Since 1999, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a “heart healthy” labeling claim for certain soy-based foods, pantry staples like cereal and pasta have been “soy-ed up” and repackaged as health foods. Read the article…
So is soy as healthy as the health claims play it out to be?
What you need to know:
Soybeans do contain important nutrients. A “serving” of half a cup has more than 30 grams of protein and 9 grams of fiber, as well as 19 grams of fat, mostly unsaturated.
If you are a vegan, vegetarian or lactose intolerant, soy foods are a god-send because they allow you to vary your cooking and dining options substantially. They serve as a replacement to both dairy products (soy milk) and meat products (tofu). Some women find soy helps alleviate menopausal “hot-flashes”.
(On the other hand, about half a million Americans suffer from soy allergy, and are on constant lookout for products bearing no textured soy flour, textured soy protein, textured vegetable protein, etc. )
The real story of healthy soy is, as in many cases, more politics than nutrition. The 1999 approval to bear health claims on soy protein products was the result of huge pressure by large corporations. Over the years, a subsidy system enabled US farms to grow giant surpluses of soybeans. All the soy had to go somewhere. Most of the research finding health benefits in soy has been sponsored by these corporations. However, there are just as many studies out there warning about the dangers in soy consumption. Phytochemicals called isoflavones found in the soybean behave like estrogens which have been linked to increased chances of breast cancer in women.
From a marketing perspective, the FDA seal of approval has elevated soy to a super food status that it probably does not deserve.
What to do at the supermarket:
If you actively look for soy products and eat them, keep enjoying. If you don’t like soy products, don’t feel bad about it, they are not a must have if you are eating an otherwise healthy diet. Take note, though, that 1 in 10 products will have some part of the soybean in the ingredient list:
… unbeknownst to most consumers, soy is added without fanfare to foods all the time. In fact, soy ends up in everything from canned tuna to powdered lemonade mix as a “filler” or “extender,” moisture retainer, texture provider, protein booster or cheap substitute for flour, eggs or milk.
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