There are a lot of issues surrounding soy cultivation, such as:
- Soy being used to feed animals food they weren’t designed to eat in the first place
- Genetically modified crops grown for abundance instead of nutritional value and immunity protection
- The mass industrialized production that clears rainforests and disrupts the lives of native people and their land
The ethics of eating soy can be complicated, okay? Let’s pretend we’re only eating non-GMO soy grown to be eaten by people only and on diverse land that benefits the people of that land. Then and only then can we move onto a more empowering topic: Eating choices and their effects on our health.
What are the benefits of including soy in my diet?
Well, take soybeans for instance.
They are a great source of protein, trytophan (a precursor to serotonin, the feel good chemical involved in mood, sleep and appetite regulation), and Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3′s (and the ratio between Omega-3 and Omega-6) is so important to our health that people will take fish oil (ick) just to get them!
Healthful sources of soy can be found in various foods including edamame, tofu, Tempeh, and soy milk, all of which serve as vegetarian alternatives to those who avoid animal products or want to eat less of them.
But I heard soy is a hormone disruptor?
The answer to this question is easy: Yes, soy activates an estrogen receptor that can “counteract many of the cancer-causing activities” (Is Soy Safe?). This means, contrary to popular science, soy can actually prevent cancer in healthy individuals.
There is more to consider in individuals with compromised health. The research is divided as to whether or not it is safe to consume soy once cancerous cells have developed. Further, those with thyroid issues need to be careful about the way soy interacts with iodine and the popular medication, Synthroid.
Is soy a good source of vitamins and minerals?
Yes and no.
Soy contains phytates — which can also be found in health celebrities such as almonds and brown rice — and are said to interfere with the absorption of calcium, magnesium, zinc and iron. Live Fit Guy gives a generous breakdown on phytates here.
Calcium-fortified soy such as tofu and soy milk are good sources of calcium; iron, too, is absorbed despite the presence of phytates. More research on phytates is necessary to end this discord. In the meantime, a healthful diet can not be achieved by relying on a single source for any one nutrient.
Why is tofu white?
Soybeans children are green; adult soybeans range from white to brown.
What is this Tempeh thing you mentioned?
The easiest way to understand Tempeh (pronounced “temp-aye”) is to consider it the cheese of soy. Tempeh is made by fermenting partially cooked soybeans with a starter fungus (similar to the way Swiss cheese is made) with or without a whole grain or bean. Like many fermented foods, Tempeh has a sour/strong taste. This can be minimized by steaming Tempeh before cooking.
The texture is an awesome crumbly, slightly crunchy whole bean cake that can be ground like taco meat, sliced for sandwiches, or cubed for stir-fry. Fermented foods are really good for you if you can adjust to the taste!
What about Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP), soy protein powders and other processed soy products?
Just say no. Really. These are examples of taking a perfectly natural health food and butchering it until it barely resembles its original self. Same goes for packaged, frozen, fake meat alternatives that contain tofu. Why does anyone even eat those? Why would you want to convince yourself you were eating someone you were consciously choosing not to eat? Just eat the real thing!