In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review

Soy: The 'super-food' that wasn't

By Harvard Health Letters

An update on the soy story and its various subplots might help clear up some confusion and provide some guidance on where this standard-bearer of dietary virtue might fit into today's ideas about healthful eating | The onetime health food champion is an excellent source of protein but it hasn't lived up to its earlier billing.

These days, the notion of a separate category of health foods seems out of date. Those stores with the bulk bins and organic produce are increasingly overshadowed by upscale chains like Whole Foods. And at many regular supermarkets, the crunchy, good-for-you foods aren't as severely segregated into their own separate aisle or section. In fact, food and beverage companies are spending millions trying to persuade us that pretty much all of their products are healthful choices.

Maybe that's why seeing soy in headlines seems like such a throwback. For a long time, soybean-based beverages and foods like soy milk and tofu epitomized health foods: vegetarian, rich in protein, maybe responsible for the lower rates of heart disease and cancer in China and Japan. That many Americans had to acquire a taste for soy made it seem even healthier in that eat-your-peas way.

But there have also been some nagging doubts about soy. Early research suggested soy protein was "heart healthy" because it could lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, but subsequent studies and judgments have dampened that enthusiasm. The results for soy protein have been so unimpressive that the American Heart Association has asked the FDA to rescind its 1999 decision that allowed food companies to label soy products as having heart disease-reducing benefits.

There have also been worries that the estrogen-like chemicals in soy, called isoflavones, might promote the growth of estrogen-sensitive cells and therefore increase the chance of breast cancer recurrence. Study results reported in 2009 in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) may allay that concern to some extent but probably won't get rid of it entirely.

With soy back in the news, now seems like a good time to revisit the soy story and its various subplots. An update might help clear up some confusion and provide some guidance on where this standard-bearer of dietary virtue might fit into today's ideas about healthful eating.


Soy is short for soybean. According to Harold McGee's outstanding book, "On Food and Cooking," soybeans were domesticated in northern China more than 3,000 years ago. As Buddhism and its vegetarian doctrine spread in Asia, so did the cultivation and consumption of soybeans, although they didn't reach the West till the 19th century.

Soybeans are nutritional powerhouses because they contain twice the amount of protein and more oil (healthy unsaturated fat) than other beans, but very little starch. Soybeans are the only plant food that could serve as a person's sole source of protein because they contain all eight essential amino acids. But the relative lack of starch means cooking soybeans doesn't soften them up as much as it does other beans.

Soybeans also have a strong -- too strong for many people -- "beany" flavor that comes in part from the fat content breaking down into smaller pieces. According to McGee, the Chinese and others developed soy milk, which is the watery residue of cooked soybeans, and tofu, which is curdled soy milk, as a way to get around these problems and make soybeans more palatable.


Phytoestrogens are estrogen-like compounds found in plants. The phyto-prefix comes from phyton, the Greek word for leaf. The isoflavones in soybeans are just one of several classes of phytoestrogens. Although phytoestrogens are chemically similar to estrogen and behave like the hormone in some respects, they are far weaker. (Men don't need to worry about feminizing effects from eating soy-based foods.)


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The two main types of isoflavones in soybeans are daidzein and genistein. They can be isolated from soy; that's why you can buy isoflavone capsules. But daidzein and genistein are integral parts of soy, so if you drink soy milk or eat tofu or any other kind of food made from soy, you're probably getting some isoflavones, along with the protein and other nutrients.

Soy flour and soybean oil are used to make a lot of different kinds of food, so there are many "hidden" sources of isoflavones in the diet, in addition to the foods that obviously are made from soybeans. For example, doughnuts made with some soy flour may contain a small amount of isoflavones. And black licorice candy contains formononetin, a compound that gets metabolized into daidzein.


If high protein content was the only notable attribute of soybeans, they'd be just another, if slightly better, bean. It's their isoflavone (pronounced eye-so-FLAY-vone) content that makes them stand out nutritionally. Isoflavones are structurally similar to estrogen, the female hormone, so the thinking has been that eating a soy-rich diet might have some of the same consequences as an increase in estrogen levels.

If soy has estrogenic effects, it might be good for the bones, the heart, even the brain -- and in men as well as women. Indeed, the notion that a soy-rich diet might make up for a deficit in estrogen is the reason some older women drink soy milk and eat tofu. The hope is that the isoflavones will counteract the drop-off in estrogen levels that causes menopausal symptoms like hot flashes and vaginal dryness.

But how soy and its isoflavones behave in the body is complicated. In some parts -- such as bone, it seems -- isoflavones mimic estrogen, occupying the same receptors and therefore having a similar, if weaker, effect. If soy's isoflavones impersonate estrogen in bone, that's a good thing, because estrogen protects against bone loss by inhibiting osteoclasts, cells that break down bone, and stimulating osteoblasts, cells that build it up. But in other parts of the body -- the breast, for example -- the estrogen-like effects of isoflavones might mean extra cell growth and division and an increase in the risk of a cancer developing.

What makes soy even harder to figure out is that isoflavones can also have anti-estrogen effects. For example, isoflavones may dock on receptors that the hormone would otherwise occupy and activate, thereby competing with and thwarting estrogen's effects. Isoflavones may also suppress estrogen levels by inhibiting enzymes involved in the hormone's production. Whether soy has these anti-estrogen effects or estrogen-like ones may hinge on how much of the hormone is present to begin with. And soy may have some effects beyond estrogen's purview, such as inhibiting the growth of blood vessels that can supply cancer.

