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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Natural Companions--Children and Soy

We want to do our best for our children and often this is just as difficult as it is to do for ourselves amidst all the conflicting information.  "A growing child needs meat." "Humans don't need meat at all." "Tofu doesn't have the nutrients kids need." Etc., etc. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) performed several years ago looked at the most common soy foods that children and adolescents eat--namely soy burgers, soy-based energy bars, and soy milk. In an article published in, Reed Mangels, PhD, RD, LDN reports that in 2011 ". . . 37% of Americans reported that they consume soy foods or soy beverages at least once per month in comparison to approximately 32% in 2006." He goes on to assume that if the adults are eating these amounts, it's very likely that they are serving their children soy products as well.

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So let's take a look at some of the other points Dr. Mangels makes in his article devoted to issues related to children and soy. Apparently the phytic acid and protein in soy can inhibit zinc and iron in children. Now at first glance that seems like a good case for skipping the soy and giving your child just meat, which happens to be an excellent provider of zinc and iron. But that's not actually the case. "Iron bioavailability from soy may be higher than expected, however, the majority of iron in soy is in the form of ferritin which appears to be highly bioavailable."And over time 'partial' substitution of soy for meat did not appear to compromise iron absorption at all. And don't forget that although meat is truly high in protein, iron, etc., it is also high in fat--and not the good kind like the one found in nuts, avocados, olive oil, etc.

Soy protein has repeatedly been shown to be a major benefit when it comes to fighting dangerous cholesterol levels--not just in adults, but in children as well--promoting healthy levels of HDL (where we want to see the numbers high), LDL (where we want to see the numbers low), and triglyceride levels (where low figures are also what we're after). Many adults are under the impression is a concern only in later years, but is not the case, particularly in families where cholesterol issues are genetic.

Here's a statistic to take note of: "Soy intake during childhood and adolescence is associated with as much as a 60% lower risk of breast cancer later in life."In fact, Mangels goes on to say that this positive effect of eating soy as children appears to be even stronger than eating it as an adult, but that studies still need to confirm this.

Soy products are allowed in the National School Lunch Program and the USDA has approved the substitution of soy-based beverages that meet specified nutrient level.

Read more: Soy Can Supply Key Nutrients to Children and Adolescents

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