Actually, it’s not much of a confession. I’m pretty up front about it. I eat, and enjoy, soy foods. For some reason this seems to be a point of major interest/conflict/criticism on my facebook page, so I thought I’d just write this now, so I can direct people to it when they ask/attack/criticize me about it.
I’ve read all of the anti-soy studies that routinely make the rounds of the WAPF-o-sphere and paleo-sphere. I know what you’re thinking: how can I have read all that stuff and still eat soy?
Here’s the thing. I’ve read a lot of other stuff, too.
I’m a rebel like that.
Lets start from square one: I really enjoy tofu and tempeh. Believe it or not, tofu is one of my favorite foods. It has been for many, many years. I know that not many people share that sentiment. I have weird tastes I guess. I never liked pizza or ice cream back in the days I used to eat things like that. And I don’t like yoga, so I’m just all kinds of whacked. So we got that out of the way, I’m weird and have weird tastes.
Now, on to the health considerations. Yep, I’ve read all about the phytates, the lectins, the phytoestrogens. I’ve read the studies that suggest soy consumption may be correlated with endocrine dysfunction, mood change, hormone-dependent cancers, memory impairment, yada yada yada, etcetera, ad nauseum. Yep, I’ve read it. And it made me go hmmm! So I went and looked at the studies themselves. And while I was looking at studies, I decided to look at other studies on soy. Funny thing. Seems there are thousands upon thousands of studies on soy consumption, decades worth of ‘em. Who knew? I haven’t read them all by any stretch of the imagination. I have my ‘soy’ search on the NCBI site bookmarked and when I have some free time one of the things I do to kill it is go browse through soy studies. It’s fun, you should try it some time. Just kidding, it’s pretty dry.
Now, I’m not saying anyone should take my word on anything, in fact when people ask me about soy, the advice I give is to go read the science and make up your own mind. But here’s my take, based on what I’ve read: most of the science I’ve seen so far suggests soy has a protective effect against dozens of diseases, or is at least correlated with a lower incidence of disease. The studies suggesting otherwise are outliers, pretty distant outliers at that, and many of them have credibility or design flaws, or focus on VERY specific populations or even single case studies. The doses of soy used in many of these studies are massive, and frequently isolated components of the soy plant, not the whole food. None of this proves anything of course, and again: don’t take my word on anything. Do your own research and make up your own mind. But based on what I’ve read, I feel very comfortable including 1 or 2 servings of good quality, organic, sprouted or fermented whole soy foods in my daily diet. I consider the tofu I use just that, it’s made with three ingredients: ground sprouted organic US grown non-GMO soybeans, nigari (a coagulant derived from seawater that’s been used for thousands of years) and water. The tempeh I use is made from fermented organic US grown non-gmo soybeans. IMO, that’s food. Food that I enjoy. Food that makes my body happy.
I do very well, from a health standpoint, on soy. My body seems to prefer it to animal protein for energy (trial and error, N = 1), and as for hormonal issues all I can say is that my hormonal and endocrine function are far more stable and healthy now with regular soy intake than they ever were when I got most of my protein from animal sources (I used to have cystic breasts and ovaries, irregular periods, hormonally-triggered panic attacks, and several other symptoms of PCOS). This is not to say that soy is responsible for stabilizing my hormonal function, but it certainly hasn’t hindered that stabilization. Nor has it hindered my lean mass gain or fat loss (12% body fat folks. 12% body fat.) And like I said, I like it. In fact, when I get off track and eat crap for a few days, I start to crave two things: raw vegetables and raw tofu. I think raw vegetables are a pretty healthy craving, I don’t think my body would crave something good and something bad simultaneously, especially when it’s trying to get back to a state of homeostasis.
I know that other people have read all the same things I have and have come to different conclusions. I’m OK with that. I put a lot of thought and time into deciding if and how much soy to eat, and have come to a conclusion that I’m very comfortable with. As with all the food I eat, I don’t eat soy that is processed, refined, genetically modified or mixed with strange chemicals. I know that some of my Paleo and WAPF friends think I’m completely nuts, but they keep it to themselves (for the most part) and we get along just fine. I’m not forcing soy down anyone’s throat, I’m not advocating that everyone eat soy, and I don’t go to other people’s facebook pages and insult their food choices, I just live my life and eat my food and sometimes share it on my facebook page but never ‘preach’ it. I like it when people return the favor. Thank you very much!