Food for Thought - Are You Sabotaging Your Health with What You Eat? Part 2 - Soy

By Karla Jones Seidita, Home Economist

We've come to believe that soy products are healthy.  But are they?

Soy is certainly healthy for the economy...that little bean is big business.

Soybeans are an oil rich legume that grows in green pods.  They have been grown as a cover crop in Asia for thousands of years.

A cover crop is a stand of vegetation that is grown for the purpose of enriching the soil.  After a cover crop has grown, it is plowed under so it can decompose.  The decomposed cover crop feeds the soil with nutrients that will later be used to grow edible crops.

Traditionally, Asians didn't use soy beans as food because they are hard to digest.  It wasn't until they began fermenting soy beans ( like to make miso, tempeh and soy sauce) that soy became widely eaten.

But even so, soy was eaten in very small amounts as a condiment - 2 to 4 teaspoons per person per day.  It's this small amount of fermented soy that's said to protect against cancer.

Americans, on the other hand, eat several cup-fulls of un-fermented soy each day and are told to avoid all soy if they have or ever have had cancer.  That's because because un-fermented soy contains phyto-estrogens (plant derived estrogens).    Makes you think....doesn't it??

Soybean oil is the most common way we eat soy in this country.  It's used extensively in processed and snack foods because it's cheap.

But there's lots of other places we get soy too and, unless you're a label reader, you probably don't know you're eating it...

Vegetarian meat alternatives (sausage, hamburger, chicken, soy burgers)
Meal extenders (like Hamburger Helper)
Prepared foods
Energy bars/Breakfast bars
Soy milk
Canned chicken and tuna
Salad dressings
Protein and meal replacement drinks
Cheese spreads, processed cheeses and cheese replacements
and as a food additives soy protein isolate, soy protein concentrate and textured vegetable protein which are in everything from bouillon cubes to macaroni and cheese dinners.

Should you be eating un-fermented soy?   In my opinion, no.

Cutting soy out of your diet completely is hard - especially if you eat out.

So what should you do?

Become a label reader.
Some of your very favorite foods may, in fact, contain soy but for every manufactured food that does, there are others.... right on the same shelf....that don't.  They don't cost any more than the soy laced brands and may even cost less.  You don't have to go to a health food shop either.  All you have to do is read the labels of the foods you buy.

Un-processed foods (like raw meat, fresh produce and uncooked sea foods) will not contain soy unless it's added.  If it's added, it will be listed on the package.

Just do the best you can, one small step at a time.   Every step will pay off with better health.

But if you've had cancer or cancer in the family, cut out soy right now.  With all the wonderful, healthy foods out there, why take a chance!


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