One of the most controversial foods around these days must be soy. It divides us like not many other foods. Is it something we should be eating, or not? Here’s the low down from our Nutrition Expert Janella Purcell.
The Good News -
- Soy is the only legume to be a complete protein at between 20% - 35% - meat has about 17% - so it’s great for vegos and vegans.
- The richest natural vegetable food, the soya bean contains complex carbohydrates, vitamin A, niacin, potassium, calcium, magnesium and iron, they are high in fibre and contain many minerals and vitamins like A and B complex including folic acid and riboflavin, also complex carbohydrates, essential fatty acids and lecithin.
- It’s great to help reduce menopausal symptoms, due to its estrogen content, and there are many other 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.
- 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.
The Not So Good news -
- Soy is one of the crops grown using GMO technology. AVOID!
- 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. These should be eaten only three to four times a week.
- 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 having the added benefit of being fermented, so especially good for our gut. (See below.)
- 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-flavons or isolates or flour. AVOID. They are stuffing this toxic compound into so many packaged and take away foods. This is the sort of soy that is giving good soy a bad name. And as may of us are avoiding gluten now, the manufacturers are using this instead as filler. Yuck.
What To Do –
- Avoid TVP – which is textured vegetable protein, vegetarian sausages and other ‘vegetarian meat’, soy cheese (this is also 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’, and preferably Australian grown soy beans and organic.
- When choosing a soymilk, be sure to buy one that uses only organic whole soya beans (not soya bean isolates or iso-flavons), hasn’t been ‘enriched’ with something, contains no sugar and is locally made.
- Fermented soy products are much easier on our digestive tract than unfermented. These are tempeh, natto miso and miso paste. (More on these below) 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.
- Soy Sauce – get a brand that contains only organic soybeans and sea salt. No wheat, sugar, MSG or anything other additives.
Like most of our food these days, there’s a good and then there’s a bad type of soy. The Japanese have been including (good) soy in their diet for centuries, enjoying all the benefits this humble legume brings.
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 everyday. 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, and definitely in this case. So look for Australian soy products that use certified organic, whole soy beans.
In Love + Wellbeing,
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.