It’s always something.
Why is the simple act of eating so difficult? It’s food, not astrophysics, although the science behind what we eat, where it comes from, and how that plays into our overall health can be incredibly confusing. Factor in the environmental impact of food production and it’s too much information to sort through.
Here’s an example — soy. Is it a miracle food or low-grade animal fodder? Is the rage over the benefits of soy a marketing ploy or the real thing? What does the research have to say? I’ll help you clear up the confusion. Or, more likely, add to it.
Out of fairness, I’ll start off by admitting I’m not a huge fan, don’t eat soy often, and never eat processed soy foods. I do like my gluten-free tamari (see spicy tamari pepita recipe below) and occasionally eat miso and sea-salted fresh edamame, but I find soy difficult to digest, so for the most part, I avoid it.
Here’s a rundown of the pros and cons. You decide and please let me know what you think. As a nutrition therapist and all around “food” person, I’m interested in what people are eating and why.
Soy pros (according to proponents)
• high in good-quality protein
• good combination of carbs, protein, and fat
• soy protein may lower cholesterol levels
• may be a good source of EFAs (essential fatty acids)
• high in fiber
• good source of many vitamins and minerals
• may be a well-absorbed iron source
• good source of magnesium
• well researched (used as a food source for thousands of years)
• soy’s high content of isoflavins may protect against disease
• isoflavins may protect against enlargement of the prostate gland
• isoflavins in soy may have potent antioxidant properties
• may protect against heart disease, cancers, and immune disorders
• helps mitigate menopause symptoms and protects against bone loss
• may help regulate blood sugar
• most widely grown and used legume in the world
• soy products contain trypsin inhibitors which can interfere with protein digestion
• may cause pancreatic disorders
• soy foods increase the body’s need for vitamin D
• MSG is a byproduct of soy processing and is considered a neurotoxin
• soy foods may contain high levels of aluminum
• the phytoestrogens (plant hormones) in soy may interfere with thyroid function
• infants fed soy formula have 13,000 to 22,000 times more estrogen compounds in their blood than babies fed milk-based formula (information from the Weston A. Price Foundation)
• soy phytoestrogens may interrupt normal endocrine function
• may promote breast cancer
• soy contains high levels of phytic acid which interferes with the assimilation of calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc
• soy may interrupt normal development patterns in boys
• the FDA has not approved GRAS (generally regarded as safe) status for soy isoflavones because of the presence of carcinogens in processed soy
• soy foods have been shown to cause infertility in animals
• most US grown soybeans are genetically engineered to allow farmers to use large amounts of pesticides
According to the FDA Poisonous Plant Database, there are 288 studies available relating to the toxic properties of soy. The Environmental Working Group’s Farm Subsidy Database indicates that soybean subsidies in the United States totaled $14.2 billion (yes, BILLION) from 1995-2006. Here’s where I could spiral off on food politics, but I’ll resist for now. For now, but stay tuned for future developments. Grrrr, I’m saving my pennies (literally) for a new computer and here I find direct cash payments courtesy of me (and you, the taxpayer) going directly to — oops, I promised I’d resist. Sorry about that. Breathe in, breathe out and back to the task at hand.
I’ll finish this off with a fun and easy recipe for spicy tamari pepitas. The fermentation process used to produce tamari makes for a much healthier version of soy.
Spicy Tamari Pepitas
Pepitas are the Spanish version of pumpkin seeds. These spicy treats are wonderful on their own or used as a topping for southwest style soups or on salads. This is a small serving recipe — you can adjust accordingly, but go easy on the oil.
1 cup shelled pumpkin seeds
3/4 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (depending on how spicy you are)
1 to 2 teaspoons gluten-free tamari
Pinch of natural brown sugar (sometimes I use a spot of honey, maybe a teaspoon or leave it out)
Heat oil in large pan over medium heat. Add pepitas and stir continually for a few minutes (3 to 4) until they toast up to a golden brown and start to make a popping noise. Add cayenne, tamari, and sugar and continue to stir for another couple of minutes. Make sure seeds are coated, golden brown, and a touch glossy looking. Move to a cookie sheet and gently spread out to cool and dry before serving. These things are addictive!
* Soy confuso mean’s I’m confused in Spanish. How perfect is that? The conflicting evidence regarding soy is next to impossible to sort out and I found that much of the positive research was (drum roll, please) sponsored by soy special interest groups. Let me know what you think, I’m seriously interested (an unscientific blog-study of sorts).
In good health,