There is so much bad press about this humble legume – the only one in its family to be a complete protein at between 20%-235%. (Meat has about 17%). They are high in fibre and contain many minerals. In it’s original state it is kind to the earth, being environmentally sound as a crop. One acre (4050 square metres) of soya beans produces twenty times more useable protein than the land used to raise cattle and they improve soil fertility, all the while reducing any toxins present in the soil. Yes it’s a beautiful plant.
Soy is a lovely source of plant protein for vegans and vego’s (or anyone who wants to eat les meat) and when prepared and consumed appropriately, the humble soya bean provides us with a good deal of useable protein, vitamins A and B complex, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, complex carbohydrates, fibre, essential fatty acids and lecithin. It is also beneficial in reducing menopausal symptoms, due to its oestrogen content. Soya beans contain little, if any saturated fat. The richest natural vegetable food, the soya bean contains complex carbohydrates, vitamin A, niacin, riboflavin (B group), potassium, calcium, magnesium and iron. There are many health benefits to be gained by including organic soy into your diet a few times a week – it strengthens the spleen, pancreas and stomach; cleanses the blood vessels and heart; improves circulation; helps restore pancreatic function (necessary for diabetes); is alkaline; nourishes children (especially through tempeh and milk); and it is slow to absorb in the blood stream, therefore it keeps blood sugar stable.
So what’s the issue? Well that’d be genetic modification or GMO technology. Soy is one of the crops grown using this awful technology, along with canola, corn and cotton, and soon to be wheat. (OMG!) So there is too much awful soy around these days. If you look at the ingredients on packaged food (which I know you all do) you’ll likely see soy of sorts in there. Be it soy protein iso-flavins or isolates or flour. AVOID. They are stuffing this carcinogenic crap into so many packaged and take away foods. This is the sort of soy that is giving good soy a bad name. And they know so many of are avoiding gluten now, that they are using this instead as a filler. Yuck. Ah, the politics of food raises its ugly head once again. We don’t want this type of soy; In fact we don’t want ANY GMO crops in our food or in our fields. And it’s not even mandatory for manufactures to say their product contains it. At least give us he choice to be poisoned or not.
Avoid TVP – which is textured vegetable protein, vegetarian sausages and other ‘vegetarian meat’, soy cheese (this is full of additives), soy milk that does not contain organic whole soy beans – and this is most in your supermarket – soy protein powder and soy milk powder; soy crisps or any other snack that doesn’t declare that is uses only ‘organic whole soy beans’.
Also, they contain a trypsin inhibitor (a digestive enzyme) that make them difficult to digest unless they’ve been soaked for a long time – around 15 hours – and have had along cooking time. Then they are ready to eat. In Asia traditionally they have been prepared in this way, then make them into tofu, milk, tempeh, natto and miso. The last three also having the added benefit of being fermented, so especially good for our gut.
Unfermented soy products are tofu and soymilk. Too many of these isn’t a great idea as they may leach calcium out of your body and contribute to digestive problems. (I’ve never had any trouble digesting soy btw.) These should be eaten only three to four times a week.
When choosing a soymilk, be sure to buy one that uses only organic whole soya beans (not soya bean isolates or iso-flavins), hasn’t been ‘enriched’ with something, contains no sugar and is locally made. I avoid any products at all that come from Japan since the Fukoshima disaster. I’m not sure about the radiation levels in food imported from this region, but why do I need to risk it when we have gorgeous soy milks made right here in Australia, and are certified organic. There are two good ones I choose.
Fermented soy products are much easier on our digestive tract than unfermented. These are tempeh, natto miso and miso paste. They are packed with essential nutrients, such as protein, calcium and iron, along with a good deal of B vitamins, including B12, which is often hard to get, especially in a vegetarian diet. You don’t have to avoid unfermented soy, just don’t eat them everyday.
The Japanese have been including soy in their diet for centuries, enjoying al the benefits they bring to their diet. But they don’t add soymilk to their cereal in the morning, get a soy latte on the way to work (that probably uses GMO soy beans) and then put it in their smoothies. They use it sparingly and with the respect it deserves. More of a good thing is not usually better. Less is more in most cases.
As far as soy sauce goes – be sure to get a brand that contains only organic soybeans and sea salt. No wheat, sugar, MSG or anything other additives. When it comes to miso there is only one that I can find that is Australian made, and this one comes from the Blue Mountains. If your local health food store doesn’t stock it then ask them to get it in for you. I’ve been trying to get it into my web-store but they only sell it in a big container in bulk.
Miso paste is magic stuff. It’s alkaline, high in useable protein (15 to 20 per cent), aids digestion and assimilation, improves gut flora, deals with any stomach complaint, increases resistance to infection and disease, is great for hangovers, neutralises some of the effects of smoking and pollution and, according to tradition, promotes long life and good health. As miso contains live enzymes, it is important to buy it unpasteurised, as heating it will destroy the enzymes.
Tempeh is my favourite breakfast ingredient. It’s high in protein (around 115%) and fibre, contains B12 and omega 3 oils, and it’s fermented, so my gut likes it. I slice it, then drizzle it with tamari then cook it in my cast iron pan in some coconut oil. I then wrap it in a nori sheet (not from Japan) with some avocado, any leftover grilled veggies I have in the fridge and loads of fresh leafy greens and coriander from my garden. I finish this little bundle of goodness off with a sprinkling of my ‘Tamari Seeds’ from Eating For The Seasons. This is goooood in the cooler months.
Natto miso is another lovely fermented soy product. This condiment is popular in Japanese cuisine but harder to get here. It’s made from cooked, whole soya beans, barley, barley malt, ginger, kombu and sea salt with Bacillus subtilis. It is rich in protein and fibre and contains very little sodium. Natto miso can be used as a condiment in sauces and stir-fries or as a replacement for miso paste. It may contain vitamin B12 and is the best source of k2 – the latest celebrity Vitamin we will be hearing a lot more about in the future.
What about soy and cancer? Yes it’s fine! Don’t eat it all the time as I’ve mentioned, In dealing with cancer it’s a good idea to avoid all animal products (although a little goats products are ok, and perhaps a little sustainably- caught clean fish) and so many other things, so organic soy will be a nice and welcome addition to the diet.
And estrogen? There are two types – xeno’ (foreign or stranger in Latin) and phyto’ (plant). We have estrogen receptors in our bodies that will take up either. If we don’t get enough phyto’ estrogens like soy and other plant sources (there’s a list in Elixir) then the receptors will take up the bad guys, and these are everywhere from our cleaning, body and beauty products to environmental pollutants like car exhaust fumes, and all the revolting stuff that spew’s out of toxic factories and processing plants etc etc etc. We really need to get the good estrogens in so h bad guys don’t get a look in. As far as boys and estrogen go – yes give them soy. They have estogen in their bodies as well, in fact there’s some research that says they have more. It’s a much better idea they avoid toxic chemicals in their deodorant and food than from organic soy.
So, that’s the lowdown on soy. It’s a controversial issue of course, but seriously – it’s ok to relax a little about soy. I’m more concerned about how many of us are eating food that has been grown, prepared and packaged using modern practices that use highly toxic chemicals. As usual my advice is – Go Organic!
For now, I’m going to grill myself some tempeh, pop it on top of some baked veggies then smother the whole lot with some Green Hummus. And happy knowing the bad xeno- estrogens I inhaled on the street today aren’t getting taken up by my body’s estrogen receptors – causing all sorts of hormone disruption.