The 411 On Soy
I love tofu. I can make it taste like anything and everything I could ever want. When I hit the Whole Foods Salad Bar, I can’t pass up the opportunity to try at least one of their many tofu delights. I consider tofu one of my guilty pleasures. But… why should it even have to be a guilty pleasure?
There’s oodles of confusing information out there on the topic of soy. While some recommend it as a wise vegan alternative to meat, others swear that it increases the risks for thyroid disease, breast cancer and disruption of hormones. The reason why soy gets a breast-cancer causing rap? Mice. And mice we are not. Various studies on soy’s estrogen boosting properties were all done on mice with no ovaries and damaged immune systems. These mice were all consuming highly processed, GMO-laden soy, not quality fermented, organic soy. In fact, any human x soy studies done have shown a reduced breast cancer risk, or no effect at all! So... what’s the real deal?
It seems that the effects of soy on the human thyroid aren’t as significant as we may think. A study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that soy only poses a threat on the thyroid when there’s a fundamental deficiency in iodine, which is not common (so don’t fret!). If you are at all concerned about iodine levels, try supplementing your diet with seaweed or sea vegetables, which boast large amounts of the mineral along with other amazing nutrients. But I digress.
What it all boils down to: soy quality, soy type, soy frequency and soy reaction.
You must pay extra attention to where your soy products are coming from. Almost all soy is genetically modified. Yuck. Therefore, it is critical that all your tofu, tempeh, miso, and edamame are all organic. Also keep in mind, that an organic label does not does not guarantee the product to be GMO-free. Soy is one of the highest pesticide contaminated foods out there, along with corn. Consider it on the dirty-dozen list.
Organic, non-GMO soy foods actually come bearing benefits when consumed in moderation. They’re filled with antioxidants, protein, essential omega-3 fatty acids and phytoestrogens. The protein and omega-3s are especially important for heart health, as they keep those arteries clear and cholesterol levels low.
Use your Sakaralite instincts and eat soy as close to its natural form as possible. Avoid the faux chicken nuggets, soydogs, soy ice cream and soy cheese that contain processed soy and mile-long chemicals that should never put in your body.
Something to consider: the soy fermentation process makes nutrients bio-available by destroying toxins present in the beans to support healthy gut bacteria. As we now know, most soybeans are genetically modified, therefore are made to be "roundup ready". "Roundup" is an active ingredient, also known as glyphosate, that's found in many GMO-infused foods. It has been linked to disruption of cellular function, leading to many modern diseases such as autism, immune-system breakdown, cognitive decline, infertility, and heart disease. The best and only way to avoid this, is by eating that high quality fermented, organic non-GMO soy. Soy that has been properly fermented is digestion and nutrient assimilation ready!
Tempeh and miso are excellent fermented soy options. Tempeh is made from fermented whole soybeans that are bound into a cake-like form. Miso is a thick paste made from fermented soybeans and barley or rice malt.
Again, moderation is key! With all of the conflicting information that is out there, it is wise to limit your soy intake. Aim to have it 1-3 times per week.
Unfortunately highly refined “soy products” slip into almost every groecer’s shelf in order to cut down costs. These products are cheaper for a reason. Soy protein isolate, soy protein concentrate, and textured vegetable protein are among the top contenders. These “soy products” are often extracted from hexane, a neurotoxic chemical solvent byproduct of gasoline refining. Sounds… scary. Check out this guide to steer clear from certain products next time you shop.
How do you feel after eating soy products? Do you find them difficult to digest? Sometimes people find it easier to handle soy in certain forms than others. For instance, my body loves miso and tempeh (so much), but once I eat tofu, I am almost guaranteed a stomach ache. On the other hand, my bff feels sick every time she has tempeh, and tofu makes her come alive. It all depends on your constitution, and what just feels right.
Likewise, many people have no trouble digesting the plant-protein source in any form. If this is you, then dive right in. This is when listening to your body becomes incredibly important. You know what you should be eating better than anyone else. Your body will tell you what it wants based on how you feel after eating certain foods. Make an effort to stay present while eating, and take note of any uncomfortable feelings. You will know right away if soy is the one for you.
At the end of the day, what we do know is that eating an abundance of fruits and vegetables is less controversial and always makes us feel like a million bucks. Eat clean, eat whole.