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    You Ask, I Answer: Soy

    I have heard some forms of soy (i.e.: the fermented kinds) are more healthy than others.

    I have also heard tofu is basically a processed product “cut” with the equivalent of plaster of Paris.

    Soy and soy-based products are tooted by the supposed health conscious community as wonder foods, and i think people are often misinformed in regards to soy products being healthy.

    For instance: those faux chicken patties. How can something so processed be healthy?

    Wouldn’t a person be better off choosing an organic grain-fed chicken breast over something of this nature? likewise, organic soymilk [unsweetened of course] vs organic milk??

    And what about soy estrogens???

    — Brooke Green
    Brooklyn, NY

    Thank you for bringing up the issue of “wonder foods.”

    Although certain foods are more nutritious than others (quinoa surpasses white bread, for example,) I think it is dangerous to label anything as a “wonder food.”

    Such a term inaccurately suggests such foods can be eaten in unlimited amounts.

    Remember — all calories, regardless of the source, add up.

    Extra virgin olive oil certainly has its health benefits, but drowning a salad in 4 tablespoons of it adds 500 calories.

    Anyhow, the key with soy — like with any other food — is to mainly consume it as minimally processed as possible.

    This applies to other foods as well. Take potatoes as an example. It is obviously better to consume them baked and with their skin than out of a Pringles tube.

    So, tempeh (fermented tofu) and edamame offer more nutrition than a processed soy product that could very well contain added sugars, excess sodium, and trans fat.

    This can also be equated to whole grains.

    Some people think a whole grain cookie is automatically healthier than a standard cookie. Not necessarily.

    If the whole grain cookie has twice the calories, sugar, and trans fat of the standard cookie, the whole grain benefit is thwarted.

    I consider the issue of faux chicken patties versus organic chicken breasts to be more about personal ethics than nutrition.

    I think many people choosing faux meats do so out of a personal decision to not eat meat, rather than from a “what is less processed?” angle.

    Keep in mind, though, that many times meat-based frozen products are nutritionally inferior to soy-based ones.

    As far as tofu is concerned — it is one thing to eat “tofu hot dogs” (which are highly processed and thereby high in sodium and chock full of preservatives,) but cubes of regular tofu (pictured, right) thrown into a vegetable stir fry is a great way for vegetarians to get protein, calcium, and Omega-3 fatty acids.

    As for the soy-based estrogens, the only people who should be concerned are women living with breast cancer who consume four or more servings of soy on a daily basis.

    Otherwise, there is absolutely no research showing that one or two daily servings of soy in a healthy individual poses any sort of health risk.

    I don’t recommend gobbling down oodles of soy every day because it contributes quite a bit of Omega 6 fatty acids to the diet (which in itself is not bad, but the typical US diet provides way too much of it and not enough Omega 3’s — nowhere near the ideal ratio.)

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