The great soy debate

by - Sunday, May 02, 2010

It seems that there are just about as many opinions on the topic of soy consumption as there are foods that have soy ingredients. Because soy foods contain naturally occurring phytoestrogens (estrogen-like compounds), there is concern about how they affect human hormones and health. Some believe that soy is a healthy addition to our diet and that it can reduce the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, and some forms of cancer. Others eschew it because they are convinced that it increases the risk of serious diseases and contributes to infertility. There are, of course, extremely radical opinions (and hidden politics) at both ends of this debate that have left many of us confused and stuck in the middle.

So, should we eat soy or not? I will share my personal soy-eating philosophy, however, I do think that it is extremely important for everyone to do some reading on the topic and make their own educated decision as to how much (if any) soy that they wish to consume and feed their families. I will provide some resources at the end of this post.

My thoughts on eating soy can be summed up by the word "moderation". I am not convinced that soy is a miracle food nor do I buy into the radical warnings of crazy people claiming that soy is poison. I do know that there are silent politics at play here as well. For example, those in favor of soy foods often point their fingers at dairy producers as the source of the negative press. Those against, discredit the beneficial health claims as being marketing strategy. I don't believe that soy is miraculous or poisonous. I do believe that eating some soy is perfectly fine as long as we pay attention to a few important details. Here my guiding principles on choosing soy foods:

  1. Avoid packaged ready-to-eat foods as most contain highly-processed soy ingredients such as hydrolyzed vegetable (soy) protein, soy protein isolate, textured vegetable protein (TVP), lecithin, or simply "vegetable oil" which is often soy-based.
  2. When choosing soy foods, always go organic. Why? Did you know that science has allowed humans to create genetically modified (engineered) soy seeds that enable farmers to spray the plants with Roundup (yes, the weed killer that has been linked to cancer) killing only the weeds and leaving the soy plants unharmed?
  3. Stick to minimally processed soy foods and eat them only in moderation. Tempeh, miso, and tamari (like soy sauce) are particularly good choices because they are fermented foods and contain fewer phytoestrogens.
  4. Choose other protein sources before soy. As Cookie Monster now says of cookies, soy is a "sometimes food".

A note about these resources: These articles and studies all seem to show that soy is a positive addition to our diet. I chose to quote only well-known and reputable sources. I did not find any well-known and reputable sources that reported negative findings.

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  1. Thanks for your thoughtful comments! I was unaware of the silent politics, but am not surprised. I enjoy edamame.

  2. You have a great, balanced approach to soy which I totally agree with!

  3. I embrace both things: nature and supplements. I believe nature is the key, but I believe supplements can concentrate the goodness that is found in nature. I only use a protein supplement so don't take me as an extremist, but I have read enough about the ingredients in it to know that I am going to be using this for the rest of my life.
    PS: cool blog


Comments, questions, and suggestions are always welcome. I look forward to hearing from you!