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feel good food that's good for you

the_soy_situationBy now most of you know that I have a day job. I don’t spend all day, every day puttering about in my kitchen and tippy tapping on my lap-top. Not quite. Some days you will find me teaching cancer nutrition at the brilliant Edinburgh Maggies’s Cancer Caring Centre.

Many of the people I see have loads of questions, not only about their actual treatment (“why can’t I taste anything on chemo?”), but about what they ‘should’ be eating during and after treatment. And they want to know not only for their own sake but also for the sake of their families and loved ones.

When experiencing cancer or any chronic illness, food can be fraught. On the one hand there are scare stories that some of the papers seem to glory in highlighting. At the other extreme there are millions of digital articles and acres of newsprint devoted to extolling the latest must-eat super foods and miracle pills/potions/drinks/injections, etc. Part of my job is sifting through the real and ‘puffed up’ information that is out there, and helping those I see come to an informed choice about what they feed themselves and their families.

One of the biggest questions is to do with soya/soy.

If you are a vegan, a vegetarian or just someone who eats soy products, do join me over at The Muffin Myth where I am guest posting for nutritionist Katie Trant on this highly polarising – and very interesting – subject. 

Now, join me over at The Muffin Myth to find out more…

25 thoughts on “The Soy Situation

  1. superfitbabe says:

    Very enlightening post! So glad to know that someone else doesn’t believe the soy myth!

    1. I’m so glad you like it. Do pass it on to anyone you think may benefit from reading it. 🙂

  2. Thanks so much for this brilliant post, Kellie!

    1. It was an honour to be asked to write this. Thanks, Katie 🙂

  3. Cooksister says:

    What a great piece! What annoys me about all these stories on a particular single food being good or bad is exactly what you explain in your article – it’s not one food, it is the entire lifestyle context within which that food is eaten! There is no magic bullet, people…

    1. Thanks, Jeanne. And also for the Twitter chats with others about it (I was at work day/evening so missed most of it!). And you are right about no magic bullet, but so many of us are looking for a quick fix for things. There ain’t one. Boring old moderation for most of us!

  4. Interesting reading, cor, I didnt realise there was so much to it.
    I love the arresting SOY graphic, really good, perfect colour and shape and words.

    1. That’s Katie’s clever graphic. I know you are keen on circles but glad that you also like the colour!

  5. Really wonderful article Kellie, one that I’ll certainly use as a resource for clients. I learned a few new things as well, so thank you for taking the time to write on such a controversial but important topic. I like that you point out the difference in eating fermented soy and quality tofu vs processed soy products which are too common here. I also loved that you highlighted the protective effect of the traditional East Asian diet as a whole. Something I talked about recently too because I think it’s important we all value taking away the basic wisdom that can be found from traditional diets around the world.

    1. Thanks for the approval Katie, it means a lot. You, me and Katie T think a lot on many things, but this is trickier subject so I’m glad to have your support here. I must look up your article on East Asian diets and learn from it. 🙂

      1. I feel like we have similar views too. I always agree with your moderation principle because when it comes down to it, we have to eat and live in a way that is sustainable and doesn’t leave us feeling like we’re depriving ourselves of something later on. In my salmon post I linked to the article where I talked about East Asian diets, but more in the context of looking to traditional diets around the world in general in order to get back to basics in our approach to eating.

  6. Karen Moyes says:

    I love your posts as I’m always on the lookout for an intesting new healthy but tasty recipe. Your article about soy prompted me to write to say thank you. I am recovering from hormone-related breast cancer and had it not been for my curiosity and research, nobody told me anything about food, in particular soy. I even quizzed a breast cancer nurse about soy and she gave me a blank look. So thank you for this enlightening post and keep up your brilliant work. I don’t suppose you do any talks in the South West?! Scotland is too far for me… 🙂

    1. Aw thanks Karen, that’s lovely of you. I know most people tune in just for the recipes but because of my background I do think it is appropriate to share some of the information that I come across and research – if it may be of wider interest. I’m glad you found it informative. Pass on the link to anyone you think could use it.

  7. Your article was really interesting Kellie! I do eat soy but try not to make it a daily thing.

    1. I love it’s shape-shifting qualities and would use it more often, but there are so many other plant-based proteins to use and enjoy that I do try and mix it up a bit. Like you. 🙂

  8. Betty says:

    Thanks for the post, it was very informative! I’m curious though, aside from usually being artificially sweetened and flavoured, are there other reasons to minimize consumption of soy milk? I was also wondering if your recommendation for organic soy is because of nutritional differences, pesticide levels or GMO-related concerns?

    1. Hi Betty. Thanks for your questions. Soy is best fermented to mitigate some of the potentially negative aspects of it in its unfermented state when it is extracted from the bean itself. But if it isn’t a big part of the diet (such as a complete substitute for milk or other animal products), unsweetened organic soy milk is most probably completely fine in moderation. I would imagine that manufacturers in general are not concerned about consumers’ long-term health, just initial safety of the product. There really aren’t any studies looking at long term health issues associated with consuming primarily Western-style soy products vs Japanese, but as with most things, if there aren’t any specific conditions that preclude it, the use of organic soy milk and minimally processed, unsweetenedd Western-style products should be okay (i.e. not tofu hotdogs!), although looking at some of the yogurts, questionable thickeners and gums are sometimes added. But nothing is definitive, unfortunately. There are so many types of soy milks and similar on the market that it is hard to say ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ really, just know that it is best to have a variety of ways to get calcium and protein. As for soy overall, I don’t know of any boost nutritionally (unlike, say organic milk), but it is the extras that are added in to make it like milk or yogurt or whatever that are perhaps not as great. And also non-organic soy is treated with a hell of a lot of chemicals. Soy still is a “watch this space” food, I think. I eat tofu a few times a week, drink miso soup, have the occasional stab at liking tempeh, but I don’t drink soy milk or have the yogurts, etc. I hope this helps.

      1. Betty says:

        Hi Kellie! Thanks for the detailed response, it’s very helpful! I often hear dieticians recommend soy milk as a protein-rich alternative to cow’s milk so it’s nice to have a balance of information regarding the benefits and pitfalls of soy milk.

      2. I think soy milk can be an alternative but would recommend organic, unsweetened. And of course get mixed sources of calcium. Other people may not agree with me there, but when there is so much confusion, it isn’t really surprising. 🙂

  9. Great post Kellie, I think this is such a tricky subject and you have helped me to understand it and realise there is no simple answer apart from common sense and eating it in forms such as tofu and tempeh plus organic must be the way forward.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on this, Laura. I appreciate it. 🙂

  10. jensfood9 says:

    Great post Kellie and very well researched. I don’t actually intentionally consume much soy mainly because my Mum tried me on soya milk for a while when I was little to see if going dairy free would help with my eczema. It didn’t make any difference at all and I thought the milk was disgusting! I don’t think I’ve ever actually eaten tofu or tempeh but it ‘s good to know there are less problems associated with soy in this form if I do get round to trying it at some point.

  11. Emily Leary says:

    Ah this has come at just the right time – I was asked about this only the other day. Off to have a careful read now.

  12. richeyjo says:

    I love reading anything and everything about food – that is healthy food!

If you have time, I would love to hear from you. Thanks so much!

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