Say Sayonara to Soy Confusion

Celebrity expert dietitian Ashley Koff answers your questions on nutrition.

With all the mixed messages out there, it’s easy to get confused about soy. Here Koff answers OC reader questions about this plant protein:

I’m a vegetarian and am confused about soy. I hear that you should only eat unprocessed soy—so no isolates, which I get. But why not tofu? Should I avoid fake meat products with soy, like burgers?

Rachel Hornsby

You are totally right to be confused! It is confusing. Hopefully this can make it simple.

1)     Only eat organic soy.

2)     Eat organic soy in its whole-food formedamame, tofu, tempeh, natto, whole soy milk (not fat-free).

3)     Eat soy foods ONLY if they have organic whole soybeans in themthis means burgers, powders, bars, etc.

For those who find soy tough on their stomach digestively, they can try organic tempeh (fermented may make it easier to digest). Those who are concerned about the hormonal impact of soy should consume the types above but monitor portion size and frequency. Remember variety is the best choice for optimal health, so include other beans, nuts, seeds and grains.

Is soy one of the things I need to ensure I buy organic? So, organic edamame and tofu, for example, or is it okay to get conventional?

—Diane Turkell

I highlight “organic soy only” above, but let me explain why. The majority of soybeans, unfortunately, are genetically modified. What does that mean for our health? Well, we don’t know for sure because there are no long-term human safety studies that we have access to. But the process of genetic modification means splicing a pesticide/herbicide into the DNA of the soybean seed. These pesticides and herbicides are already shown to be toxic to pests and herbs, but are also challenges to human health; so the fact that they are in every cell of the plant, including its beans, means two things: one, that it is genetically different than an organic soybean, and two, that you are getting that pesticide/herbicide not only on the plant but also inside the plant (and it’s been shown that GMO plants actually are sprayed more heavily with pesticides/herbicides than those farmed organically). Why does this concern me most? Because organic soy is an awesome source of protein and essential fats, which, in turn, help our hormones work optimally as well as promote a healthy inflammatory response. That can’t be said of GMO soy. So, I say yes to organic whole-food soy, and skip the experimental GMO soy.

Ashley Koff is an internationally renowned registered dietitian on a mission to improve the health of people across America and beyond through raising public awareness of the value of quality eating. Visit her site at: www.ashleykoffapproved.com