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!
Do you know which form of soy contains fewer phytates? . . . sprouted tofu or tempeh? Thanks!
What brand of tofu and tempeh do u use/recommend that is fermented and healthiest vs the other brands of tofu?
Eden is the most trustworthy brand by far. I also use Wildwood, I really like their sprouted tofu.
I love some good miso soup in the cold winter months. It’s also a great base for a lot of my asian-inspired soups, so I’m with you.
That being said, I did discover that my hormones were soy-sensitive, and were leaning toward estrogen dominance which was causing fertility issues.
Thus, I went basically soy free (when I was a vegan). I would occasionally have soy at a restaurant (my favorite vegan chinese restaurant — miss that place!), and I would have miso at home (no more than once a week, really).
And then my hormones started to adjust. Several of my clients/friends have had similar results by decreasing soy dramatically.
It’s in no way “absolute” though. I mean, there are health benefits to soy, too. Each of us just needs to know how our body works with the foods that we consume. A friend of mine reacts to nightshades. That doesn’t mean everyone has to give up nightshades, right?
fermented soy is a phytoestrogen, probably the culprit in stabilizing your hormones….
Perhaps, although I’m more inclined to believe it’s a result of losing weight and becoming more active, having a beneficial effect on my entire metabolic system. Thanks for your input!
I was playing on the words that you wrote.
Nice piece. Love your spunk. We totally see eye to eye.
In agreement all the way.
I eat organic sprouted tofu and organic tempeh as a part of my overall healthy diet.
I, personally, believe (through my own exhaustive research/reading) that all the hype about soy is over the highly-processed versions of soy you briefly mentioned.
You’re probably already in the know on this, but Hodo Soy is in your backyard and about as good as it gets. I’ve never used a tofu that fries up as well or tastes as nutritious.
As an added bonus, they source their beans from one of the only non-GMO soy farms in the U.S. My only real problem with soy is that it is often farmed horribly.
You can also tour their facility in the East Bay.
THANK YOU! I hate how so many people read about anti-soy studies in mainstream media and then act hysterical when I eat tofu. It makes me want to bang my head on a wall.
What I have never understood is why people attack/criticize any site! If I have a diference of opinion then it’s just that…a difference of opinion. If I see that I am having many differing opinions of a certain page/blog then I just unfollow. Done. I don’t understand that mentality of “arguing ” online…
I love this! I feel exactly the same way. I have been attacked for eating soy because it is, ‘horrible for you’. hmmmm… Like you, I read the studies and am completely comfortable with sprouted and fermented organic soy products as a component of the protein in my diet. It seems to me like there are a lot of people out there simply listening to propaganda and not taking the initiative to discover the roots of the ‘hysteria’. Thanks for the post!