Navigating through all the conflicting health information can be a skill of it’s own. The rise and fall of the soy bean is something of great interest to me. I was a plant-lovin’ vegan for 14 years and at that time, soy was my main source of protein.
One of the biggest problems with my soy intake was that I would always opt for what I refer to as soy JUNK FOOD. I loved the perfectly packaged junk that resembled all the stuff I used to eat, like burgers, ice cream, and cheese.
Some Soy Junk Foods
soy milk –especially the flavoured kinds
soy protein powder
Soy “butter-like” spreads
Soy Interferes with Enzymes
One of the problems with a diet high in soy products, is the presence of “anti-nutrients;” these act as enzyme inhibitors, which interfere with the digestion of protein. That’s why we typically don’t sit down to a bowl of soybeans as we would to a bowl of pinto or black beans.
While soybeans are relatively high in protein compared to other legumes, they are a poor source of protein because other proteins found in soybeans act as potent enzyme inhibitors. These “anti-nutrients” block the action of trypsin and other enzymes needed for protein digestion. Trypsin inhibitors are large, tightly folded proteins that are not completely deactivated during ordinary cooking and can reduce protein digestion. Therefore, soy consumption may lead to chronic deficiencies in amino acid uptake. Only a long period of fermentation will significantly reduce the phytate content of soybeans, as well as the trypsin inhibitors that interfere with enzymes and amino acids. Therefore, fermented soy products such as tempeh and miso provide nourishment that is easily assimilated.
Mary G. Enig, Ph.D
Enjoying fermented soy foods is the best way to go. Over 3,000 years ago, Asians discovered how to increase soy’s digestibility and flavor by soaking, fermenting and sprouting the beans.
Miso is a fermented food that has been acclaimed as a general protector against radiation sickness and chronic disease. Miso is an alkaline-forming, fermented paste made from soybeans which may also be mixed with rice or barley.
Unpasteurized miso, which is the only type to eat, has many healthy bacteria and enzymes which help digestion and keep the bowels healthy.
Gabriel Cousens, M.D.
Soy in the Asian diet is primarily fermented soy, NOT the highly processed soy protein isolate, soy isoflavones and so on that make up soy in the American diet. Some popular fermented soy foods include:
miso (pictured above)
A Bit on Soy Lecithin
Many of us foodies dislike soy lecithin because it’s considered “artificial.” While soy lecithin is naturally occurring in soybeans, it’s usually extracted using harsh chemical solvents. The last major concern regarding soy lecithin is that, like most soybean products, it is usually derived from genetically modified (GM) soybean plants.
All things in moderation is a always great rule of thumb. I certainly wasn’t taking this into consideration when consuming my favourite soy junk foods at every meal. Go for organic soy whenever possible, and choose fermented when it’s available. I’ve sourced miso made from chickpeas and aduki beans, eliminating the need for soy all together.