Soy is one of the most controversial foods. Is it good or bad for you? Should you eat it on a vegan diet? Let’s talk about myths, nutrition and delicious recipes.
Would you like to go vegan but are unsure because you’ve read that soy might be bad for you?
There are many myths surrounding plant-based protein in general and soy in particular.
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This legume is a popular meat and dairy replacement in plant-based diets, but some people are afraid of consuming soy and think they can never eat a plant-based diet for that reason.
And now, let’s take a closer look at soy.
Is soy vegan?
Yes, soy is vegan! It’s a type of legume that originated from Asia and is rich in protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals.
It is a so-called “complete protein” because it contains all essential amino acids!
However, not all meals or foods made with soy are vegan. Many Asian dishes feature both meat and soy — and some meat alternatives at the store contain dairy or eggs.
Types of soy products
- Soy milk
- Soy sauce
- Miso paste
- Soy protein isolate
- Soybean oil
- Soybean burgers
- Soy cheese
- Soy butter
As you can see, soy is the perfect food for vegans as it can replace animal protein in many delicious ways!
Be sure to check the ingredients when you’re at the store because we’ve seen soy milk that contains cow’s milk or soy-based burgers that are made with egg whites.
Here’s why everyone, not just vegans, should eat more soy.
Benefits of eating soy
Soy has been widely studied for its health effects on the body and results of recent population studies suggest that soy has either a beneficial or neutral effect on various health conditions.
While some findings have been contradictory due to the wide variations of how soy was studied, most health experts agree that swapping animal protein for soy protein is better for your health and more sustainable for the planet!
Here are the benefits in a nutshell:
- Provides high-quality plant protein & essential fatty acids
- Good source of fiber, minerals & antioxidants
- Helps lower cholesterol levels
- Can protect heart health
- May lower blood sugar & pressure
- Reduces menopause symptoms
- Improves fertility & bone health
- May reduce cancer risk (including breast!)
Keep on reading to learn more about concerns, myths and delicious ways to consume soy!
Delicious tofu recipes
Vegan or not, you need to try these delicious plant-based dishes that are made with tofu — probably our favorite soy product.
Myths & FAQs
If you’re still unsure whether soy is good for vegans, your health or the environment, let’s go over some common questions.
How much soy should I eat?
According to the American Heart Association and the US Food and Drug Administration, the daily consumption of 25 grams or more of soy protein can help lower cholesterol levels in individuals at high risk for heart disease.
This recommendation comes down to around 4 servings of soy foods per day; one serving being 1 cup of soymilk or ½ cup of tofu, tempeh or soy-based meat.
Can vegans eat too much soy?
There is little evidence that excessive amounts of dietary soy, even for those with breast cancer, will lead to adverse health effects.
Numerous clinical studies have found that daily consumption of up to 50 grams of soy protein per day is not only safe but may even be beneficial!
However, it’s better to eat a variety of legumes on a vegan diet — not just soy.
Do I have to eat soy as a vegan?
Absolutely not! While soy makes life as a vegan so much easier and is our favorite meat and dairy replacement, you can make many soy-free vegan meals.
Other good protein sources for vegans include lentils, black beans, chickpeas, seitan, chia seeds, peas, almonds and oatmeal.
What about phytoestrogens in soy?
Soy contains certain isoflavones called genistein, daidzein and glycitein. They are called phytoestrogens because they are structurally similar to the hormone estrogen — and they interact with the estrogen receptors in the body.
But instead of being dangerous, these isoflavones may be responsible for the beneficial effects of soy consumption!
For example, women undergoing menopause can benefit from adding soy to their diet to deal with hot flashes.
Who shouldn’t eat soy?
If you’re allergic to soy or are on certain medications or treatment programs, such as anti-estrogen treatments, you should not consume any soy.
As a male, you don’t need to worry about soyfoods raising estrogen levels or disrupting hormones, by the way! This controversy stems from animal and lab studies that cannot be compared to human outcomes.
If you’re unsure, speak with a Registered Dietitian and remember that there are many other delicious and healthy legumes to choose from.
Soy and thyroid health
According to a 2019 meta-analysis, soy supplements can raise thyroid-stimulating hormones slightly, but there is no effect on the actual thyroid hormone production.
People with healthy thyroids and adequate iodine intake don’t have to be concerned about any disadvantages when consuming soy!
However, one clinical trial found that the risk of clinical hypothyroidism was increased in people with already existing mild hypothyroidism when taking a high-dose soy supplement.
To this day, research on the topic still isn’t conclusive. But until we know more, people with mild hypothyroidism might want to limit their soy intake and monitor their thyroid function carefully.
Is soy protein isolate bad?
If you’re looking to supplement your diet with plant-based protein, soy protein isolate is a good option! In fact, much of the research done on soy was performed on isolated soy protein.
It’s budget-friendly, contains all 9 essential amino acids, lowers cholesterol and is great for your gastrointestinal system!
Read more about this subject on WebMD.
Environmental impact of soy
Even people who think they don’t consume any soy products often do so unknowingly through the animals they consume.
According to WWF, only a small portion of soy is consumed directly by humans, with the majority (almost 85%) being crushed and used as feed for poultry, pork, cattle and even farmed fish.
Due to the enormous demand for meat, soy harvesting has increased massively and is now contributing to deforestation and loss of valuable ecosystems in Latin America.
So the answer to avoiding soy or limiting deforestation isn’t to eat less soy… but rather to eat fewer animal products.
More vegan guides
If you enjoyed this article, check out the following ones next!
- Vegan Food Pyramid
- Vegan Low-Fiber Diet
- B12 on a Vegan Diet
- How to Gain Weight as a Vegan
- 15 Healthy Food Swaps
Did you know that soy is vegan and healthy? Which are your favorite tofu or soy recipes? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to Pin this article or share it on social media!