Is Soy Good or Bad for Your Health?

tofu

Is tofu really good for your health?

If you look at products sold on the shelves of our supermarkets, you’ll find that many of them contain an ingredient that was totally unknown in most Western countries a century ago: soy.

From baby formula to soy butter, soy cheese (that’s tofu) and soy ice cream, it seems that the food industry has managed to add soy to almost all foods (including beef, because most cows are now fed with soy), which could make us believe that soy is THE miracle food of the 21st century!

Yet, a century or even a few decades ago, people in Western countries never consumed any soy. And there are now countless studies (here are 170 of them!) that show that soy may actually be very detrimental to our health.

In this short video, without going in a scientific debate, I tell you, based on traditions, which soy products are safe and can be consumed with moderation, and which soy foods you should definitely stay away from.

There are a lot of misconceptions about soy and whether it’s healthy or not. Here are the soy products you need to avoid, and the ones that are actually good for your health.

You’ve probably heard or read something like this: “Soy products are healthy because they contain protein and other beneficial nutrients such as phytochemicals that may help reduce the risk of certain diseases like heart disease, so you should eat plenty of them.”

Ok, I must tell you: this is one of the biggest lies of modern nutrition.

The truth is that soy is really a double-edged sword.

It does contain quality protein, just like other beans and legumes, but it also contains a long list of anti-nutrients:

  • phytates, which can prevent the absorption of minerals like calcium,
  • goitrogens, which have a negative effect on your thyroid gland,
  • phytoestrogens, which can disrupt your hormones.

These substances can really be detrimental to your health if soy is not prepared properly and if it is consumed in large quantities – the quantities recommended by the FDA, for example.

Now, in order to reduce the amount of these substances, soy needs to be fermented. That’s the case of miso, tempeh, natto and traditionally brewed soy sauce.

But that’s not the case of modern soy products like soy milk, soy yogurt, soy butter, soy protein isolate, and the list goes on.

To be safe and healthy, soy should always be fermented using traditional methods. This is how it is consumed in Asian countries.

Then, if you choose to eat tofu, which is not fermented and usually not prepared according to traditional recipes, you should consume it in moderation, as a condiment, and certainly not as a main source of protein.
This is what the Chinese do.

I know, because I’ve lived there. I’ve not read that in a book or a newspaper. About 15 years ago, I lived in China for a while, and I was living, working and eating with Chinese people. I spent several months eating at their table for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

And I can tell you that they didn’t eat lots of soy products at all. All the contrary. They ate some tofu in very small quantities; maybe a few bites every couple of days at most. And I was in a remote province, it was 15 years ago and the food served was very traditional.

So, tofu was consumed in very small quantities, no more than a teaspoon per day.

We can also take a quick look at official statistics:
The total amount of Soy Protein eaten by Chinese women is 8.35 grams per day. That’s about 1.5 teaspoon per day (that includes tofu and fermented soy products).

Now, here is the total amount of Soy Protein eaten by Japanese women: 6.88 grams per day. That’s about 1 teaspoon per day (again, that includes tofu and fermented soy products).

Keep this in mind when you realize the two health claims allowed on the U.S. Food Label by the FDA is for 25 grams of soy protein a day! This is over 3 to 4 times the average we see in Japan and China!

So here is the conclusion: Soy products are healthy only if they have been fermented using traditional methods, and eaten in very small quantities, just like in their countries of origin.

Soy is not a miracle food at all and it’s definitely not necessary to be healthy.

Now, if you want to enjoy the health benefits of phytochemicals without the many drawbacks of processed soy products, I recommend you eat more beans (white beans, kidney beans, lima beans, lentils, black beans, etc.). Here are many wonderful recipes that include beans.

So, if you have friends who think they can eat plenty of soy milk, tofu, soy yogurt, and more, please do them a favor, share this video with them.

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2 Comments

  1. mignon

    What about Edamame?

    Reply
    • Anne Guillot

      Edamame are immature soy beans, so they have less anti-nutrients and can be eaten occasionally, like tofu, in small quantities (they are eaten as an appetizer in Japan).

      Reply

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