Soy is something that is becoming more and more present in our food supply. Whether it be the increasing number of vegetarian “meats”, soy derivatives in processed food, or even people drinking soy milk instead of dairy. Some people think it is a “health food”, others think it will cause cancer, hormone disruption or nutrient deficiencies… so where does the truth lie? Here is my two cents:
Soy is safe to consume if you pick the appropriate soy foods.
But let me explain some of the common statements and misconceptions.
- Soy contains oestrogen – this is false. Soy contains phytoestrogens, which are plant chemicals that can exert oestrogenic activity. Phytoestrogens are not structurally identical (or even that similar) to the oestrogen produced within the body, but they are able to compete with oestrogen for the receptor. So what does this mean? Will guys grow man boobs from consuming soy? Nope… you have to have the receptors to begin with, and in men they are there but limited. Will women disrupt their hormones and unbalance their cycle? Maybe if you consume excessive amounts of soy, but otherwise the oestrogen produced by the body will compete more strongly for the receptor, and will continue to exert an effect.
- Soy is genetically modified – this sadly is often true. The health consequences of consuming genetically modified foods are largely unknown… so until they are known, I just don’t go there. Frankenstein food has no place on my plate or in my body. However, by consuming organically grown soybean products you are reducing your exposure to genetically modified soy.
- Soy causes cancer – this is debatable… Due to the ability to exert an oestrogenic effect, then for any oestrogen dependent cancer I would err on the side of caution, and avoid or limit your soy consumption.
- Soy is a health food – this is also debatable. I would say loud YES for some types of soy, and a definite NO for others. Confusing? I thought so… so here is a cheat sheet for you:
- Organic tofu
- Organic soy milk made from the WHOLE soybean
Consume NEVER (or at least very rarely):
- Soy protein isolate
- Soy “meats”
- Soy “cheese”
- Processed soy milk
- Soy infant formula – a big no no for babies
As with all my food philosophies, if it is as close as possible to the natural state then eat it. If it isn’t, or has had chemical processes involved before it gets to you, then don’t.
So what about the soy latte? Well, if you choose to drink coffee from a cafe then you have to pick which is the lesser of two evils for you – dairy vs soy. If the cafe you go to uses an organic whole soybean milk (like Bonsoy) then go with that, if they are using a more commercial brand that has been highly processed then you will have to make a decision based on how each option makes you feel. Or try a long black! Change is as good as a holiday they say