What it is?
Soy is a legume/bean and is considered a complete protein! This means that soy contains all the amino acids needed to make protein in our bodies.
Soybeans are composed of 37% protein, 10% water, 34% carbohydrate and 18% oil. Soy beans also contain phenolic compounds (isoflavones) vitamins, and minerals including calcium, magnesium, iron and B-vitamins!
Soy beans are also quite versatile! There are soy based foods like edamame, soy nuts, soy milk, tofu and there are also fermented soy based foods like miso, tempeh, and natto. Soy beans can also be made into soy sauce, soy protein isolate, and soy protein concentrate that may be added to other food products.
Why we need it?
It is a great alternative for both meat and dairy! It is rich in protein, iron, calcium, fibre, and healthy fats.
However, Soy tends to have a bad reputation among men and women.
The isoflavones in Soy are also know as phytoestrogens. The idea of phytoestrogen mimicking female hormone estrogen in the body has lead to a lot of fear in both men and women about ingesting too much soy! However, there is NO strong evidence to show that soy needs to be avoided.
There has been research that shows:
– Soy does not lower testosterone levels or affect reproductive hormones in men and may actually reduce prostate cancer risk in men
– Soy has a neutral effect on breast cancer risk and some studies have shown that soy may actually be protective against breast cancer! Lack of evidence to show that soy impacts risk of breast cancer or breast cancer recurrence and Soy does not appear to influence levels of circulating estrogen or exert estrogen like effects on target tissues when studied in context of breast cancer.
– May lower cholesterol levels (LDL) and raise good cholesterol (HDL)
There may also be differences in the type of soy product and its effect on our body. Other soy products that contain soy protein isolates may contain more soy isoflavones. More research is needed in this area to see if high isoflavone content impacts our bodies differently.
Lets talk Conventional vs Organic Soy:
First let’s start with what is organic. Organic refers to the way food products are grown or processed. Organics foods must be grown without the use of synthetic herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, or use genetically modified organisms (GMO).
Conventional soy or non-organic soy, may contain more herbicides.
So should we be avoiding herbicides?
According to the AICR (American Institute for Cancer Research), Glysphosphate, which is a herbicide, is “probably carcinogenic” though limited evidence is shown in humans and more studies may need to be completed.
Organic foods or those without the use of herbicides, may not necessarily protect against cancer and what matters more is other diet and lifestyle factors!
So should I buy organic soy products?
If you want to avoid GMO’s and herbicides then yes! Are GMO’s and herbicides bad for you? Maybe…but there is still a lack of evidence in this area. You also need to consider the type of soy products you are consuming! Majority of the soy milks and tofu brands are going to be organic/non-GMO anyways.
So where does that leave us?
Don’t be scared of soy! Including soy foods in your diet a couple days a week can be a great alternative for some dairy and meat products and is a great way to add more variety to your diet. Aim to chose minimally processed forms of soy such as tempeh, tofu, miso and edamame.