Here Lies The Soy Debate. RIP.
The controversy surrounding soy used to stress me out. As someone who sticks to a plant-based diet as much as possible, tofu has long been the starring protein of my dinnertime routine while soya milk has taken up firm residence in my morning coffee. Yet a simple Google search will reveal the mass amount of contradicting opinions on the subject of soy and its nutritional value. While some people avoid soy like the plague, others are tucking in with regularity. So we're here to clarify once and for all - to soy or not to soy.
The Health Benefits of Soy
The argument against consuming soy and soy-based products is predominantly grounded in the notion that soy may increase your risk of cancer. But here's what is currently clear: studies have demonstrated that consuming a moderate amount of soy not only protects against breast cancer in women but helps reduce chances of breast cancer recurrence. And it doesn't stop there, soy intake can increase survival rate of lung cancer, relieve symptoms of menopause, lower inflammation levels, lower cholesterol levels and even protect against hip fractures in women. And we're not just talking one or two choice studies here - many cancer research organisations and medical professionals advocate for soy.
In addition to that, soy is a plant source that contains eight of the essential amino acids, making it the only complete plant-based protein. Whole soy foods are also an excellent source of fiber, B vitamins, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids.
So What's The Problem?
Well, just like any food item, the more processed it is, the less you should be putting it on your plate. My beloved tofu and soya milk are walking the line here as both have been minimally processed. And in some cases, a few questionable ingredients find their way into store bought soya milk so always check those labels.
Once soy products have been so commercially processed they are unrecognizable (think: mock meat like soy nuggets and soy protein isolates), that's when the dangerous properties condemned by anti-soy protesters come out to play.
The Bottom Line
If you keep it as close to the whole food as possible, the most recent understanding of soy is that it is indeed healthy. Edamame, soy beans harvested when they are still immature, are not only delicious but a great source of protein, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc, copper, and manganese.
And tempeh, the result of taking a load of soy beans and fermenting them together, is a good alternative to tofu. Tempeh may even be healthier than actual edamame beans as the process of fermenting them makes them even more digestible.
So just check labels, keep it 'whole', don't overdo it and continue to enjoy the soy!Sumati Menda
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