Could the Humble Soybean Cure Hot Flashes?
A recent study, just published in the journal Menopause, says yes, so long as they're cooked and eaten in combination with a low-fat, vegan diet.
Look, I love to dig into the occasional steak, too, but a recent study in this month’s Menopause gave me a nano-pause. Allow me to quickly summarize.
Scientists had noticed that in countries such as Japan, China, and rural Mexico, where grains, legumes, vegetables, and other plant-derived foods were dietary staples, women in menopause were hardly ever complaining of hot flashes prior to the 1980s. In fact, only 15% of women seemed to be suffering from them back then. But then, as those countries adopted a more Westernized diet between the 1980s and the early aughts, reports of hot flashes in those regions increased to 40%.
So here’s what those scientists did with that simple observation. They asked menopausal women here in the U.S., all of whom were experiencing at least two hot flashes a day—raise your hands, ladies, I see you—to either eat a low-fat vegan diet with cooked soybeans or to continue eating whatever crap they’d been eating. Then they gave all of the middle-aged women a mobile app to record their hot flashes. (You’d think they might have given them a fan, too, but no. Just the app.)
The rules of those eating the plant-based, soybean-rich diet were simple: participants were told to go ahead and live their lives as usual but to avoid all animal-derived foods; to minimize use of oils and fatty foods such as nuts and avocados (bummer, I love both of those, and they’re good for brain health); and to consume a daily does of 1/2 cup of cooked, whole, non-GMO modified soybeans, which were provided to them. They were also loaned pressure cookers to cook their soybeans. (I love my Instant Pot, by the way. Makes perfect rice and steel cut oatmeal every time. But I sound like an adand digress.)
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The results of this study were nothing short of astounding. In the intervention group—those eating the cooked soybeans and no meat—moderate-to-severe hot flashes decreased by a whopping 88%. Moreover, after just twelve weeks of soybean consumption, 50% of those in the intervention group reported no moderate-to-severe hot flashes at all. As in zero. Zilch. Nada. No hot flashes whatsoever.
But wait, it gets better. Not only did this vegan + cooked soybean diet show “a marked reduction in postmenopausal vasomotor events”—vasomotor events is the fancy phrase for hot flashes—it also led to “significant weight loss and reductions in physical and sexual symptoms.” Meaning, not only did these women stop having hot flashes, they also had better sex and dropped a pants size or two.
All this to say, who needs a fan? Pass the edamame!
I’m not an ad. No one paid me to say this. I mean, I wish they did, but they did not. I just love my Instant Pot. (Hello, head of Instant Pot PR! Happy to be your menopausal influencer! Feel free to reach out.)
Soy is also a great food for anyone worrying about heart disease. It's very good for the endothelium--the inner lining of the blood vessels. And I think I read in a book about avoiding or dealing with heart disease that it had that effect on hot flashes (although I'm not positive that I'm remembering correctly on that).