There is a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding about Soya. So lets take a look at the facts – is soya good or bad for us?

Soya, tempeh and tofu are all from the same family – the soybean. The soybean is classed as a legume but is more of an oilseed than a pulse.

It has been widely purported to be a wondrously healthy and beneficial source of nutrition with claims made about its power to fight cancer, reduce heart disease, boost brain power, ease menopausal symptoms and protect against osteoporosis. And yet, it has also been the target of highly negative claims and even vociferous anti-soya campaigns!

So it seems to be a highly divisive food product…

So what is this bean that is known to have been consumed for over 3,000 years? Soya is packed with antioxidants and is rich in protein and so considered an excellent vegetarian alternative to animal protein. Whereas tofu is made from the curd from soy milk, tempeh is higher in protein as it uses the whole soybean. It is also richer in taste than Tofu.

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While Soy has been used for thousands of years in the East, it has only recently had growing popularity in the West since the World Wars. Now America and Brazil are its biggest producers and its profits are huge. Soy can be found in processed foods, oils, supplements, animal feed, pre-packed meals, dairy alternatives such as yogurt, cheese, ice cream and baby formulas, among many other products.

Are Soy Products Healthy?

There are plenty of positive claims about soy yet it is claimed the evidence of health benefits is inconclusive. Although analysis shows that soy contains such minerals as calcium, magnesium and zinc, the body cannot assimilate the nutrients due to a high content of phytate (the principal phosphorus store in plants) in soy, which inhibits absorption of the minerals.thejoyofsoy_2There has been growing comment that the plant based oestrogens that soy products contain, can encourage hormone abnormalities.

For instance, a cup of soya milk can depress thyroid function for up to seven days. Since good thyroid function is integral to our health, energy, moods and many more vital bodily interactions, it is advisable to keep any upset or interruptions to thyroids to a minimum.

This is the kind of thing that has fuelled the anti-soya wing and even had parents questioning whether soya will feminise their young sons. So whilst there is basis in the observation – their are oestrogen hormone qualities in soya – it is to a very weak level of between 100-100,000 times weaker than naturally produced oestrogens in the human body.

And yet there are further counter arguments… Phytate can normally be reduced through long, slow cooking processes, yet the phytate found in soy is resistant.

However, a successful technique of reducing the phytate content is by a long period of fermentation. This makes the nutrients easily assimilated. Tempeh and soy sauce are therefore the preferred options from the soybean. Leave the other unfermented products to a minimum.

So as you can see see already this is rather an involved but fascinating subject. Is soya good or bad? There is plenty to look at on both sides of the argument. I my second part I will look further into the debate.

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