As a child I was lactose intolerant, which always made meal times super annoying.
Far worse than dinner was dessert. Having to watch everyone else enjoy heaped bowls of delicious ice cream was unbearable. Occasionally I was given weirdly textured soy ice cream instead, but I craved the flavour of the real thing.
These days we don’t have to put up with soy. We don’t have to tolerate a grosser alternative to what we really want, but we do anyway.
So why are we holding on to soy? What do we get out of it?
The “good” ol’ days
Back in the 90’s we were obsessed with lowering fat content. We didn’t care about sugar, wellness, sustainability or microbiomes. We cared about fat.
Scientists wanted to know where in the world there were people keeping the fat off in large numbers.
Then one day they discovered Asia
“Gee! These folks sure are keeping the weight off, and they eat a lot of soy. There you have it guys, soy keeps the weight off.”
Without taking genetics, lifestyle or diet factors into account, a lot of people began associating soy with weight. Once we were into soy, the benefits just kept rolling in.
While we began our love affair with soy for its weight loss implications, a lot of us continued because it replaced dairy. Dairy was the original allergen for kids across America, before all the other, more modern ones came to town.
Soy was added to everything in the place of milk, cream and even butter. It became the go-to alternative.
Then once we had our go-to option, we never needed to think about it ever again.
So what’s wrong with that?
There are a lot of competing scientific opinions about soy, and it’s difficult to find a clear answer.
Some say that it’s good for the heart and healthy in moderation. Others say that soy contains enzymes that are too similar to estrogen called isoflavones. Raising your estrogen levels too high could be dangerous, although you’d probably have to eat a lot of soy to achieve that.
Some studies conclude that soy is bad for your digestion, and others say it’s good for your heart.
Soy defenders lean heavily on its use in Asia, saying that people living there eat it in every meal and live far longer than Americans.
This defence isn’t a strong one. While life expectancies are higher in Asia, I don’t think their diets are especially high in soy. I’ve been living in China for almost 5 years and I have noticed that soy milk is very popular, but besides that it isn’t prevalent in other foods.
I won’t jump on the bandwagon and say that soy should be replaced because it’s bad for you. