The Real Scoop on Soy

Is it the ultimate health food?

| September/October 2006

Not long ago, you could say “tofu” and your companion would think you’d just sneezed. Few people (with the exception of Asians or vegetarians) had heard of tofu, much less knew how to cook it. The genuine article was found only in Chinese restaurants and health-food shops — even then, its purveyors might not have been totally sure what the off-white cheeselike product was made of.

Nowadays, tofu, tempeh and other foods made from soybeans can be found in any supermarket. Touted as a miracle food for nearly a decade, the “king of the legumes” has reigned supreme as a remedy for everything from heart disease to hot flashes.

Lately, however, soy’s crown has slipped a bit. A recent report on soy overturned the 2000 conclusion by the American Heart Association (AHA) that it lowers LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Other critics, such as Kaayla T. Daniel, author of The Whole Soy Story: The Dark Side of America’s Favorite Health Food (New Trends Publishing, 2005), say that soy has become ubiquitous in the American diet and that consumers unknowingly ingest far more of it than is healthy.

This soy overload has been blamed for everything from increased risk of breast cancer and thyroid problems to brain atrophy. What’s the real scoop?

Grandma's Pastelitos
Teriyaki Tofu Triangles 

Soy’s Profile

The soybean (Glycine max) is a legume native to China. It offers a “complete” protein profile, a real plus for vegetarians and those who are allergic to cow’s milk. Soy is a good source of magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, calcium and manganese, and is high in fiber and B vitamins.

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