I don’t actually know the answer to this question! But since our friends at Well+Good are asking, it’s got me wondering. Do you avoid this super-processed soy? I’m about to go read a few labels…
Turn over many a nutrition bar or box of veggie burgers, and you’ll often find soy protein isolate (SPI) featured prominently on the ingredient list.
While there’s disagreement among nutritionists over whether soy is part of a healthy diet (some are concerned about its estrogenic properties but others like it as protein source for those who don’t eat meat), most agree that SPI, its super-processed offspring, should be avoided.
“A big issue with soy is that we’re eating more of it than ever before and in very processed forms like SPI,” says Middleberg Nutrition founder Stephanie Middleberg, MS, RD. So SPI may have started out as a plant, but once it gets to you, it’s far from it.
Here are four reasons nutritionists say you should probably ditch soy protein from your diet:
1. A lot of its nutrients have left the building. “Soybeans are a great quality protein because their amino acid content is similar to that in meat, and they’re a good source of fiber, minerals, and complex carbs,” says Middleberg. But to create SPI, soybeans are chemically engineered to “isolate” their protein, and this process strips out all of the other nutrients the original bean contained.
2. It contains unhealthy additives. Foodtrainers founder Lauren Slatyon, MS, RD, says that the chemical process used to isolate soy protein often leaves behind substances you don’t necessarily want to be eating, like aluminum and hexane. “Think of bathing in toxic bath oil,”Slayton says. “Even once you dry yourself off, some residue remains. Want to eat that residue?” The spray drying method used for soy can also form nitrites, compounds that can form carcinogens in the body, she explains.
3. It’s probably genetically modified. According to the USDA, over 90 percent of the soybeans grown in the U.S. are genetically modified, so most SPI comes from altered beans. “This means soy protein isolate is chemically modified, processed, and filled with pesticides,” says Middleberg.
Meet today’s vegan chef, Chloe: She loves carrots (sometimes pickled), and her vegan diet skews largely Japanese-Korean. I don’t know about you, but after reading this, I’m definitely inspired to eat something super-healthy with chopsticks today. Like many asian-leaning and vegan diets, Chloe’s seems to feature a fair amount of soy though. Which soy camp do you fit into?
Hometown: San Francisco
My Dietary Leanings: Vegan, very fruity, and Japanese and Korean oriented. Eat like a queen in the morning, a princess midday, and a pauper in the evening. Oh, and I love all things and anything green tea♥
My Favourite Vegetable: Carrots
This morning I ate…
Because breakfast is so important, I have three parts of a meal of which I rotate two at a time each day. A large cup of matcha green tea always begins it, of course! Today I had two slices of sprouted wheat toast, one topped with half of an avocado and the other topped with Rawtella and a sliced banana (berries taste lovely as well with the cacao). There is also something I do where I fill a bowl with chopped strawberries alone or with other fruit (today it was blueberries) and then pour organic unsweetened soymilk on top of it, so that it’s a sort of cereal without the cereal because I don’t like cereal. It’s lovely! Sometimes I substitute it with plain or vanilla soy or coconut yogurt with raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and kiwis instead. Another cup of green tea and then I am off to go on the day’s ventures (school)!
Then for lunch it was…
A bowl of miso soup made with kombu seaweed stock and tofu. I also made inarizushi, which is rice stuffed in tofu pockets, as well as futomaki, which had yellow picked radish, cucumber, avocado, carrots, a thin layer of tofu, portobello mushrooms, and spinach, with pickled ginger, daikon, and Japanese greens on the side. Croquettes with tofu, bellpepper, and potatoes are also yummy with it. Instead of eggs to dip, you can use soy milk or rice milk or silken tofu, the panko still sticks very well. I snack on blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries or pop chips sometimes.
Finally I had…
A small tofu scramble with minced onion, garlic, bellpepper, potatoes, kale, carrots, tomatoes, pretty much every vegetable I could find in the fridge over rice, you can eat it with quinoa too. I only use extra virgin olive oil for cooking. I usually don’t eat dinner because I never eat after five p.m. unless I go out with friends or family. Breakfast and lunch keep me full all day…
Last but not least, dessert…
That doesn’t stop me from eating sweets instead, so bad! After seeing a recipe for vegan matcha green tea banana ice cream I am in love. With another cup of matcha green tea to end the day as well.
Yum! Chloe, would you mind posting the recipe for the ice cream in the comments? Thanks! Reminder to all: Don’t forget to send in your MM menus!
People tend to be black and white when it comes to soy: Either they’re telling you it causes breast cancer, or pointing you to the health and longevity experienced by the Japanese, heavy soy eaters (at least until recently).
The studies are inconclusive: some point to benefits, while others point to potential harm. In the case of breast cancer, the isoflavones found in soy which mimic estrogen, have been both accused of causing and/or proliferating cancer, as well as potentially preventing it.
When in doubt we like to see what our favorite alterna-docs are saying. Dr. Andrew Weil is pretty pro-soy in its wholer-food forms (that includes tofu for him), while Dr. Oz recommends eating it in moderation until there’s more conclusive research, also stressing that people avoid the overly-processed “frankensoy” products, sticking to tofu, miso and tempeh.
For my part, as I’ve discussed in the past, finding easy protein sources that aren’t either filled with toxins, genetically modified, or wreaking havoc on the environment, is tough. I’m a big fan of sardines and mackerel now, which took some palate training. And I do eat tofu about once or twice a week, and enjoy a good miso soup or salad dressing as well, now and again. In other words: moderation.
But for you full-time vegetarians out there, I can imagine the soy thing gets awful tricky. Do you eat it? And have any of you seen differences in your hormones, skin and/or menstrual cycles when you do eat soy versus when you don’t?
Sometimes anecdotal evidence is the best thing we’ve got!