There are many pros and cons to consuming soy. This post should help to clear things up a bit.

First, just like any produce, soybeans can be sprayed with pesticides and genetically engineered. With everything you buy, you need to be aware of how it is grown and processed.

The basic thing to note here is that whole foods are healthiest for you and you should include a variety of foods in your daily diet, including products made from whole soybeans.

When you shop for soy products, like tofu and soy drinks, it is best to only purchase ones that are NON-GMO. Products that are not genetically modified will list this on the package or container.

Think about it, the Asian culture has incorporated soy products in their every day diet for centuries and have low rates of cancer and heart disease, compared to the Western diet which is heavy animal consumption loaded with fat, cholesterol and calories. Tofu, NON-GMO and gluten-free, is extremely low in calories and carbohydrates, contain no sugar, and is a great source of protein.

While I was reading up on soy products, I came across this blurb on Dr. Weil’s website:

The following is from Andrew Weil, M.D.

“Soy for Hot Flashes

Hot flashes associated with menopause can be miserable, but in most cases, fortunately, they do go away on their own, usually within six months to a year. With the popularity of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) on the wane, whole soy foods may be worth a look. Soy foods contain plant estrogens, and Japanese women whose diets contain soy experience fewer hot flashes. Soy is also rich in protein, iron and compounds called isoflavones, which seem to protect against hormone-driven cancers such as breast cancer. Although the precise role of soy in reducing hot flashes continues to be investigated (other elements of the Japanese diet and lifestyle may play a part), adding soy to your diet may help. Dr. Weil recommends one to two daily servings of soy in relatively whole and unrefined forms such as one cup of soy milk; a half cup of tofu, tempeh or green soybeans (edamame); or roasted soy nuts. You can also easily swap meat for tofu in dishes – baked tofu works well as a meat replacement in fajitas, stir-fries and casseroles.”

“Excess consumption of soy can be a problem when you’re taking thyroid replacement medication. Be sure to tell your physician how much soy you’re eating so your dosage can be adjusted, if necessary. Eating soy foods at the same time that you take thyroid hormone can interfere with its absorption so, to be safe, don’t eat soy within three hours of taking your medication. You are unlikely to run into a problem with moderate soy consumption – one serving a day of whole soy products, such as one cup of soy milk or one half cup of tofu, soy protein (tempeh), or crispy soy nuts.

Phytates (and phytic acid) are antioxidant compounds found in whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. The chief concern about phytates is that they can bind to certain dietary minerals including iron, zinc, manganese and, to a lesser extent calcium, and slow their absorption. However, the presence of phytates in foods really isn’t the worry that some individuals believe it to be. (I’ve been asked in the past about the phytates in soy and whether they hinder mineral absorption. There is no scientific data suggesting that eating whole soy foods leads to mineral deficiencies in humans).

Phytates in your everyday meals should not be an issue for you as long as you’re eating a balanced diet. Most of us consume enough minerals in common foods to more than make up for the small amounts of these micronutrients that might be tied up by phytates. The only individuals who might need to be careful are vegetarians who consume a lot of wheat bran, which is a concentrated source of these substances. Phytate-associated deficiencies of iron and zinc do occur in some third-world countries where people mostly eat grains.

Phytates themselves have some health benefits, including anti-inflammatory effects. In laboratory research, phytates have helped normalize cell growth and stopped the proliferation of cancer cells. They also may help prevent cardiovascular disease and lower a food’s glycemic load.

I’ve seen many articles warning that soy foods in general, including soy milk, aren’t healthy and contain hidden substances that are dangerous. Critics of soy allege that it is bad for the thyroid, can cause cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and mineral deficiencies.

None of these sensational claims has ever been proven.

Remember, for centuries Asians have been eating lots of soy foods, and the supposed terrible consequences of soy consumption haven’t materialized among them. In fact some traditional soy-rich Asian diets are associated with lower risks of breast and prostate cancer than western diets.

Based on the weight of available evidence, I remain convinced that soy is safe and nutritious when eaten in relatively whole and unrefined forms in reasonable amounts. I recommend one to two daily servings, which can include a cup of soy milk, a half cup of tofu, tempeh or green soybeans (edamame) or roasted soy nuts. Soy milk provides all the benefits of cow’s milk, without the butterfat, which is unhealthy, the milk protein (casein), which can increase mucus production and irritate the immune system in some people, and milk sugar (lactose), which can cause digestive distress if you lack the enzyme that breaks it down.

