Justifying soybeans

Soybeans…lol by ardie96750

More and more I’m noticing health-conscious people say “I don’t eat soy” with the same self-righteousness with which vegans inform their more barbaric friends that they don’t eat meat, saying that something in soy mimics estrogen and can have noticeable effects on the development of children, especially males. Being as distrustful as I am of the American food system, I bookmarked this snippet for further research.

A quick search informed me that the concern is caused by phytoestrogens, which are plant compounds that are molecularly similar to and therefore can have similar effects as estrogen. Flax seed and other oilseeds contain the highest total phytoestrogen content, followed by soy bean and tofu. The benefits of these foods have been touted in the health food circuit for years, and soybeans have been a major staple of the Chinese diet for oh, five thousand years. And they seem to be doing just fine.

Yes, “science works, bitches,” but the history of nutrition science has proven time and time again that it cannot match the knowledge and efficiency of thousands of years of eating. Any Michael Pollan reader can tell you that the problem with nutrition science lies within the name of the practice itself — based on the way scientists need to remove or control every variable besides the one they are testing, they are forced to take nutrients out of the context of food and food out of the context of culture, removing systems that have evolved with us ever since humans started eating. Why should I suddenly (and by suddenly, I mean within the last 100 years) need a scientist to tell me what to eat?

Now here’s where I confess that this post started as a simple tumblelog link to the wikipedia page on phytoestrogens that grew into a rant too long for Tumblr’s description field. I don’t have the answer that could explain why our recent scientific development has never slowed the Chinese down, but I think the point I’m trying to make here is that I don’t care.

Or maybe I’m just trying to validate why I shouldn’t feel guilty about my brand new soymilk maker.

Edit: Further research has uncovered that Kaayla T. Daniel, the author of the “answer” article linked above, has also written a book with the same title. A number of helpful amazon reviewers have uncovered that Daniel and her publisher are both very closely associated with the Weston A. Price association, which includes raw milks and high meat consumption among their advocacies. The reviewers are quite critical of the author’s apparent lack of objectivity, but I found the site to be largely in line with a lot of my current ideologies (avoid products of food science, choose local organic etc etc etc). A number of reviewers also replied that Daniel has cited poorly formulated and cherry picked studies to create a very one-sided argument against soy. Reader beware.

6 Replies to “Justifying soybeans”

  1. I would like to read more about just how much of the Chinese or Japanese diet is actually composed of soy. I’m pretty sure very little of it is soy milk, though.

    I’m not one of the anti-soy–the best coffee creamer is Soy Silk–but it has also been linked to hypothyroidism, which I already suffer from, so I really should be looking for more info on it.

  2. Growing up in Japan, I consumed many soy products, and my ancestors have been doing this for centuries. Not to toot my own horn but I think I grew up just fine. But now I know that the soy that makes me appreciate the female beauty even more so.

    By the way, I am very envious of your soy milk maker. You should make some fresh tofu and yuba, and send me some :) Shunju New Japanese Cuisine by Takashi Sugimoto is a wonderful modern Japanese cook book that explored traditional Japanese cooking with a contemporary twist and has wonderful homemade Tofu recipes. It so happens to be one of my favorite cook book right now.

  3. Hiya.

    Thanks for posting this.

    As usual “science” gets it wrong. Phytoestrogens help women, especially after menopause.

    And your soy milk will be as good as the ingredients you put in.


  4. My stepbrother was a doctor of Oriental medicine (AKA an accupuncturist and Chinese herbalist). He used to tell me that I should eat soy that isn’t overprocessed – tofu and edamame are fine, but soymilk not so much.

    I can’t quote him anymore, though, because he died of cancer in his late 40’s, and that tends to discredit his health advice. Go figure – a vegan most of his life, and he didn’t smoke or drink. Guess there’s no easy nutritional answer.

  5. Soy has taken a hit in the fitness world, especially when it comes to soy protein. It is impossible to avoid soy since it is in many candy bars and other edible products. I like soy protein every now and then to mix with my oatmeal. It helps keep my cholesterol honest and low.

    To Rick’s comments above, soy for women, are said to help with hot flashes during and after menopause. Throw some black cohosh in there in it seems to work well for some women.

    Bottomline: Don’t diss soy.

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