Monday, July 29, 2013

Is soy bad for you?


Last week, I was having lunch with a female associate, and two male partners at my firm.  The associate announced that she recently became a vegan.  One of the partners asked her, "So what do you eat then, soy?” Her curt response was, “Soy is bad for you.”

This statement got my attention, because the culture I was raised on is pretty much based on soy (and rice, of course).  This statement also got the male partner riled up because apparently, edamame is the only “vegetable” he and his wife could get their 10 year old son to eat.  But the associate was adamant, “Google it.  There are articles about how bad it is for you. It messes with your hormones.  Eating a soybean is the equivalent of eating four birth control pills. And soy is in everything.”

So I did exactly that.  In my highly precise and in depth investigation (i.e. googling “is soy bad for you?”) And here are my takeaways from the sampling of articles I read:

  • Yes, soy consumed in large quantities can affect your hormones because soy plants contain an estrogen-like hormone.  This is why many postmenopausal women take soy to relieve their symptoms. But it is not the equivalent of eating four birth control pills.
  • Edamame is soy in its purest form, and carries the most health benefits.  It is when soy is processed that it loses its nutritional value.  Edamame is actually a great source of a lean protein.  (So the partner’s kid can keep eating edamame without growing man-boobs).
  • Soy is added into a lot of processed foods such as cereal and protein bars because it is cheap.  Soy in its processed form may have detrimental effects.  So considering that processed soy is not as good for you as unprocessed, the benefits may not outweigh  the negative effects.
  • Exceptions to this rule are fresh tofu and fermented soy, such as tempeh and miso – all products that I grew up with and ate in significant quantities as a kid.  So I can rest assured.
  • As I have always believed when it comes to eating - “all things in moderation” – so as long as you consume soy, (and anything else really) in moderation, you will probably be fine. 

Here are the articles I read to draw these conclusions.  (Once again, this is by no means an exhaustive list, but rather my 10 second Google search).

What do you think?  Soy – yay or nay?


mollyjade said...

Soy is probably the most-studied food, which is why there's so much ammunition for people who want to exaggerate its benefits or possible harms. It's not a miracle food and it's not poison.

Here is what the Harvard School of Public Health has to say:

Cheryl said...

Thanks for sending the article, Molly. I do believe that as long as you eat anything in moderation, you'll probably be okay.