Soy seems to be a headache for a lot of people as there are plenty of conflicting studies out there. Most recently soy has been ‘proven’ to hurt our health, mainly due to ‘high estrogen levels’. Soy also has the reputation of being a GMO food which adds to its bad reputation. But before drawing any conclusions, let’s have a look at what soy actually is and what is true about its reputation.
Soy is a bean/legume. It has been around in Asia as a staple food for thousands of year. You can use it to produce milk, cheese, tofu, tempeh, miso or you can just add it unprocessed to salads, stir fries and other dishes. When it comes to it’s nutritional value, soy is a superstar as it’s high in plant protein, contains all essential amino acids and it’s a great provider of fiber, vitamins (especially the B family as well as vitamin K for blood coagulation) and minerals such as zinc, magnesium and potassium.
The first myth around soy, is that it causes feminization in men. Soy does indeed contain isoflavones, which are plant estrogens (hormones). However, these isoflavones don’t cause feminization, they rather protect from breast as well as prostate cancer if they come under the form of whole or minimally processed soy foods. Such foods would be soy beans, edamame, tempeh, tofu, natto and miso. This is confirmed by various studies that have been done in the last couple of years by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, the British Journal of Nutrition and the American Journal of Clinical nutrition. The truth is also that soy has been associated with lowering LDL cholesterol as well as blood sugar levels. It also provides high amounts of vitamin K which is important for bone health.
Of course some people have allergies against soy and in that case, one should obviously abstain from eating the legume. Now I generally believe that it’s all about balance as I always say. A diet that is monotonous is never healthy and it’s not good to just eat one food. But demonizing soy does not make sense considering the truths about it. Go for organic non GMO soy, that is un- or lightly processed and mix it up with other types of legumes in a balanced plant based diet.