Is Soy Good Or Bad For You?

Dangers? Benefits? So much drama over a little bean!

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Thai Tofu Laab: tofu loaded with greens & herbs

In my post on Friday, I mentioned one of my current favourite cookbooks called Japanese Cooking: Contemporary and Traditional that features a fair amount of soy in its recipes – perhaps a bit controversial in some health-conscious circles. But unless you’ve been diagnosed with a soy allergy or intolerance, being anti-soy is unnecessary: soy is safe and has a number of notable health benefits.

Over-eating soy? Over-eating almost anything is going to catch up with you eventually, but the problem with soy arises when people eat too many processed soy products, not good quality foods containing whole-beans. The fact is that everyone – vegan and non-vegan alike – who eats processed food is eating some soy – it’s used as a filler and binder and protein element in so many foods, including most of the “meat” products on fast food “meatlovers” style pizzas! This is not just a veghead issue.

Organic and non-GMO can be important, depending on what part of the world you live in: north America grows an awful lot of dodgy soy intended to feed livestock, some of which ends up in the human food supply, whereas it’s extremely difficult to find any soy products in Australia that aren’t certified organic!

As far as the anti-soy hype goes: if it’s not peer-reviewed and backed by a comprehensive study – and somehow it never seems to be – forget about it. There are plenty of companies in the business of animal exploitation who can gain customers from building up the anti-bean drama. So! Here are some happyfuntimes soy links backed by peer-reviewed science-type love:

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Processed soy? A gajillion soy icecream flavours at Green Gourmet restaurant in Sydney, Australia

♥ “Based on the bulk of the evidence soy appears to be perfectly safe for nearly all healthy individuals when it is consumed in reasonable amounts. We would say that a reasonable amount of soy is two to three servings per day. ”
- Is It Safe to Eat Soy? by Virginia Messina, MPH, RD & Mark Messina, PhD

♥ “Now the largest study to date on soy’s effect on breast cancer suggests that eating soy, even in large amounts, may not be harmful after all, and may even reduce recurrence and death from the disease.”
- Study: Eating Soy Is Safe for Breast-Cancer Survivors by Alice Park, TIME Magazine

♥ “In addition to reducing the risk for breast cancer… soy also provides benefits for preventing prostate cancer, lowering LDL cholesterol, and improving menopausal symptoms. When you add up all the research on soy, there is no reason to think that two servings per day are harmful to most people, and good reason to think soy will provide some health benefits.”
- Soy: What’s the Harm? by Jack Norris, RD & its companion piece: Response to Not Soy Fast

♥ “From Dr. Andrew Weil: ‘There is no scientific data suggesting that soy consumption leads to mineral deficiency in humans.’ Fallon, Enig, and the other WAPF (Weston A. Price Foundation) writers have failed to provide any evidence at all for this claim.”
- Finally, The Truth About Soy by Leo Babauta., Zen Habits blog


A Varied Diet is ALWAYS Important

This is not just in relation to soy. Mix it up! 2-3 servings of soy a day is recommended by the dieticians above. Personally I don’t eat soy every day, but it’s up to you. I prefer raw almond and other nut milks in-general, and use rice or oat milk in hot drinks and baking. Like raw recipe guru Ani Phyo, I use soy sauce (Nama Shoyu, Bragg aminos, or tamari) and miso as condiments. I eat a serve or two tempeh or edamame most weeks, and tofu every other week. I’ll try foods that contain processed soy if I’m eating out or if I find a new vegan product at the stupormarket or health store, but it’s not a regular occurrence. In general, due to my preference for a high raw diet, I tend to eat (and drink!) lots of leafy greens instead of nomming on lots of legumes and beans.

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Miso salad dressing & Edamame

The best of soy: properly fermented soybean products such as tempeh, miso, and natto; edamame (green soy beans, usually steamed in a pod); fermented tofu.

The next best: organic GM-free tofu, organic soy milk made from whole beans (you’ll find something like “whole soy beans” as opposed to “soy protein” in the ingredients list). Malt-free/sugar-free soy milk can be great, but it’s probably not a taste sensation for vegan n00bs! Green soy milk made from young soy beans (edamame) does exist, but it’s hard to come by, and has a slightly “green” flavour.

If you still want other protein-laden food?

