You can put “soy” in the same category as “politics and religion” when talking about controversial conversation.
I knew soy was a hot-button issue when I wrote my post about “Little Boys Developing Breasts and the Soy Controversy”. But lately, I’ve had so much misinformation and twisted truth thrown in my face, I thought it was time to re-visit the issue and get some input from a world-renown expert on the subject, Dr T Colin Campbell.
Dr Campbell, who grew up on a dairy farm, has spent much time researching the benefits of a plant-based diet. He was one of the lead scientists in a study set up by Cornell University, Oxford University and the Chinese Academy of Preventative Medicine in 1983. The study looked at lifestyle and disease mortality characteristics of 65 rural Chinese countries and paved the way for the current “plant-based diet informational age”. He is also one of the creators of the popular documentary, Forks over Knives that follows sick individuals through their journey to health by adopting a plant-based diet.
His book “The China Study” (#25 on Amazon’s book sale list) looks at evidence supporting the fact that most illness and diseases can be linked to what you eat and that a poor diet plays a pivotal role in the progression of not only heart disease, but also diabetes, autoimmune diseases (i.e. rheumatoid arthritis) and cancer. It was “The China Study” that inspired President Bill Clinton to adopt a plant-based diet when he underwent a heart procedure for clogged arteries. He said that “after (examining) 25 years of evidence” he adopted a plant-based diet that is keeping him healthy and has allowed him to lose over 20 pounds.
So about the soy…
When we talk about soy, you have to be very specific. Starting with the basic soy bean, it is just that: a legume. But the magical thing about this legume is that it is one of the few plants that contain essential amino acids (perfect protein) in the amounts that our bodies need to survive. The protein profile for soybeans is very similar to that of meat, milk and egg protein.
So what’s the problem?
The problem comes with processing. Modern manufacturing loves to process. They take something good, grind it, heat it, separate it, kick the crap out of it, and pull out only the parts they need. When this processing is done to the soybean, you get soy isolates–just the isolated protein..or worse hydrolyzed soy protein (MSG’s brother). You can find soy isolates in just about any food on the grocery shelf. Body builders buy it by the barrel in powdered form, and if your energy bar says “high in protein”, they’re using soy isolates. And soybeans that manufacturers are using to make the soy isolates are all GMO, or genetically modified and sprayed to the bejezes with pesticides. 90% of all soy products used in the US are GMO. (soybeans were the first GMO mass produced crop in the mid 1990’s) Tofu and soy milk fall into this category as well (unless it says “non-GMO Organic”). If you are reading labels (and you should be) you should look for, and avoid anything that says “soy isolate” or “TVP” (textured vegetable protein) in the ingredients. At the bottom of the label, if it says “this product contains soy”, unless you are buying soy sauce or miso, they mean soy isolates.
Another problem with soy is in the “plant estrogens” they contain. The soy products don’t contain the female hormone estrogen per se, but the substances in the soy plant can bind with estrogen receptors. This is the reason for the controversy having to do with breast and ovarian cancer and soy consumption (that’s a book’s worth of discussion right there) and parents hesitating to give it to their young boys (and girls for that matter).
The Asian diet is considered extremely healthy. Let’s look at how the Asians eat soy. Typical Asian diets include fermented soy in the form of miso, tempeh, and natto. Fermenting means allowing the substance to age along with microorganisms. This process makes the soy easier to digest and more beneficial health-wise. When Asians eat tofu (which is not fermented), it’s a small slice in soup, or a small amount with veggies. They don’t eat massive “soy burgers” and they don’t drink soy milk on a regular basis and they certainly don’t mix powdered soy isolate shakes!
I am lucky enough to have a sister who is lucky enough to occasionally work with Dr Campbell and I thought it would be interesting to hear what he had to say about soy.
Dr Campbell brings up the fact that in the 1970’s, when he was doing research in the Philippines, they were looking for an inexpensive, plentiful substitute for meat and dairy protein for the poor of that country and looked into using soy. The soy industry was not nearly as big as it is today, and when the dairy industry got involved, they “shut down” Dr Campbell and put a halt to the process.
(In my experience over the last 5 years in doing my own personal research on plant-based diets, I find the most violent and adamant opposition to any plant-based diet, and to Dr Campbell himself, comes from the paid bloggers that write for the beef and dairy counsels. There is big money to be lost by the beef and dairy industry if people start wising up, changing their diets, and feeling better. One ad was so totally stupid it shows the dairy industry’s desperation.)
Dr Campbell said that soybeans in their whole form (in soups, or as edamame) are fine occasionally, but he would not recommend anyone drink glasses of soy milk, especially kids. He recommends rice milk first, then almond milk instead of cows milk. It’s not the inclusion of the soy milk, it’s the exclusion of the dairy that is the main health factor here.
Those looking to soy for protein in their diet to sub out for meat, should also know there is protein in everything you eat and eating “consciously” including whole plant-based foods will provide one with the perfect amount of protein intake. High protein foods, while not necessary to include, are simple to include in your diet and consist of nuts, seeds, quinoa (nature’s other perfect protein), beans and legumes.
|Table 2: Protein Content of Selected Vegan Foods|
|Soybeans, cooked||1 cup||29|
|Lentils, cooked||1 cup||18|
|Black beans, cooked||1 cup||15|
|Kidney beans, cooked||1 cup||13|
|Veggie burger||1 patty||13|
|Chickpeas, cooked||1 cup||12|
|Veggie baked beans||1 cup||12|
|Pinto beans, cooked||1 cup||12|
|Black-eyed peas, cooked||1 cup||11|
|Tofu, firm||4 ounces||11|
|Lima beans, cooked||1 cup||10|
|Quinoa, cooked||1 cup||9|
|Tofu, regular||4 ounces||9|
|Peas, cooked||1 cup||9|
|Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP), cooked||1/2 cup||8|
|Peanut butter||2 Tbsp||8|
|Veggie dog||1 link||8|
|Spaghetti, cooked||1 cup||8|
|Soy milk, commercial, plain||1 cup||7|
|Soy yogurt, plain||6 ounces||6|
|Bulgur, cooked||1 cup||6|
|Sunflower seeds||1/4 cup||6|
|Whole wheat bread||2 slices||5|
|Almond butter||2 Tbsp||5|
|Brown rice, cooked||1 cup||5|
|Spinach, cooked||1 cup||5|
|Broccoli, cooked||1 cup||4|
It should be noted that 8% of your calorie intake should come from protein. It just so happens, that most plant-based foods contain an average of 8% protein in their caloric make up. A perfect plan!
I love what Julieanna Hever, MS,RD,CPT says in her book “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Plant Based Nutrition:
Often the first question herbivores hear when someone discovers their diet is (plant-based) is “Where do you get your protein?” My favorite response is “The same place gorillas, elephants, water buffalo, and horses get theirs!”
The bottom line:
- soy is not the fountain of youth, but used properly it can compliment your healthy diet. New studies actually find that eating 1-2 servings of whole soy (that’s soy beans or fermented soy) can reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence by 25% across the board…ER+ and ER- whether on Tamoxifen or not! Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Jul;96(1):123-32
- include whole organic soy beans or fermented choices (tempeh, miso) of soy in small portions
- limit soy intake of any kind to no more than 1-2 serving/day
- avoid drinking glasses (over 8oz) of soymilk
- avoid soy protein isolates and hydrolyzed soy in processed foods (better yet, just avoid processed foods) by reading labels
Please feel free to comment. I love to share ideas and opinions!
The China Study by Dr T Colin Campbell
The T Colin Campbell Foundation – great info on disease prevention and recipes
Wonderfully easy miso soup recipe