Is soy good for my heart?

Soybeans and products made from soy, including tofu, soy milk, edamame (green soybeans in the pod) and soy crumbles (textured vegetable protein) provide high-quality, plant-based protein that can replace meat products high in saturated fat.
Soy is also the only significant source of two isoflavones, a type of flavonoid (an antioxidant), that act as phyto-estrogens, or plant-based estrogens. This may explain why populations that consume large amounts of soy, such as in Southeast Asia, have lower rates of coronary heart disease.
Phyto-estrogens are structurally similar to estrogen and provide protection against heart disease by binding to estrogen receptors. Soy has been shown to lower cholesterol, decrease the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, which helps prevent atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), and increase vasodilation (relaxation) of the blood vessels.
The research is compelling enough that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a health claim for soy in 1999. Foods that contain 6.25 grams of soy protein per serving are allowed to use this statement on the packaging: 
"25 grams of soy protein a day, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease. A serving of [name of food] supplies __ grams of soy protein."
Try these easy ways to incorporate soy products into your eating plan to lower your risk of heart disease:
  • Drink soy milk and use it in place of cow's milk on cereal, in baking, and so on.
  • Substitute frozen soy crumbles instead of meat in spaghetti sauce, chili or tacos.
  • Stir-fry tofu cut into cubes with a mix of vegetables, ginger and onion; serve with brown rice.
  • Steam edamame (green soybeans in the pod) and pop the beans out into your mouth, throwing away the pod.
  • Replace about one-fourth to one-half cup of all-purpose flour with soy flour in baked goods.
Mary A. McLaughlin, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)

Soy may not directly lower LDL, or ‘bad’, cholesterol as previously thought; however it can still be a beneficial component to a heart-healthy diet. Soy can be used as a source of protein in place of foods high in saturated fats. Additionally soy is high in polyunsaturated fats, fiber, vitamins and minerals. By replacing animal protein with soy you may reduce your carbohydrate and fat intake. Make sure to check the label of any packaged soy foods to stay within healthy limits of sodium.

Toby Smithson
Nutrition & Dietetics

Soyfoods are low in saturated fat and high in polyunsaturated fat, provide omega 3 fatty acids therefore they can reduce cholesterol levels by as much as 4 percent when they replace high saturated fat protein sources found in the average American diet. Each 1 percent reduction in cholesterol lowers heart disease risk by 2 percent so soyfoods can help to lower risk of heart disease. Additionally, soyfoods contain isoflavones which may improve the health of arteries.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Soy is good for your heart. One study suggests that eating foods that contain isoflavones (like soy products) every day may help young adults, particularly African Americans, lower their blood pressure. It is thought that the isoflavones work by encouraging your body to produce nitric oxide, which helps to dilate blood vessels and reduce the pressure created by blood against the vessel walls.
Whole soy foods contain high levels of healthy protein and fiber. Fiber helps to reduce bad cholesterol. Plus, soy is a much better source of protein for your heart than animal-derived foods that are rich in saturated fats.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.