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Val's Thoughts On: Soy

Often while teaching a cooking class I get asked if soy food is good for you? I believe there is a lot of misleading information that causes many people to become confused. When considering what foods are good for us and what may not be, I look to history. If a food has been eaten for a long time, and with no problems, we can know it is safe for us to eat. Such is the case with soy. Five thousand year old texts describe soybeans as being one of the most important crops grown. Miso, fermented soybeans, has been eaten since 2,500 years ago in China. And tempeh has been eaten for centuries in Indonesia. If there was something wrong with this food, it would have been discovered a long time ago.

Soybeans have many anticancer properties:

  • Genistein may stop the spread of some forms of cancer at an early stage
  • Protease Inhibitors, universal anti-carcinogen and may block the action of cancer
    causing enzymes
  • Phytic acids, inhibit growth of tumors

Soybeans have easily absorbable iron, many B vitamins, carotin, support
detoxification, promote vitality and feed and nurture the lungs and large intestines. Soybeans made into tofu are high in calcium. When made into tempeh it is 19.5% protein. Containing all eight essential amino acids, it is a complete protein. When made into miso it has 11 g. of complete protein in 1 T. And by fermenting it to make the miso, the healing properties are enhanced. Miso is a living food containing lactobacillus, a healthful micro organism that aids in digestion. There are so many wonderful health benefits from soy foods, I can see why we have been eating it for thousands of years.

I feel there is a lot of confusion about the plant based phyto-estrogen, isoflavones in soybeans. This part of the bean does not disrupt your estrogen levels, it balances them. If you are too low, it raises them, it you are too high it lowers them. These isoflavones also have been credited with slowing the effects of osteoporosis, relieving some side effects of menopause, and alleviating some side effects of cancer. Not to mention it has been shown to dramatically lower the undesirable L.D.L. cholesterol. It is interesting that in China, where they eat soybean products such as tofu, tempeh, and miso everyday, that until recently they did not have a word in their language for hot flashes. Of course now, because they have introduced our highly refined and processed way of eating into their culture, that is changing. Also many times a women is told by her doctor to take photo-estrogen pills, for whatever reason. Why not get it from your food instead of a pill?

I do want to say that when buying soybean foods, you must buy organic. It is, right now, our only way to have some kind of insurance that the soybeans have not been genetically altered. And eat the soy foods that have stood the test of time: tofu, tempeh, miso, tamari, and shoyu. Just like any other food, if it has been refined or processed some of the nutritional quality will suffer.

I know there are articles and books out there that give soybeans a bad rep. They quote studies that say it is harmful. And I have come to the conclusion these studies are not reliable. Soybeans have been studied probably more then any other health food. So it is easy to pick only a handful of negative studies, if that is what will profit you, and ignore the majority of favorable studies. And most of these studies are done on animals, usually mice or rats. These animals are feed high amounts of the isoflavones isolated, not the whole soybean. Also they are feed a large amount that is much more then a human would eat. And human bodies assimilate differently then mice, so the reaction can not be compared. Every one of these that I have seen, excludes the foods I mention above and have been eaten for thousands of years. Our epidemic of sickness does not come from food that has been eaten for thousands of years. It is from our culture of fast foods, processed foods, microwaved foods, refined foods and the huge amount of stress we live with everyday. Also from the absurd notion, more is better. For instance, if you drink three quarts of soy milk a day, you are going to have some reaction. (This was actually one study that came to the conclusion soy is bad.) That is way too much of any one food to be consuming. I do not care if it is cow’s milk, goat’s milk, almond milk, rice milk, or soy milk.

Do some research and decide for yourself. But I would not pay any attention to studies done on animals and studies done with huge amount of soy consumed. Up until recently, China had one of the lowest rates of cancer. One of their main food sources is soy and has been for thousands of years. If there was any link with eating soy and getting cancer, don’t you think the Chinese would have been dying form cancer long before this. (Common sense!) And lastly I would like to point out there are huge multi billion dollar
industries that would not want to lose there business to a wonderful, high protein plant based food source. Maybe some of these multi billion dollar industry sponsored the research?

Val’s note: I have been eating and studying soy foods for 18 years. These are my findings. Please take the time to do some investigating and make an informed decision about soy.


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