Confused which side of the soy health debate you should be on? One day you’ll see the headline “Eat soy, it’s a great source of protein.” The next headline, “Eating soy can be dangerous for your health.”
Which one’s right? Well, both. That’s why it’s important to know the facts before taking a hard stance.
1. Not all soy is created equal
There are whole soy foods and processed soy foods. Processed food in general is something we should all strive to stay away from. Especially with a recent study showing ‘ultra-processed’ food could increase your risk for cancer. But unlike the standard processed foods, (cereal, sodas, chips, etc.) processed soy can be hard to detect. Doctor Oz puts in plainly by saying, if you see “soy protein” on the nutritional label – it’s processed.
That includes your soy protein powders and bars.
Your whole soy food, however, can be great for you. Local nutrition coach, Brenda Fikry, says to aim for soy products that are close to their natural state.
“The great example of a whole soy food would be edamame,” said Fikry. “They grow that way and we eat them the way that they grow.”
2. Know your servings
Knowing what to eat and how much to eat should go hand-in-hand. Too much of anything – even water – can be bad for you. Soy is no different.
1 to 2 servings of soy is Fikry’s recommendation. Eating over 4 or 5 servings of soy a day could put you in a danger zone.
This includes our lattes and iced drinks we get at coffee shops. Generally, if you get anything over a 16 oz (2 cups) in soy milk, you’ve exceeded your daily recommendation.
“There tends to be more occurrences of some of the things we’re worried about – the cancers and all that,” says Fikry. “[However] it’s not definitive.”
3. Soy is rich in essentials
Soy is a good source of:
- vitamin B2 & K
And unlike chicken, beef and pork, soy is low in saturated fats. It also has no cholesterol and is a heart healthy food. For some, it can also lower blood pressure.
“The variety is the key to getting different vitamins and minerals rather than getting the same ones over and over,” says Fikry.
4. Be critical of the labels
First off, labels with the word “natural” are probably not what you think.
According to USDA standards, a food that’s labeled “natural” cannot contain preservatives, artificial ingredients and it has to be minimally processed.
However, that product can still have growth hormones, chemicals and antibiotics in it.
And “all natural” literally means nothing. The USDA hasn’t defined it so it’s probably no different than a product marked “natural”. However, there is no guarantee it goes through the same regulations as “natural” products do.
With that said, be a critic. Take that extra 30 seconds and scan the ingredient label.
If your food says “all natural” and has things like sucralose, saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame, sodium nitrite, sodium nitrate…. come on now.
Types of soy you see day-to-day
- Whole Soy:
Edamame (cooked soybeans),
- Less Processed Soy:
- More Processed Soy:
Soy ice cream
Soy protein powder
Brenda lives in Tampa with her husband Mohamed and dog Mylah. She prefers being called a nutrition “coach” because she loves empowering, motivating and walking alongside her clients as they reach their goals.
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