Soy milk is made by soaking dried beans in water, grinding them, heating them in water, pressing them, and straining the milk. Soy milk makers for home use are widely available, and people who use them say fresh, homemade soy milk is much better tasting than packaged products. And it will have no additives.

One cup of soy milk contains four to 10 grams of soy protein, and 20 to 40 mg of isoflavones, plant chemicals that may act like estrogen but probably account for soy’s protective effect against hormonally driven cancers (especially when soy is part of the diet from early childhood). While soy milk is high in calcium, it doesn’t have as much as cow’s milk so it is important to look for a brand that is fortified with calcium.

I recommend certain precautions when buying soy milk. Since many soy crops are heavily treated with pesticides, always buy organic soy products. I also recommend avoiding brands of soy milk that contain the thickening agent carrageenan, a seaweed derivative, which I believe may be harmful, especially to the intestinal tract. If you are watching your weight, look for low-fat products.”

And this is according to Dr. Weil. It very well may be the meat and dairy industry making negative claims against soy. Who knows!  Remember, there are no substantial studies proven to discount soy products, which have been around for centuries and heavily consumed by the Asian community, among others. You can visit the link below:

http://communications.drweil.com/read/archive?id=7694&e=thefreeganvegan%40gmail%2ecom&x=e7c62f5c

Health to Happiness
Where do I purchase vegan foods?    

Fruits, vegetables, beans and grains can be purchased anywhere, including local farmer’s markets. Try to buy organic when possible. When you are ready to try a healthy dessert recipe or healthy vegetarian recipe (vegan), look for speciality items at Whole Foods, Health Food/Natural Food Stores, Trader Joe’s or your regular grocery store chain. Many cities are seeing Sprouts locations pop up, so see if there is one in your area.

Whole Foods  has many choices of vegan products. Look for Raw/Vegan refrigerator sections and browse the frozen aisles. You will find lots of vegetarian meat (vegan) choices, ranging from meatless chicken, beef and shrimp at Whole Foods. Look for items marked Vegan or meatless, just be sure to read the ingredients to make sure the product contains no egg, milk or butter. I love Whole Foods because of their stringent guidelines based on ingredients. You will not find products with high fructose corn syrup at Whole Foods. Each Whole Foods carries different products, so ask the store manager to carry items you are interested in purchasing so you don’t have to run to multiple stores. The prepared hot food bar also has vegan dishes. If you are unsure, just ask an associate.

Any natural foods/health store may carry vegan products. You will need to look around in the refrigerator and frozen sections. Take a print out of my substitutions page as your reference guide while shopping for vegetarian meat (vegan), and other ingredients. Again, ask for help.

Trader Joe’s for reasonable, produce, bread, nuts and sunflower seed butter. Most schools do not allow peanut butter or any other kind of nut butter these days, so pack your vegetarian kids lunch with a sunflower seed butter sandwich. They won’t even know the difference. This chain of stores also carries Tofurky, Yves, Earth Balance and other vegan speciality items. Just ask a store employee for help in locating what you are looking for.

Farmer’s Market for local, fresh and inexpensive produce. Check here for a local farmer’s market in your area.

Visit this site for a list of animal ingredients. Check out the description for Bone Char. I am sure most were not aware this is used in some sugars. Buy vegan or organic brands.

What if I cannot find vegan foods I want?    

Ask the store manager at your local Whole Foods or other grocery store to carry the product. They will order if you ask. There are also on-line sites to order vegan ingredients.

http://www.cosmosveganshoppe.com/

http://veganstore.com/vegan-food-items.html

Dandies Vegan Marshmallows

http://foodzie.com/catalogsearch/result/?q=vegan

http://www.vegecyber.com/

http://www.allisonsgourmet.com/ for delicious sweet treats

http://www.nudefoodsonline.com/ for raw/vegan cheesecake (delicious are pumpkin spice, chocolate and vanilla)

http://www.foodfightgrocery.com/