Dr. Magryta: Soy confusion
Soy is the cause of much confusion and controversy. I have reviewed much of the literature and find that the following response from Dr. Weil is the most concise and precise:
“Remember, for centuries Asians have been eating lots of soy foods, and the supposed terrible consequences of soy consumption haven’t materialized among them. In fact some traditional soy-rich Asian diets are associated with lower risks of breast and prostate cancer than western diets.
“Based on the weight of available evidence, I remain convinced that soy is safe and nutritious when eaten in relatively whole and unrefined forms in reasonable amounts. I recommend one to two daily servings, which can include a cup of soymilk, a half cup of tofu, tempeh or green soybeans (edamame) or roasted soy nuts.
“Soymilk provides all the benefits of cow’s milk, without the milk protein (casein), which can increase mucus production and irritate the immune system in some people, and milk sugar (lactose), which can cause digestive distress if you lack the enzyme that breaks it down.
“Soymilk is made by soaking dried beans in water, grinding them, heating them in water, pressing them, and straining the milk. Soymilk makers for home use are widely available, and people who use them say fresh, homemade soy milk is much better tasting than packaged products. And it will have no additives.
“One cup of soymilk contains 4-10 grams of soy protein, and 20-40 mg of isoflavones, plant chemicals that may act like estrogen but probably account for soy’s protective effect against hormonally driven cancers (especially when soy is part of the diet from early childhood). While soymilk is high in calcium, it doesn’t have as much as cow’s milk so it is important to look for a brand that is fortified with calcium.
I recommend certain precautions when buying soymilk. Since many soy crops are heavily treated with pesticides, always buy organic soy products. I also recommend avoiding brands of soymilk that contain the thickening agent carrageenan, a seaweed derivative, which I believe may be harmful, especially to the intestinal tract.”
From another nutrition thought leader, Dr. Hyman:
“1. Say YES to whole, real soy. The Okinawans are the world’s longest-lived people, probably in part because of their diet. For more than five millennia, they’ve eaten whole, organic and fermented soy foods like miso, tempeh, tofu, soy milk, and edamame (young soybeans in the pod). One to two servings a day of any of these foods are fine.
“2. Say NO to processed soy. That includes soy protein isolate and concentrates, genetically engineered soy foods (typically made from Monsanto’s Roundup soybeans), soy supplements, and soy junk foods like soy cheese, soy ice cream, soy oil, and soy burgers. They don’t have the thousands of years of traditional use that whole soy foods do, are processed, and contain unhealthy fats and other compounds. I have real concerns about these types of soy.”
Now my thoughts. Processed soy is hidden everywhere. You have to be very aware of the food you buy in order to avoid processed soy.
Other names for soy: (I would avoid these types of modified soy products):
Hydrolyzed soy protein (HSP)
Mono- and di-glycerides
MSG (monosodium glutamate)
Soy lecithin (see above)
Soy protein (concentrate, hydrolyzed, isolate)
Soybean oil (see above)
Textured vegetable protein (TVP)
Hydrolyzed plant protein (HPP) or hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP)
I eat whole soy products multiple times a week. I do avoid modified or processed soy in all forms as I would avoid all processed foods.
Organic is best,
Dr. Chris Magryta is a physician at Salisbury Pediatric Associates. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org