This month, Bon Appetit arrived with a full spread on the downsides of soy. When a publication as worldly as Bon Appetiti strays from its foodie slant to devote a large chunk of its culinary pages to a health cause, I have to take notice.
The article basically reiterated a lot of information that I already know and brought to light a few new facts, as well. We all know that the soy bean has pretty much found its way into everything from peanut butter to canned tuna. We hear of its high protein content and its nearly existent cholesterol and we convince ourselves that it must be a spectacularly healthy choice. Well, we've been duped. And I'm here to tell you today that the jig is up.
Recent research has shown that soy may contain dangerous levels of isoflavones, natural chemicals that are similar to human estrogen. Isoflavones can affect fertility in men and may increase the risk of breast cancer for women. In fact, the Israeli Ministry of Health issued a warning in 2005, suggesting that adults moderate soy intake and that infants not take in soy at all. Oops, sorry about that Ben. If your fertility is affected later in life, you can blame me!
And it's not just Israel taking action. Health officials in France and Great Britain are concerned too. One British author underscored the research done in Israel by saying, "They (Israel) had a committee of more than a dozen distinguished nutritionists, researchers, pediatricians, and toxicologists who looked at the body of evidence and concluded there was risk."
In 1999, the FDA in our own country began allowing companies to claim that foods with soy protein "may reduce the risk of heart disease." Several studies later, the American Heart Association stepped in and clarified: The amount of soy protein consumed to reap the benefit would have to be the equivalent of 1.5 pounds of tofu or half a gallon of soy milk a day. As a result, in 2008, the American Heart Association recommended that the FDA rescind the health claim.
Let's say that, you're like me, and you really don't want to give up your Starbucks Vanilla Soy Latte. Fair enough. Here are the "hard and fast" guidelines for soy:
- If you're a woman who has been diagnosed with or has a family history of breast cancer, it's probably safest to avoid soy.
- Men hoping to father children should probably limit the amount of soy they eat.
- Parents are urged to follow the Israeli suggestions in serving soy to infants, toddlers and small children: try to limit soy unless there is a known allergy to dairy products.
We've replaced the soy milk in our home with organic cow's milk and vanilla almond milk. I'm pretty smitten with almond milk right now. It is widely available (Trader Joe's has the best value) and it's actually lower in calories compared to its soy counterpart. I've replaced my morning soy protein with whey protein powder and Ben's back on organic yogurt.
And yes, sometimes I'll splurge and have a soy milk latte at Starbucks. (But I have to draw the line at artificially flavored Frappuccinos!)