The Soy Dilemma
As a nutritionist specializing in mom, baby and toddler, I often am faced with questions about soy in relation to little ones. I am always hesitant when it comes to soy and work to find alternatives whenever possible for our little ones.
Really, though, my hesitation about recommending soy to little ones would be the same if these questions were coming from an adult woman in regards to her soy consumption.
Soy has been made out to be a healthy, nourishing food, when in fact, there are many reasons why this is not so.
Here are a few things for you to ponder:
- Soy contains phytoestrogens, which in small amounts can be beneficial in a healthy diet. Unfortunately we are overexposed to phytoestrogens in our food supply today, mostly in the form of processed foods which contain soy as filler. Phytoestrogens can lead to hormonal imbalances, commonly in woman, but also seen in men, and a host of other health related problems such as estrogen dominant cancers, including breast cancer in women, hypothyroidism, thyroid cancer and infertility. A 1997 U.S. study by Setchell et al. found that infants on soy infant formulas were taking in six- to eleven times as many phytoestrogens as the amount known to have hormonal effects in adult soy eaters, based on equal bodyweight. Could there be adverse effects? I am willing to bet there will be.
- Soy contains a compound known as phytic acid. Phytic acid binds to minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc, preventing the body from absorbing them, which can lead to deficiencies.
- Soy contains enzymes inhibitors. Enzymes inhibitors are molecules that bind to enzymes and inhibit their activity, which is to help in the digestion of the food we eat. With enzyme activity inhibited, there is an increased risk of digestive distress.
- Soy, unless you are choosing organic, is a genetically modified food. Genetic modification is a process in which the DNA structure of a food has been altered. The largest genetically modified crops are soy, corn, cotton and canola. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine states “genetically modified foods have not been properly tested and pose a serious health risk. There is more than a casual association between genetically modified foods and adverse health effects. There is causation.” Since the invasion of genetically modified foods in 1996, chronic diseases and food allergies have doubled. Biologist David Schubert of The Salk Institute warns that among the population, children are the most likely to be adversely affected by toxins and other dietary problems related to genetically modified foods. He says without adequate studies our children become the “experimental animals”.
- Soy made a big impact in the western world being labelled a “health food”; after all, those who ate soy in the eastern world were healthy, within normal body weights and didn’t seem to suffer from the diseases of our western world. So, like we often do on this side of the planet, we jumped in with both feet and soy made a huge imprint in our lives. Unfortunately, what we failed to realize, was that these cultures consumed soy, but in small quantities and not at the expense of other foods. It was a part of their diet, but it was not all of their diet. It was an accompaniment to a real food diet. These cultures show us that in moderation, the right soy can be beneficial.
So, what exactly do I mean by the right soy?
Fermented soy in the form of miso or tempeh is actually beneficial for us once in a while as the fermentation process creates “good” bacteria and deactivates the enzyme inhibitors.
Tempeh is made by a natural culturing and controlled fermentation process that binds soybeans into a cake form. Like tofu, tempeh is made from soybeans, but tempeh is a whole soybean product with different nutritional characteristics and textural qualities. It has a firm texture and an earthy flavour which becomes more pronounced as the tempeh ages.
My family and I consume miso, mostly as an addition to recipes, such as lentil sloppy joes. My husband loves maple syrup and compliments this meal by saying, “It’s better than steak”. Now do keep in mind, as vegetarians, it’s been awhile since he has had a steak.
Maple Glazed Tempeh
1 block of tempeh (We use Henry’s), cut into 1 inch cubes
¼ cup maple syrup
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp tamari
2 tbsp water
1 tsp grainy mustard
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1. Combine the maple syrup, olive oil, tamari, water, mustard and garlic in a baking pan. Mix well. Add cubed tempeh and stir to coat.
2. Let marinade for 4 to 6 hours, stirring occasionally. We often let it marinate overnight.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, add tempeh. Cook for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring halfway through.
4. Towards the end, I add a little bit of water, about ¼ cup, stirring to get all remaining marinade. Once tempeh is served, I drizzle this on top.
Kim Corrigan-Oliver is the owner of Your Green Baby, a nutrition practice specializing in nutrition preconception through to toddlerhood. Her book Raising Happy Healthy Babies has been a hit with mamas around the world. She writes for blogs in Canada, the US and the UK, and is a regular contributor to Lakeridge Kids Magazine. Kim is a certified nutritionist and loves helping parents raise happy healthy babies. Follow Kim on Twitter, Facebook, or on her second blog Mothering with Mindfulness.