

Soy is a heavily genetically modified crop. If you’d prefer to avoid GMOs, opt for certified GMO-free and organic soy products instead.

Thyroid health

Excessive soy intake can interfere with the production of certain thyroid hormones. In rare cases, this could lead to hypothyroidism.

Phytates

Soy products contain a compound known as phytates. This antinutrient can block the body’s ability to absorb minerals such as iron, zinc, and calcium.

Reduction in Natural Estrogen

Consuming high levels of soy before menopause can reduce the body’s natural ability to produce estrogen. Before and during perimenopause (the build-up to menopause) the body is still making its own supply of estrogen. So, overconsumption of phytoestrogens found in soy can interfere with this production.

Digestive Upset

Some people find that consuming soy products leads to digestive issues such as constipation and diarrhea.

Interactions With Other Drugs

Soy can interact with drugs that contain hormones and certain types of antidepressants. If you’re already taking medication, always speak with your doctor before introducing soy products or supplements.

FAQs

Is soy better than HRT for alleviating the symptoms of menopause?

There is no one-size-fits-all option for treating the symptoms of menopause. The right treatment plan will depend on your symptoms, your medical history, and your personal preferences.
HRT is undoubtedly a fast-acting and effective treatment. It usually takes around three weeks for HRT to begin working. However, according to this 2015 study, soy isoflavones take upwards of three months to reach only half of their maximum effect[5].
That being said, soy is generally considered to be a much safer and gentler alternative to HRT, with little to no risk of side effects for most women.

What are some other health benefits of soy?

We know that soy can help to alleviate the symptoms of menopause. But that’s not the only health-boosting property this versatile bean holds.
Soy is low in calories and high in beneficial nutrients such as protein, fiber, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids. It’s also a rich source of B vitamins, including B12, B6, folate, and riboflavin, as well as potassium, zinc, magnesium, and calcium.

Are isoflavones found in any other foods?

Soybeans and soy products are some of the richest sources of isoflavones, but there are plenty of other foods that contain similarly high concentrations. Examples include lentils, pinto beans, split peas, and lima beans.

Conclusion

Menopause can be tough, and many women are looking for treatment options that can help to alleviate their symptoms. Hormone replacement therapy is a popular choice, as it’s fast-acting and extremely effective in reducing symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings.

However, recent research suggests that HRT carries significant risks, and it’s not suitable for everyone. Thankfully, soy-based foods and soy supplements can act similarly to HRT to mitigate the most troublesome symptoms of menopause.

While soy isn’t as powerful or fast-acting as HRT, it can still make a big difference to your quality of life. It certainly has done for me, and the same can be said for many of my readers. Plus, it’s generally considered to be a much gentler and safer alternative.

So, if you’re struggling with symptoms of menopause and you’re looking for a more natural treatment option, talk to your doctor about introducing soy-based foods or supplements into your routine.

Remember, soy can take time to build up in your system, so be patient and see what soy can do for you.

Author

  • Sabrina Johnson

    Meet Sabrina Johnson, a compassionate author and a seasoned expert in Obstetrics and Gynecology. She is a driving force behind Simply Menopause, where her extensive medical knowledge and empathetic nature come together to empower women in their menopausal journey. Sabrina offers culturally sensitive guidance and support through her approachable writing, making her a trusted friend on the path to menopause wellness.