There is so much conflicting information out there about soya. Like, so much. And I would know, because I decided to write an entire blog post on it, like a dickhead.
(tl;dr – no, soya is not really that bad for you).
Before I dive into the nitty gritty (or even do any research), I’m going to guess what my findings are going to be: 1) soya is fine, as long as you don’t eat an absurd amount of it, and 2) try to make sure that the soya you’re eating is as unprocessed as possible.
I make this prediction because those are the guidelines accompany almost every foodstuff going.
Oh, a quick FYI for those of you that don’t know: if a meat eater tells you that soya is bad (for you, the environment, WHATEVER), be sure to tell them that most soya is grown to feed to animals, that are then eaten by people. Just so we’re clear.
Types of soya
Or soy. Is the same.
At this point I’ve written the word soya so many times it’s lost all meaning.
Edamame – baby soya beans. Those things you get in Wagamamas while you’re waiting.
Soya beans – er, adult soya beans. Rarely used in western cooking, but you can get them frozen in Tescos
Tofu – Made by coagulating soya milk. It’s available in varying levels of firmness, and I can offer no advice on how to cook it because I’m a bad vegan, other than scrambling it or putting silken tofu in smoothies/chocolate mousse.
Tempeh – A less processed form of fermented soya. You can get it in Sainbury’s, but IMO it doesn’t taste like bacon like they say it does. Still nice though.
Milk – You know what soya milk is.
Miso – a fermented food used to flavour foods. I use miso paste as an alternative to a stock cube.
Oil – is an oil. Made from soya beans.
Flour – is a flour. Made from soya beans. A common additive in packaged foods.
TVP – textured vegetable protein. Also a common food industry additive. I’ve used it in place of mince, but bear in mind it isn’t seasoned, so you’ll have to make sure to add plenty of flavour. It’s useful to have in the cupboard though because it lasts freaking ages.
Soya protein isolate – what they put in soya protein powder.
The allegations leveled at soya
1 – It’s harmful to women at high risk of developing breast cancer
Current thinking is that this isn’t the case. The link was between high levels of isoflavones (plant oestrogen) found in soy, and people with high levels of oestrogen being more likely to develop breast cancer.
As it turns out, the levels of isoflavones found in food sources of soya simply aren’t high enough to affect our bodies. Just don’t take any isoflavone-containing supplements without consulting a doctor, because the levels are much higher.
It’s also worth noting that plant oestrogens aren’t the same as the oestrogen found in our bodies – they just have a similar form.
This article suggests that eating moderate amounts (1-3 servings a day) is absolutely fine.
2- It affects testosterone
This train of thought was also probably caused by the presence of plant oestrogens in soya. The answer is the same as above – eat fewer than 3 portions of relatively unprocessed soya per day and you’re fine.
The studies that show that men can grow boobs and have their penises shrivel up are either case studies on individuals (like the one in this article – oh, and if the article scares you off soya, be sure to read the response) that drink 5 pints of soya milk a day, or wildly biased.
I don’t think you need me to tell you not to drink 5 pints of anything per day, excluding water. That’s probably reaching the upper limits of even water though.
3 – It’s bad for the environment
Yes, it is.
It’s the cause of a LOT of deforestation (300 million hectares of tropical forests have been chopped down so it can be grown). This causes issues for wildlife and carbon emissions.
And guess how much of the world’s soya is certified as sustainable. Three measly percent. Yippee. This post explains the situation better than I can.
Remember that 70% of all soya grown is used for animal feed. Sure, soya’s bad for the environment, but that’s not the fault of the vegans. Only 6% of soya is for human consumption. The remaining 24% goes to make soya bean oil, which is used for everything from cooking with to insect repellents (as a fixative, not to actually repel them, before you start rubbing it all over yourself) to making oil paints from.
4 – It’s genetically modified
Er, yup. Almost exclusively actually.
This is a v boring subject for me and would make this post unnecessarily long because there’s so much contention on the issue of GMOs, so read this article if you’re interested. Basically, it’s thought that GMOs contain more residual pesticides, but the soya used to make soya products (as opposed to going to make animal feed) tends to be non-GMO.
So again, eating soya is probs fine (again, don’t neck 5 pints of it).
5 – It’s good for you
Yes, it is (in moderation), if you eating relatively unprocessed or fermented forms.
- It’s high in protein, calcium, fibre, magnesium, vitamin E, and vitamin H (which I’ve only just learned exists).
- Ironically, the phytoestrogens have been found to block excess oestrogen in the body, and may, therefore, alleviate things like PMS and endometriosis.
- Soya beans may be able to inhibit cholesterol, because they contain phytosterols.
- Don’t be frightened of, or avoid, unprocessed or fermented soya products.
- But don’t go mad. No more than 3 servings a day (who the hell eats more than that – I have one a day IF soya milk is currently in my plant milk rotation or I’m adding silken tofu to smoothies). I regularly go days without eating a significant amount of soya.
- There is so much info out there about soya it’s mental
- Don’t get sucked into Conspiracy Theory YouTube inadvertently via researching GMOs. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.