Thursday, October 11, 2012

What About Soy?

I was recently asked if I have any concerns about soy (thanks for your comment, Teri!), so I thought I'd answer here so everyone will see it. I use tofu and tempeh in some of my recipes, partly because they're great "transitional" foods for new vegans, and also because tofu is a good egg replacer. We don't actually eat all that much soy in our house, and what we do buy is always organic and non-GMO.

There's a lot of controversy about soy, but according to what I've recently read in Main Street Vegan, by Victoria Moran, the science shows us that it's actually a safe and healthy food, unless of course you're allergic to it. Soybeans contain phytoestrogens (phyto means plant), which do not build up in our bodies. Instead they actually block the absorption of some of the estrogen our bodies make naturally, and by attaching to estrogen receptors in our bodies, they take up the space that other foreign "xenoestrogens" (from pesticides, herbicides, and plastics) would like to occupy. Studies are now suggesting that soy foods can actually help us resist estrogen-dependent cancers.

Asian populations who traditionally eat moderate amounts of soy have lower cancer rates than we do in the US. Maybe it's the soy, and maybe it's the minimal amount of animal products they consume. Keep in mind too, that a plant-based diet is the best way to avoid cancer, as well as so many other "common" western society ailments, like obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, osteoporosis, and Alzheimer's. Kicking the animal products out of our diets does far more than worrying about a little bit of soy here and there.

Of course soy isn't necessary to a healthy plant-based diet, so if you're not comfortable with it, don't eat it. My feeling is that a moderate serving of soy, a couple of times a week is probably safe, and most likely a good idea. These foods are, however, still technically "processed," so I usually reserve them for "treats." I prefer to make most of our meals with vegetables and fruits, whole grains, legumes, and nuts and seeds.

I hope this helps clear up some of the soy mystery. Maybe we should start doing Tofu Tuesday!

PS - I came across an excellent article by Leo Babauta, defending soy. I think it's a must-read if you're at all uncertain.


Texan Zombie Goddess said...

Soy is a life-saver for us. My middle daughter was lactose intolerant as an infant, which we only found out after starting her on soy-based infant formula due to the constant projectile vomiting (yeah, TMI...sorry). She recently started having problems, so we switched her back to soy milk, and all is right with the world again. This post is probably was off course of what you were talking about (I can do that...surprising, eh?), but soy is definitely our friend :).


Kim Miles said...

No, good comment! I just learned that all mammals are wired to become lactose intolerant at the age of weaning. At that point we stop producing lactase, the enzyme that digests lactose. While many of us are able to adapt to other species milk, we aren't meant to at all. Lactose intolerance is really not a bad thing, but a normal thing. Every species of mammal knows this except humans. And we think we're so smart!

Celeste Kemmerer said...

I like tofu and don't have a problem with using it in my cooking, but I have yet to come across a recipe for tempeh that I actually like. Tempeh tastes nasty to me, no matter how I cook it...and the texture doesn't do much for me either. So how can I make tempeh taste good?

Teri said...

Thanks for the reply and the links, I will read them. I has my breast surgery in 1987, so I am sure a lot of research has been done since I was told to avoid soy. I will do more research.

Kim Miles said...

Celeste, I'll see about something good with tempeh for you. I find its best to steam it for about 15 minutes before doing anything else with it. It's good marinated and grilled or baked, and super yummy braised with a nice sauce. Thanks for asking for this. Recipes soon!

Anonymous said...

The main phytoestrogen in soy is called genistein and it's 1000-fold less potent that the estrogen made in our bodies. I don't worry about this risk, since I get exposed to lots of other things on a daily basis that aren't the best (car pollution, southern blazing sunshine, etc).