Believe it, I’m really daring to delve into the argument about soy. It’s a controversial topic these days, especially in the plant-based community, and there are many opinions on this mysterious bean – some good, some bad, and some really ugly. But don’t throw out your soy yogurt or tofu just yet! With a little extra education you can make your own mind up as to wether soy should be a part of your diet, or not. I certainly include it in mine on a daily basis (I couldn’t imagine my cereal without a good helping of soy!). In fact, organic, non-GMO soy foods can actually provide many benefits when eaten in moderation.
What types of soy are the best, and how much should we be eating?
I choose to consume a variety of minimally processed soy foods, including edamame, tempeh, tofu, miso and soy milk, all of which I consume 3-4 times a week with the exception of soy milk which I consume daily. Each of these foods are rich in nutrients, protein, antioxidants and omega 3 fatty acids, though almost all soy is genetically modified. For this reason, I almost always buy organic and search for non-GMO on the label. It’s also wise to look for stamps of approval since organic doest always guarantee 100% GMO-free food.
Eating soy products as nature intended (or as close as possible) can be extremely beneficial to our health in many ways. Soy is essential to a vegans health as protein and soy also provides omega-3s which are important for heart health. Whole soy foods are also easier to digest and taste a whole lot better than their processed cousins and the microflora in the fermented soy products such as miso and tempeh are your tummy’s BFF.
It’s best to keep processed soy products like faux chicken nuggets, soy hot dogs, burgers and meats to a minimum as they are not only processed but contain a heaping list of additives and preservatives as well. While these foods won’t kill you, they certainly aren’t the healthiest so shouldn’t become a dietary staple. Some people find them helpful when transitioning from a standard diet to a vegan/ diet which is fine! But the closer to nature you can eat, the better you’ll feel.
There have been horror stories and rumours in the plant based community stating that eating soy increases your risk of certain cancers such as prostate cancer and breast cancer, but the opposite is more likely. Recent research has shown that lung cancer patients that eat soy products have a better survival rate than those who have eaten less soy or no soy at all. Men who consume soy products have also been found to have a reduced risk of prostate cancer….and then theres the most commonly mistaken relationship between soy and boobs.
Studies show that women who regularly consume phytoestrogen and protein rich soy foods have a decreased risk of breast cancer. Soy potentially plays a protective role that may be due to its isoflavones (plant oestrogen’s) that may block some of the bodes oestrogen activity. It could also be the result of various phytochemicals in soybeans. To get the maximum effect of soys protection, studies have shown that healthy soy foods should be eaten during teens and adolescence, but thats not saying we should go crazy. Remember, quality and quantity always matter.
I don’t like soy – are there any alternatives?
While soy products can be a healthy part of your diet, if you are allergic (which is common), feel bloated after consuming soy or need to avoid soy for any other reasons, its not a crucial part of a vegan diet and can be eliminated without compromising your health. You can replace soy milks with almond, hazelnut, macadamia, rice and oat milks and plant protein and essential fatty acids can be found in a variety of beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, quino and whole grains. Remember to always check labels if you do have allergies.
While soy can be a convenient and healthy part of your diet, know that if you’re allergic (soy allergies are quite common), feel congested after eating it or need to avoid soy for other reasons, it’s not an essential part of a plant-based diet and can be eliminated without compromising your health. As I mentioned earlier, plant protein and essential fatty acids are found in a variety of beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, quinoa and whole grains. Soy-free milk, cheese and meat alternatives are widely available today. Be a label detective and choose products with a short list of ingredients you can pronounce. I opt for a variety of nut, seed and grain-based alternatives, such as almond milk, hemp milk, flax milk, nut cheese and grain products.
Wether or nor you decide to include soy products in your diet is your personal decision, but you can now make a much more qualified decision know you have these facts and a bunch of research under your belt.
Whats your take on soy? Do you include it in your diet?