All of these ins and outs -- and others not mentioned here -- have made it very difficult to pin down the health effects of soy and its isoflavones. Literally thousands of studies have been done. Soy and isoflavones may be one of the most-researched topics in all of nutrition. The abundance of research is a mixed blessing: it's easy to get lost in a maze of inconsistency and nuance. Even so, a few generalizations can be made.

The following is a brief overview of some of the research on soy and isoflavones:


Studies of colon, lung, prostate, and ovarian cancer suggest that soy does have anticancer properties. The caveat is that many of these results are from case-control studies, which aren't the most reliable type of study. The relationship between soy and breast cancer has been difficult to sort out. Several important studies failed to show any kind of protective effect, but studies conducted in Asia have. It could be that any benefit is related to consumption in childhood and early adult life.

Some researchers have speculated that a certain amount of soy may need to be consumed before breast cancer protection kicks in. How much? The threshold might be 10 milligrams of isoflavones a day, which could be achieved -- and then some -- by consuming a standard, 80-gram serving of tofu every day.

Worries about soy promoting breast cancer recurrence came mainly from animal and other experiments. The previously mentioned JAMA study included about 5,000 women in Shanghai who were followed for about four years after they had been diagnosed with breast cancer. During that period, women with high soy intake were about 30 percent less likely to get breast cancer again than those with low intake, which, quite remarkably, is roughly about the same risk reduction seen when women take the drug tamoxifen to prevent a recurrence of breast cancer. High intake in this study meant about 15 grams of soy protein a day, which is a sizable but not completely unrealistic amount. Two servings of tofu supply about 15 grams of protein, as do two cups of soy milk.


Soy's career as a health food got a big boost in 1995 when a meta-analysis published in The New England Journal of Medicine concluded that consuming 47 grams of soy protein a day lowered LDL by 13 percent. When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a "heart health" claim for soy protein several years later, it was pegged to consumption of 25 grams a day. Not surprisingly, that amount of soy protein yields a smaller decrease in LDL levels. Moreover, 25 grams of soy protein -- the amount contained in three and a half cups of soy milk, or a large scoop of soy protein powder -- is a lot of soy for most American appetites.

But what if consuming soy meant losing weight? The low-carbohydrate, high-protein "Eco-Atkins" diet replaces animal protein with plant-based sources, including soy. A small study published in 2009 found that people lost weight (about 9 pounds) on the Eco-Atkins and lowered their LDL and blood pressure.


Interest in soy as a natural alternative to hormone therapy pills (estrogen alone or estrogen and progestin) started to increase after a large, government-sponsored trial showed that the pills increased the risk of developing breast cancer and, under certain circumstances, the risk of blood clots, heart attack, and strokes.

In 2009, researchers at Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, Maryland) reported the results of a randomized trial that compared daily consumption of 20 grams of soy protein containing 160 milligrams of isoflavones to 20 grams of milk protein. The women who consumed the soy protein scored higher on quality of life measures related to menopause. The government-sponsored Soy Phytoestrogens As Replacement Estrogen (SPARE) study may provide more definitive evidence. Enrollment in the study is complete, but findings haven't been reported yet.


Several short-term studies (six months or less) showed that soy-rich diets might combat the bone loss that affects many women after menopause because of a dip in estrogen levels. But in 2009 and 2010, results from larger and longer randomized trials didn't show much, if any, bone benefit from soy or isoflavone tablets.


In 2000, a study linked tofu consumption in middle age to poor cognition in older age. The research results since have meandered between showing brain benefits and not. But as for harm, there doesn't seem to any reason to worry, the tofu study notwithstanding.


Some studies have hinted at soy isoflavones reducing thyroid hormone levels. But it's now clear that people with normal thyroid function who aren't taking thyroid medicine don't have to worry about soy suppressing their thyroid levels. A handful of case reports have indicated that soy might interfere with the absorption of thyroid medicine. The greatest concern is with babies born with thyroid problems who are given thyroid medication shortly after consuming soy-based infant formula. Still, the general recommendation is that people on thyroid hormone replacement therapy who have a lot of soy in their diet should consume soy at least two hours after they take thyroid hormone.


Because of its reputation as a health food, soy seems to look at us reprovingly. Tofu wags its finger and says, hey, you really should be eating more of me.

But soy has emerged from the thousands of studies a bit humbled. The claim that it's especially good for the heart and lowering LDL cholesterol now looks like it was overblown. As brain food, it's just another "well, maybe" among many others, and some studies have cast doubt on whether it's good for bone. The research into whether the isoflavones in soy will help alleviate menopausal symptoms is a work in progress. A bright spot is the number of studies suggesting that a soy-rich diet could be protective against some kinds of cancer, but one must be careful about making too much out of them.

On the other hand, soy is an excellent source of protein, which is important to vegetarians and vegans who need plant-based protein. And, yes, there are many nutritionally valid reasons to steer our eating in a vegetarian direction. But it now looks like soy is just another food choice, and there are many perfectly good ways to maintain a healthful diet without it. - Harvard Health Letter

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