I recently met a blogger friend, Tommy, who started Switch2Veggies. Tommy has recently taken up a vegetarian lifestyle and his website covers a broad range of topics concerning vegetarianism and veganism, including recommended reading. He stays very current on vegetarian topics, but I especially appreciate his focus on nutrition.
Vegetarians are often criticized for consuming too much soy, and while there are many myths against soy consumption, there is some truth in the claims. Tommy at Switch2Veggies wrote an article for rabbitfoodrocks sharing his take on soy consumption. Enjoy!
Got Soy? by Tommy @ Switch2Veggies
Your guide to how much and which soy products to eat
This is not a dilemma for only those who need an alternative to dairy, but for all looking to eat healthy. The specific problem with soy is that the mystery is deep--hidden in history and behind fancy marketing due to greed and politics. So, after expediting my own mission to uncover the truth, this is what I’ve found.
Soybeans contain two compounds that could specifically affect your health: proteins and isoflavones.
Vegetarians have been advised to eat soy because its amino acid count is similar to that of meat--and it is considered a complete protein. Therefore, abounding amounts of people on plant-based diets are reaching for soy milk, tofu, and other soy meats. But, out of the two main categories of soy, fermented and unfermented, the latter is considerably bad for you.
Unfermented soy products, such as the ones I list above, can affect different people in different ways; but, it has the ability to lower the immune system, promote kidney stones, and contribute to thyroid disorders. Unfermented soy goods are also high in isoflavones, which can act like estrogen in the body. This can be particularly concerning for women as extra estrogen in the system can contribute to breast cancer and other degenerative diseases. Additionally, unfermented soy is genetically modified, which can lead to even more degenerative diseases.
On the other hand, fermented soy products, such as tempah, miso, and soy sauce, can be beneficial. They have properties that are helpful for the body--like the assimilation of foods and nutrients--because the phytic acid inherently in soy is neutralized in the fermentation process.
Overall, the issues of soy products can be quite polarized. Soy even has an interesting history, in that its popularization was never intended by farmers. At first, it was soy oil that was sought after. And then, once the oil was pressed, protein residue remained. So, when there was about 80 billion pounds or so of this protein laying around, a business idea developed to make a profit from this residue. Many manufacturers sold it to farmers to feed their animals, but the animals could only eat so much of it--leaving the rest to human consumption.
So, do I trust a product that is largely an after thought in the interests of profit? I may not.
When considering how to get your protein on a plant-based diet, consider that fact that most Americans are consuming more protein than they need. Check out this article on The Protein Myth for more.
In choosing an alternative to diary, I have been going with almond milk. It has a better initial taste than soy and lacks a bad aftertaste--which is a whole other issue with soy. Soy milk often adds additional (and potentially harmful) ingredients to the mix to mask its bean-y taste. And although almond milks lack the protein of soy milk, I get my protein from other sources, such as sprouted bread and pastas, peanut butter, beans, and vegetables. Overall, when making soy product decisions, I try to keep things grouped into fermented and unfermented--and only choose the fermented goods.
With soy being advertised as a great health food, how can we know what to do? The best defense we have against misleading marketing is questioning everything. While this may be a pain, in the end, we, as consumers, will be better educated, healthier, and be able to begin to weed out the bad products as we continue to learn and inform each other.
Thanks for reading.
Thank you, Tommy, for submitting this wonderful article!