So It's Okay to Eat Soy?
Last week, my Heart Healthy quiz asked the question:
True or False: Eating lots of soy will increase your risk of heart disease.
The answer? FALSE
Soy has actually been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease by decreasing cholesterol levels. Because soy is a plant (and no plants have cholesterol), it is naturally a cholesterol-free food. Only animal products (meats, cheese, eggs, seafood) have cholesterol so swapping out any of these for soy can help lower the amount of cholesterol in your diet.
Stick with the most "Whole" form of Soy
While soy has tended to get a bad rap with tags like estrogenic (encouraging the production of estrogen), the science points that soy is much like any food – it is healthiest when consumed in its whole form and less healthy when it becomes processed and refined into something like “soy protein isolate”. To break this down, consider the evolution of a soy bean from whole to refined:
Whole soy beans (aka edamame) are the most whole, most unrefined form. They can be steamed and tossed on top of salads, added to stir-fry, and are often served as an appetizer at Japanese restaurants. Enjoy till you’re satisfied.
Tofu and miso paste are two forms of fermented soy. Tempeh is also a slightly-refined form of soy. These are slightly refined from the whole soy bean, but still relatively healthy when eaten in moderation.
Soy oil, soy protein isolate, and fake soy “meats” are highly-processed, highly-refined foods that barely resemble the whole soy beans from which they came. Just as consuming any refined oil, protein isolate, or “fake” food is unhealthy, so are these. The irony of our American quest for “More Protein” has led to massive consumption of soy protein isolate. A cheap way for food companies to amp up the protein in packaged foods, soy isolate has found its way into everything from energy bars to veggie burgers to breakfast cereals and smoothies. Remember, most of us are already getting PLENTY of protein (especially if we still eat meat or seafood) so there should be little concern over adding more protein to our diets. Rather, focus on getting plenty of fiber through complex carbohydrates like whole grains and starchy vegetables.
Quick Snack: Frozen Edamame
One of the easiest sources of healthy vegan protein that I always have on hand are my frozen edamame. I’ll heat up a bowl of the edamame in shells for a quick snack. I add the shelled edamame to stir-fry, soups, and even pasta. They have a similar texture to frozen peas, but their larger shape tends leaves me feeling more satisfied.
Here are 8 Healthy Soy Recipes for you to try:
For more Healthy, Vegan Recipes, check out all of the Plants-Rule Recipes
For more in-depth reading about the specific medical research pro and anti- soy, check out this 2005 article by Dr. John McDougall, where he reiterates the point: Whole Foods over Refined Food
About the Author:
Chef Katie Simmons
Katie is a Personal Chef based in Chicago. She specializes in creating delicious, healthy recipes for those with special dietary concerns like gluten-free, oil-free, plant-based, and low-residue. Outside of the kitchen, she is a Fitness Instructor for Equinox, with over 13 years experience in the fitness industry, and a blogger for Kuli Kuli Foods. For fun, she loves to travel, with her most recent travel involving 10 days of hiking in the Patagonia of Argentina and Chile.