Soy milk, soy sauce, soy protein, soy cheese, soy yoghurt, tofu…soy has become one of the most diversified and debated “foods” there is. So let me clarify things. Read on to find out the truth about soy, TNN style.
Most of the soy we consume in developed countries is highly processed, and an extremely unhealthy and unnecessary inclusion. Here’s just a few reasons why you should say no to processed soy:
- High levels of phytoestrogen. In short, this creates an estrogenic (high estrogen) environment and as a result, lowers natural testosterone levels. Common symptoms include body fat accumulation, lowered libido and increased risks of infertility and cancer. No thank you.
- High levels of goitrogens. These are compounds that inhibit the thyroid’s ability to utilize iodine efficiently and may lead to hypothyroid issues. Have I convinced you yet?
- Sugar. Soy dairy alternatives in particular, can often be packed full of sugar. Sugar is highly inflammatory, the number one cause of chronic disease. Short term, you’ll get an insulin spike, which creates the potential for incessant hunger, mood swings, poor food choices, and ultimately, fat gain.
- Artificial ingredients. Have you read the label of what you’re consuming? There is nothing natural about that “soy ice cream” or “non dairy frozen dessert” in your freezer. In addition, it should go without saying to avoid meal replacements and energy bars all together, but in particular, please steer clear of “soy protein isolate” and “texturized vegetable protein”. Your number goal should always be to just eat real food.
- Genetically modified (GM): In the US and Canada in particular, almost all soy that is not labelled organic has been genetically manipulated. We have different regulations in Australia, but that unfortunately doesn’t mean you’re not consuming GM foods without realising. This article gives a good summary of the status of GM foods in Australia. Please also consider the negative agricultural and environmental impact of such farming practices.
But what do I eat then? I hear you ask. Start with these four soy alternatives and you will not only be improving your health, but also conserving the environment.
- Nut milk: delicious in coffee, tea, smoothies, quinoa porridge, and almost anywhere you’re currently consuming soy milk (or cow’s milk for that matter. More on that here). My favourite brand is Pure Harvest CocoQuench and it’s great to see cafes starting to offer it on their menu!
- Coconut Ice Cream: CoYo is dairy free, soy free and refined sugar free, but it literally costs $15/tub. My Super Easy Coconut Ice Cream on the other hand, will cost you $5. And the even better news? You need just five ingredients and no ice cream machine!
- Coconut aminos: a fantastic soy free alternative to soy sauce and tamari, you can pick some up from your local health food store. I love to use mine in a stir fry or cauliflower fried rice.
- Chickpea tempeh: legumes aren’t what I consider a staple food (stay tuned for a blog post, coming soon), but in small doses they offer variety and additional protein, which is particularly important for those following a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle.
The exception to the rule: traditional or fermented soy foods such as tempeh or miso do often nutritional benefits but please choose organic and keep your intake to a minimum. When you find a research study that supports the health benefits of soy, please keep your perspective and first investigate who funded the study, and if in fact the results have been manipulated across to processed soy products.
Have you quit soy? What is your favourite alternative? Share below!
Messina M. (2010). A brief historical overview of the past two decades of soy and isoflavone research. Journal of Nutrition, 140(7), 1350S–4S.
Strom BL et al. (2001). Exposure to soy-based formula in infancy and endocrinological and reproductive outcomes in young adulthood. Journal of the American Medical Association. 286(7), 807–14.
Persky VW et al. (2002). Effect of soy protein on endogenous hormones in postmenopausal women. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 75(1), 145–53.
Ward H et al. (2010). Breast, colorectal, and prostate cancer risk in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition-Norfolk in relation to phytoestrogen intake derived from an improved database. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 91(2), 440-8.