Is Soy Protein Healthy?

By: Ron Lagerquist

“Soy contains more protein than any other vegetable food in an almost perfect balance of all the essential amino acids, making it a complete protein.”

A casual reader of health magazines will not be surprised to hear that even in the face of new-found fame, a storm of controversy now threatens the otherwise pristine reputation of the little soybean. This is unfortunate for the vegan vegetarian who depends heavily on soy as a meat replacement. Soy contains more protein than any other vegetable food in an almost perfect balance of all the essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. Soy is an excellent source of iron, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and B vitamins, and is the best source of lecithin, which has been found to reduce cholesterol levels in the bloodstream. It is good a source of the essential oil linoleic acid and vitamin E. Clearly soy has a lot to offer and it would be a shame to eliminate this versatile food from our list of protein. So let’s take a little time to answer the question of whether soy is healthy or a health hazard.

First of all, there is a vast difference between a naturally grown soybean and what is now being added to just about everything we eat today. Soy protein or TVP is a highly processed isolate developed from one of the most genetically altered, sprayed cash crops in the world. But for some strange reason, the mega food cooperation has climbed onto the soy bandwagon.

Why the soy craze?

In an attempt to keep food corporations honest and transparent, the FDA has placed strict regulations on labeling. The goal is to reduce false claims and help keep consumers informed on what they are eating. However, the FDA has given food manufacturers permission that if they add a dusting of soy protein powder to any of their processed products, they can advertise on their label, “helps lower the risk of heart disease.” From bread, burgers, cereal and crackers to margarine, labels now proudly state the added ingredient of “heart friendly” soy, which transforms boxed food into health food, or so they want you to believe. Add a few cents of processed soy protein and enjoy a windfall of increased profit.

Heart-healthy Twinkies? Intellectually, we know it’s not true, but emotionally we buy into it, looking for any excuse not to face our addiction to processed foods and the need to make hard changes. Additives can sound impressive emblazoned boldly across your Fruit Loops, but adding a little powder to a broth of refined sugar, white flour, salt and a plethora of unpronounceable chemicals does not make it healthy. But you already knew that.

 Ironically, the less we add or remove from food the more nutritious it is. Soy cheese, soy chicken, soy turkey—I’ve even seen soy steak. They look, feel, and cook just like the real thing, but they’re all highly processed junk food with a health spin. So of course eating soy as a highly processed, concentrated additive is unhealthy. In fact, eating a concentration of any food is unhealthy. All foods are a complexity of chemicals; therefore processing and concentrating something into a pill, powder or additive can transform a healthy food into a dangerous food.

 Let’s just say we all got on a cabbage bandwagon and began adding highly processed, genetically altered, oversprayed cabbage concentrate to everything we ate. Cabbage burgers, cabbage cheese, textured cabbage protein in our favorite meatless loaf recipe. As healthy as cabbage may be, eating so much of one thing is never healthy. So why would we do it? Money. No corporation is going to make the big bucks selling cabbage, but reduce it into a pill and now we are talking about a branded, cheap to ship, long shelf-life product that makes money.

Unprocessed Soy

What about unprocessed organic soy beans, or soy products like organic tofu and soy milk that have undergone very little processing? The claim is that trypsin inhibitors present in soy block the action of enzymes used to digest protein and also are the cause of pancreatic enlargement, stunted growth and cancer. The isoflavones in soy are said to behave like estrogen, possibly increasing the risk of breast cancer. Yet studies show that Japanese women whose diets are high in soy foods have one-fifth the rate of breast cancer of women living on a western diet.

 After reading the research, I have concluded that eating one or two servings of organic, natural-source soy a day is healthy and balanced. I love a bowl of organic soy beans a few times a week. We buy them frozen, then cook them for around three minutes in water with a vegetarian bouillon cube. Drain, add a teaspoon of butter or flax dressing, some fresh pepper and wow, goes great with a salad. We also put cubed tofu on our salads; you can brown them first in a fry pan with a squirt of soy sauce or soak them in soy sauce before browning. Always oil the heated pan with a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. I also use organic soy milk with cereal for breakfast. By the way, there are some great whole-grain cereals on the market, and the organic ones are only a touch more expensive.

Related Article: Protein In Fish  Tofu Recipes

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