Health Benefits of Soy Nuts

Medically Reviewed by Christine Mikstas, RD, LD on February 22, 2024
4 min read

If you love nuts but are watching how many calories and fat you eat, soy nuts may be a good alternative. They aren't true nuts, but in some ways they are better. If you're worried about whether you should be eating soy at all, learn what experts have to say. 

Soy nuts are roasted soybeans, not true nuts. They look a lot like roasted peanuts, and both peanuts and soy nuts are legumes. Legumes are plants that have pods with multiple edible seeds. Tree nuts are single seeds surrounded by a hard shell. 

Soy nuts are mature soybeans, unlike edamame. Edamame are soybeans that are picked when they are green. Soy nuts are prepared by being soaked in water and baked until they turn brown. Soy nuts are often flavored. 

Besides eating soy nuts as snacks, you can add them to baked goods in place of nuts. They make a crunchy topping for salads. They can also be ground into a spread that is like peanut butter. You can buy soy butter in stores or make it at home.

Soybeans have many nutritional benefits, including: 

  • No cholesterol and low in saturated fat 
  • Good source of protein
  • Good source of polyunsaturated fats, which can lower cholesterol
  • Rich in omega-3s, which can lower the risk of heart disease
  • High in fiber, which helps lower cholesterol and helps the gastrointestinal system
  • A source of important micronutrients, including B vitamins, iron, and zinc
  • A source of antioxidants, which can slow down or prevent cell damage

Soy contains plant compounds called isoflavones or phytoestrogens (plant estrogens). These can affect the body like estrogen, but their effects are not as strong.

The phytoestrogens in soy can affect women differently depending on their current estrogen levels. Women who have not gone through menopause yet have a lot of estrogen circulating in their bodies. For these women, soy may act like an anti-estrogen. 

In postmenopausal women (women who’ve already gone through menopause), soy may act like estrogen. 

One of the most important questions about soy is whether its phytoestrogens might increase the risk of breast cancer. Although cell studies and animal studies have shown that phytoestrogens may cause a greater risk of breast cancer, human studies have not. In humans, eating soy seems to protect against breast cancer.

The phytoestrogens in soy may help postmenopausal women. In one trial, eating soy nuts reduced hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause. Earlier studies using isoflavone tablets found that women got little or no relief from their symptoms. 

A natural form of soy, like soy nuts, may be the best way to ease menopause symptoms.

Researchers wondered whether the phytoestrogens in soy could act like estrogen on men and children. An analysis of 32 studies showed that neither soy protein nor isoflavones affected male hormones. Eating soy products did not lower men's testosterone levels. 

Studies have shown that Asian men have a lower rate of prostate cancer. Researchers have looked at whether this lower rate could be from eating soy. An analysis of 30 studies showed a link between eating soy and a lower risk of prostate cancer. 

Fermented soy products, though, did not appear to provide the same protection as other soy foods.

One study looked at children who ate a soy protein formula for at least six months. It found that the soy did not affect the children's hormone levels. The female children did not go through premature puberty, and the male children did not have breast enlargement.

Although there have been many studies of soy foods, few have looked specifically at soy nuts. Because they are relatively unprocessed, soy nuts may be one of the best ways to eat soy. You can also buy the isoflavones found in soy in tablet form, but there's little proof that supplementing with isoflavones is helpful. 

Here are some of the health benefits of soy:

Lower cholesterol.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) suggests that diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol and that include soy can reduce risk of heart disease.. The FDA recommends eating 25 grams of soy, or about a 1/4 cup a day.

Better mental function. Several studies have shown that eating soy may slow age-related cognitive decline (a decline in mental function). The results have been mixed, however, and one study showed that men who ate large amounts of soy had increased cognitive decline.

Higher bone density. An analysis of ten studies showed that the isoflavones found in soy slowed bone loss in menopausal women.