Alternatives to soy: Products made from beans, legumes, and nuts, and there are HEAPS to choose from: milks made from rice, oats, loads of different nuts and seeds (more below); cheeses made from nuts, seeds, other beans and chickpeas; “meat” made from gluten (if you’re in to that) – in Australia we get more gluten-free soy-meats imported from Asia than gluten-based seitan; “meat” made from processed mushrooms; all sorts of roasts and burger patties and whatnot made from lentils and other beans… Other beans? Yeah, just a few! Check out the extensive range of legumes, nuts, peas, and whathaveyou at Cook’s Thesaurus.

I’m not really into protein supplements – with a high-carb intake I don’t find it necessary, even when rockclimbing and breastfeeding – but lots of active and raw people like it. A couple of high-quality vegan protein supplements are:

Vega Sport Performance Protein: recommended by professional vegan bodybuilders (Robert Cheeke) and athletes (Brendan Brazier)! Vega also has a supersexy all-round multi-nutrient supplement powder in Vanilla Chai flavour to add to smoothies that I LOVE, even though I’m generally not a fan of supplements: nom nom!

Sun Warrior Protein – This one is raw as well, so if you’re not in to cooked, this one might be for you! You can also get pea and rice proteins from bulk bins at your local health shop or co-op if you’re looking for an alternative with a kinder pricetag.

Soy miso alternatives: barley (rich and dark), various rice grains, chickpeas, corn, azuki beans, amaranth, and quinoa.

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Varied noms: almond scramble (front) & tofu scramble (back)

Alternatives to soy milk: rice milk, almond milk, hemp milk, oat milk, coconut milk, Brazil nut milk, sesame milk, other nut and seed milks… The list of plant-based milks is ENDLESS. Seriously. If you’ve got a blender and some nuts and some clean water, you’re pretty much set: sweetener and vanilla extract and filtering-out-the-pulp: optional. But your average local stupormarket will have rice and oat milk and almond milk, at least, and your average health store will have more options, and your nearest Asian grocery store will have more options again, and possibly even a milk machine! Tribest Soyabella Soymilk Maker also makes milk from nuts and rice, as well as doing soups, pastes, porridge, grinding coffee, and making raw milk (30 seconds to nut milk!), and includes a food mill – useful stuff.

Read more about my milk machine and check out some photos, plus my raw Creamy Nut Milk recipe.


Do you care about how much soy you eat? Or what type of soy? Have you encountered any anti-soy drama personally? … Such a fascinating bean! Tell me about it: in the comments!


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  • Rocklobster2

    to the person who feels soy may lead to mineral deficiency, those people are probably allergice to FODMAPS.
    Jen

  • Jade Elise

    The problem with soy is not the phytoestrogens that everyone keeps on about, these can actually be beneficial and this aspect of soy is what is most reserached and found to be safe in peer reviewed studies. The problem is the toxins that need to be removed, ad in doing so a huge amount of aluminium is leached into the soy as it gets treated with acid and alkaline washes in aluminium vats to remove the toxins and precipitate the milk and/or curd. If you make your own soy milk, you are not removing the toxins. If you go wit processed soy, you are getting massive amounts of aluminium. Not worth it.

    • http://veganza.com Renée MBM

      Citations needed.

      “Toxins” – what toxins? What processing? Be more specific, please.

      Does this actually refer to bean digestion/polysaccharides?

      Citations!!1

  • Becky

    I have heard that only fermented soy is good for you because the fermentation rids it of all the toxins. As unfermented soy is very unhealthy and causes thyroid problems along with breast cancer and infertility in males.

    • http://veganza.com Renée MBM

      Citations needed. Heard where?

      Misinformation is spread this way. Read the links/citations in this article – they are accurate, peer-reviewed, and do not support this anti-soy hearsay. One of the links clearly suggests whole-soy can be a factor in preventing cancer: repeatable, provable evidence from peer-reviewed studies – read the links/citations in this article.

    • http://veganza.com Renée MBM

      If you’d rather some anecdotal evidence than science, look at Kris Carr from crazysexylife.com – she’s all about halting cancer and prevention.

  • C_henriques

    I have Stage 4 Endometriosis and soy is one of my trigger foods. I get really bad cramps whenever I eat it. And let’s face it, I hardly need the increased estrogen!