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Soy and tofu products include
soybeans (edamame), soy nuts, tofu,
fermented products like tempeh and
miso, and soy/tofu-based products
(like soy milk, mock meats, etc.).
Quick Page Summary: As
long as it's eaten in moderation,
soy and tofu products can be
extremely healthy and nutritious
for you. Although it's still
being debated whether non-fermented
soy and tofu products contain
harmful toxins, most experts
generally agree that the health
benefits probably outweigh any
There are numerous, tasty, soy/tofu-based
meat and dairy alternatives available
these days, and it's easy to focus
your diet on these alternatives—especially
if you're transitioning from a meat-based
diet that focused on protein as the
main dish. Not only is this unnecessary,
it can be very unhealthy. Remember
that, like anything, moderation and
variety is best. No diet should focus
on soy/tofu products; healthy diets
should focus on the new
four food groups, which include whole
and vegetables, and beans/legumes.
Small amounts of soy/tofu added to
an already healthy veg diet may be
beneficial to your health; just be
careful not to overdo it.
We've all heard lots of hype about how good soy is for
you. Some of the latest studies suggest
that soy products may reduce the risk of heart disease,
lower blood pressure in patients with hypertension, help
reduce the risk of osteoporosis, improve memory, decrease
menopausal symptoms, reduce the risk of some cancers, and
assist in body weight control. Soy and tofu products can
also be very nutritious.
Despite pro-soy studies, there's a lot of controversy
about whether soy/tofu products might actually be unhealthy for
you. Please do your own research and
to come to your own conclusions. In the meantime,
the current consensus seems to be that the benefits probably
outweigh any dangers when eaten in moderation with a healthy
"I'm aware of Internet paranoia on the subject of
soy and the contention that only fermented soy is safe
to consume. That is simply not true. Some of the best
forms of soy - edamame, tofu and soy nuts - are unfermented
and are much more likely to help you than hurt you. [..]
All told, based on the evidence to date, I see no reason
to worry about eating soy foods, whether fermented or not.
I still recommend consuming one to two servings of soy
per day, an amount equivalent to one cup of soy milk, or
one half cup of tofu, soy protein (tempeh) or soy nuts." — Dr.
Andrew Weil, M.D. in "Rethinking
Here's an overview
of some of the issues being debated:
Soy products are known to inhibit
the absorption of iron to a significant
extent. Although soy products
can meet the RDA amount of iron,
the amount that is absorbed may
be insufficient. Additional vitamin
C may improve uptake of iron.
Soy has many potential anti-nutrient
effects. There are a number of components
present in soybeans that exert a
negative impact on the nutritional
quality of the protein. Other diverse
but ill-defined factors appear to
increase the requirements for vitamins
A, B12, D, and E.
Scientists generally agree that
grain and legume diets high in phytates
contribute to widespread mineral
deficiencies in third-world countries.
The soybean contains more phytate
than any other grain or legume studied.
Cooking does reduce phytate
contents; however, soy seems highly
resistant to these cooking techniques.
Fermentation to produce products
like tempeh and miso does reduce
phytate contents significantly.
Tofu and bean curd remain high in
phytate, as do TVP (textured vegetable
The phytate content remains in
soy milk to block the uptake of
essential minerals. The alkaline
solution that is used to soak the
soy milk solution produces a carcinogen,
Tofu is a mixture of soybean curd
and plaster of paris. It has a high
phytate content and may contain
traces of other toxins used in its
manufacture. Tofu does contain the
highest quantity of isoflavones
and phytoestrogens, which are said
to inhibit tumor formation and prevent
hormone-related diseases in women.
TVP (textured vegetable protein)
is the result of taking soy protein
isolate and applying a high-temperature
and high-pressure extrusion process.
Usually artificial flavors, such
as MSG, are added to mask the beany
flavor of TVP. By the time TVP products
are cooked, they've usually reached
their third or fourth heating.
Isoflavone aglycones are anti-carcinogenic
substances found in traditionally
fermented soy products. In modern,
non-fermented soy products, such
as tofu and soy milk, these substances
are present as beta-glycoside conjugates
that do not have anti-carcinogenic
The fatty acids that are alleged
to be beneficial in soy products,
the essential omega-3 fatty acids,
are particularly subject to rancidity
during high temperature and pressure
processing. The fats then become
trans-fats and form carcinogenic
compounds. Trans fats, also found
in vegetable margarines, are very
- Hexane or other solvents are used
to extract oil from soybeans. Traces
of this remain in commercial soy
products. It's suspected that this
group of chemicals may be linked
For information about soy and
tofu products, visit these
Soy Safe?" by Jack Norris,
It Safe to Eat Soy?" by Virginia
Messina, MS, RD and Mark Messina,
It True What They Say About Soy?" from the UC Berkeley Wellness
Letter, November 2002.
Rethinking Soy" by Andrew
Weil, M.D. Posted March 12, 2004.
and Your Health" by Physician's
Committee for Responsible Medicine
Soy Connection," A publication
of the soy industry, edited by
Mark Messina, PhD.
The Hopes Probably Outweigh the
Fears" by John Livesay PhD, Scientific
Officer, Department of Endocrinology,
Christchurch Hospital, New Zealand.
Baumels's Review of "The Whole
Soy Story: The Dark Side of America's
Favorite Health Food" by Kaayla T.
Daniel. Posted December, 2006.
Soy Foods" by NutritionMD.org