A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Is there a link between soy and cancer risk?

Tofu stir fry in a bowl

Soy, like tofu, can be healthfully included in a healthy lifestyle.

Some say soy consumption increases risk of breast cancer. The thought is that soy contains isoflavones, plant estrogens, which would negatively impact risk for hormone-based breast cancers.

Research says otherwise.

In fact, a 2017 breast cancer study shows women with breast cancer who ate the most soy (from food, not supplements) were 21 percent less likely to die from any cause within 9.5 years of diagnosis.

“Plant estrogens from soy only have a mild estrogen-like effect in the body. Like most foods, soy can be healthfully included in a healthy lifestyle,” said Paula McIntyre, a Marshfield Clinic registered dietitian.

Benefits of soy

Soy foods are excellent sources of protein. They are rich in calcium, iron and selenium. Edamame and soy nuts also are great sources of fiber.

One serving of soy is:

  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 1/2 cup cooked edamame
  • 1/3 cup soy nuts
  • 1/2 cup firm tofu

Consuming three servings of soy per day has been shown to decrease heart disease risk.

“It’s important to remember that an all-around healthy lifestyle is needed to decrease risk of cancer and heart disease. Though this can include soy, it really means eating an adequate number of fruit and vegetable servings per day, exercising regularly, following a heart-healthy diet and not smoking,” McIntyre said.

Numerous studies suggest soy also may decrease frequency of hot flashes during menopause.

Try this recipe

New to the soy trend? Try this tasty stir fry recipe for a sample of soy, extra firm tofu.

Tofu Stir Fry

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 35 minutes

Servings: 6


  • 1 pound extra firm tofu, drained and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1/4 cup lite sesame ginger salad dressing
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 (8-ounce) package sliced mushrooms
  • 4 scallions (white and green parts), thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Asian hot sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Splenda Brown Sugar Blend
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

Serve suggestion: Serve over brown rice or in lettuce cups.


Mix tofu and sesame ginger salad dressing in a bowl and marinate for 30 minutes.

Once the tofu is done marinating, remove it from the marinade and reserve the marinade.

Add sesame oil and cooking spray to a wok or large sauté pan over high heat. Add tofu and stir fry for 7-8 minutes, or until the tofu is golden brown.

Add broccoli and mushrooms, and stir fry for 3-4 minutes. Add in scallions, almonds and stir fry for an additional 2 minutes.

In a bowl or cup, whisk together vegetable broth, cornstarch, soy sauce, hot sauce, Splenda Brown Sugar Blend and garlic. Whisk in the reserved sesame ginger dressing marinade. Pour the mixture over the tofu and bring to a boil.

Reduce to a simmer and simmer for 5 minutes.

Serve over brown rice or in lettuce cups.

Nutrition information

Each serving has approximately: 125 calories; 11g carbohydrates; 9g protein; 6g fat; 0.6g saturated fat; 5g sugars; 2g dietary fiber; 300mg sodium; 395mg potassium.

Source: American Diabetes Association

Download stir fry recipe
  1. Jul 6, 2017
  2. Jul 6, 2017
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