Soy: Understanding This Vegan Staple


Credit: Shape

What the average consumer refers to as “soy” is a processed form of protein made from soybeans.

Mckenzie Schuvart, Freelancer

What the average consumer refers to as “soy” is a processed form of protein made from soybeans. This processed protein is made into edible products including soymilk, tofu, tempeh, miso, and soy sauce. Soy, which tends to absorb the flavors added to it, can be easily incorporated into many recipes. It is often used as a meat substitute, such as in vegan burgers and tacos.

Despite its presence in many foods, soy remains a controversial health food. Some studies indicate that soy consumption helps prevent certain types of cancer, while others suggest that soy consumption can lead to the same types of cancer. It has been proven, however, that soybeans are naturally rich in protein and contain all of the essential amino acids one’s body needs. Soy also helps lower one’s blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and risk of heart disease. 

When considering the impacts of soy consumption, it is important to note that not all soy products are processed in the same way. In other words, not all forms of soy deliver the same health benefits. Comparatively speaking, the general consensus is that soy products that are less processed are the healthier option. 

A significant concern with soy consumption is the genetic modification often occurs in the production of soy. GMOs provide fewer digestible nutrients and can lead to long-term health complications. GMOs are also harmful to the environment; they have been found to negatively affect soil and water ecosystems

While soy may serve as a source of protein, especially for those who abstain from eating meat, plant-based milk varieties have high levels of phytate and oxalate — compounds that can block the absorption of calcium. It is recommended that people limit their overall soy intake to prevent the build up of these compounds.

Since the effects of soy consumption are widely debated and contradictory, limited consumption seems to be the best way to avoid the potential side effects of soy while still receiving some of its health benefits.