Soy: Friend or Foe?

Soy is one of those foods whose health benefits is constantly debated. And I have to be honest – as a health coach it is exhausting.

I have read countless articles citing the benefits of soy as well as ones listing the dangers.

But after reading many studies, I’ve noticed an overall consensus:

1) Fermented soy is the ‘best’ kind, and soy in its whole form is the ‘good’ kind.

2) Processed soy – soy NOT in its whole form – is not favorable because the good parts are removed.

Let’s start with fermented soy foods. Foods in this category include miso, tempeh, natto, and tamari (a type of soy sauce).

I was thrilled that tempeh, miso, and tamari are on this list because I eat them often.

Natto? I’ve never heard of it nor eaten it. I’m not doubting it is a fermented soy product; I just can’t attest to the taste. If I ever try it, I’ll be sure to report back!

Although tofu is minimally processed and still falls into the ‘good soy’ category, I am still disappointed it is NOT on the fermented soy list, the ‘optimal’ soy. I love everything about tofu – the taste, the texture, and what I thought was a very healthy alternative to meat.

So I found myself in the dilemma that many people find themselves in when it comes to newer foods whose benefits are still debated:

To eat or not to eat?

Here is my take. There are so many varying opinions about certain foods, including meat, dairy and soy. There are REALLY SMART people who taut the benefits of these foods and there are EQUALLY SMART PEOPLE who claim these foods do not serve our bodies well.

So the fact that really smart people believe opposite things leads me to believe that the verdict is still unclear.

I believe that when it comes to food, everything in moderation is key. So after the research I have done, I will continue to eat tofu. Will I have it 5 days per week? Absolutely not. Will I have it once or twice per week? Yes.

I have to say that I’m very pleased that tempeh is on the fermented list. I make a killer Tempeh Sloppy Joe, and it is a hit in my house. (When I say hit, I mean my husband and I love it. Kids, not so much…yet!) You can get the recipe by liking the Instill Health facebook page.

I plan to start experimenting with other tempeh recipes and will be sure to share them with you once I’ve found some more keepers.

One last thing – I’m sure you are all wondering about edamame. Edamame is NOT a fermented soy, but it IS in its whole form, so it is still falls into the ‘good soy’ category. (Phew!)

Now onto processed soy.

You need to be careful when you purchase frozen, meatless foods, as this is where processed soy can be pervasive. A perfect example is veggie burgers, many of which include processed soy. There ARE options that do not contain soy, like Dr. Praeger’s Kale Veggie Burgers. So when purchasing frozen meals, be sure to read the ingredients and make sure soy is not one of them, as most likely it is processed.

Other processed soy ingredients to avoid are soybean oil, soy protein isolate, and soy lecithin. Soybean oil is the leading fat in processed foods. Look out for it in your snacky foods, like chips, too.

Soy protein isolate can be found in various granola bars and protein powders.

Other genetically engineered soy products to avoid are soy supplements, soy cheese, soy cream cheese, soy yogurt, and soy ice cream.

When in doubt, I advise to adhere to the simple rule of thumb that pertains to ALL foods, which is to stick with ones that remain in their whole form, or very close to their whole form.

And in the case of soy, ones that are fermented, too!