Hi! How was your weekend? I spent way too much time with Sheldon Cooper & Harvey Specter…not that either is a bad thing ;). Before I accidentally post Big Bang Theory or Suits spoilers, I’m going to swiftly switch topics to something I’ve been meaning to discuss for a while: soy! This post is long so you might want to grab a snack & get comfy.
As much as I love having a wealth of information at my fingertips, the internet also acts as a double-edged sword. Initially touted as the epitome of “health”, soy products like tofu & tempeh are now claimed to provide more harm than good. With all the gazillion contradictory studies surrounding its effects, determining whether to eat soy is confusing to say the least.
For starters, soy contain phytoestrogens called isoflavones, which mimic the female hormone estrogen. The estrogenic properties of soy have been known to carry various health benefits including a reduction of raised blood pressure levels, protection from various prostate diseases and a potential decline in the incidence of breast cancer. Also as a plant-based protein which is both complete and low in fat, it serves as a great alternative to various red meats and animal products. In fact if you look at the ingredient list of most protein bars/products (or packaged food in general), chances are you’ll see soy or soy lecithin listed. Due to its protein content, soy has also been said to provide protection against osteoporosis by increasing bone density.
On the other hand…
Some studies reveal that soy is terrible because it’s processed at very high temperatures that strip it of important enzymes our body needs to digest it. The processing methods used for soybeans are allegedly toxic to humans because they are acid-washed in aluminum tanks, which leaches amounts of aluminum into the beans and those levels remain high through processing and right into soy products. Moreover its phytoestrogens are also presented as both estrogen agonist & antagonists. While the same chemical can stimulate cells in the body that are sensitive to estrogen, it can also block the effects of estrogen. It can also stimulate hormonal imbalance due to estrogen dominance. As a result, the consumption of soy has been linked to breast cancer, infertility, thyroid diseases and irregular menstrual cycles.
All this controversial information only makes my head spin. While there is no definitive conclusion about soy, here’s my take:
Like with all health issues, it’s important to evaluate both sides of a debate and establish how it applies to individual circumstance. Up until recently, my consumption of soy was primarily in the form of soy milk (oatmeal/coffee/straight up out of the packet), tofu, processed meats (e.g. vegetarian sausages/burgers) & TVP (i.e. textured vegetable protein/ soy mince). Over the past few weeks, I have made a conscious effort to eat less of these products. I’m at point where I do not want to risk further hormonal imbalances, and cutting back on my soy consumption is a small price to pay. Sure it might mean eating less protein on some days but I just have to pick my battles. As of now, compromising on my protein intake is the lesser of 2 evils.
Along with my frequency of my consumption, I’m also a bit more cautious about the kinds of soy I eat- where possible I would rather stick with natural, unprocessed and fermented soy in their whole forms (e.g. miso, edamame, tempeh) over products that contain fractionated elements of soy. However, it’s unrealistic for me to swear off soy completely. I do enjoy tofu and will eat it occasionally, and I’m still adding soy milk to my coffee. If you’ve ever tried adding almond milk to hot drinks, you’ll know that it doesn’t go down well. As for sushi without soy sauce, that’s just blasphemy! Although soy is a hidden ingredient in many packaged foods, fortunately I don’t eat processed foods on a regular basis.
Of course my stance on soy may change in the future, and who knows what further data will be discovered years (or even months) down the line. And because I would love to hear your thoughts:
What’s your take on the soy debate?
Do you eat soy often? If so, in what form?