How Much Soy is Safe To Eat? That question has been coming in several times a week since The Whole Soy Story came out in March 2005. Here’s a sampling:
- I use soy milk daily on my cereal? Is that too much soy?
- I drink soy lattes every morning? Is that too much soy?
- I eat a bag of edamame every other night when I watch TV. Is that too much soy?
- I have miso soup every morning. Is that too much soy?
- I attend lots of vegetarian potlucks. I buy very few soy products myself but still like to spend time with my vegetarian friends. I eat soy when I am with them. How much soy is safe for me to eat?
- I buy only organic tofu. How much is safe to eat?
Back in Spring 2006 I published a piece called “Practice Safe Soy,” which I gave out at lectures, and posted on www.wholesoystory.com. Time to pull it out again as it answers all these questions, hopefully in an edu-taining way. Here we go:
Lots of talk these days about sex education and safe sex. That got The Naughty Nutritionist™ thinking about what it might mean to “Practice Safe Soy.”
Here’s seven hot tips, with none too hot to handle.
- Use soy as a condoment . . . err, condiment. Soy was traditionally eaten in Asia as a condiment, not as a staple food.
- Less is more! Stick to small portions of the Good Old Soys — Miso, Natto, Tempeh and unpasteurized Shoyu. Old -fashioned fermenting makes these foods nutritious, delicious and healthful. Few people are inclined to eat these foods to excess. And a whole bowl only contains about a teaspoon or two of miso.
- Beware the seductions of Mr Tofu! He looks pure and white, and thinks it’s “hip to be square,” but the truth is he’s a bland cube without a leg to stand on! Seriously, he’s a precipitated product and not fermented. That means you can precipitate a health crisis if you do more than flirt with him occasionally. A few cubes in your soup, okay. A half pound slab, too much of him!
- Avoid udder alternatives! Soy milk is not the worst soy product in the marketplace, but it’s the one most likely to be consumed to excess. It’s certainly good that soy’s hormone havoc-producing isoflavones go missing in rice, hemp, almond milks, but those products too are high in sugar and propped up with dubious flavorings and additives.
- Don’t be a Pod Person! Enjoy a few edamame at your favorite Japanese restaurant if you will, but a whole bag for snacking in front of the TV? This is not a case of success from excess.
- Watch out for Ex Rated! That means don’t eating anything squeezed out of an ex-truder. You wouldn’t eat styrofoam packing materials or plastic toys, would you? Textured vegetable protein and some soy protein isolate products are manufactured using virtually the same technology. The difference is extrusion techniques for food put more flavorings and colorings into the mix.
- Fear the Hydra Monster! Hydrolyzed plant protein is usually soy. Hydrolyzed whey, corn, wheat and other products are every bit as bad.
For most people, practicing safe soy as described above is good enough. However, those who are allergic or sensitive to soy might need to stay soy celibate. If that might be you, here’s a few additional points to ponder:
- Allergic to soy? Know “where the soys are” and avoid them at all costs. Simple enough in theory, but well-nigh impossible in practice, at least for anyone who eats processed, packaged and fast foods. More than 60 percent of supermarket and health food store products contain soy ingredients. Nearly 100 percent of fast foods contain soy. Although most allergic people attempt to stay soy free by reading labels, a better way is to eat “real foods” and cook everything from scratch. That avoids the risks of mislabeled and cross contaminated products not to mention the ongoing frustration, exasperation and time wasting of label reading.
- Sensitive to soy? It’s possible you react poorly to modern industrially processed soy products, but can enjoy the occasional serving of miso soup, natto or tempeh. The operative word is “occasional.” And the way to go is real foods, whole foods and slow foods.
- Suffering from digestive distress, thyroid disease, reproductive disorders or infertility? At risk for cancer? You might want to carefully consider your soy intake. The Israeli Health Ministry last year urged women at risk for breast cancer to take it easy on the soy. Will the U.S. be next?
That’s it, folks. Go out, have fun, eat well, and always practice safe soy.
© copyright 2006 Kaayla T. Daniel. PhD, CCN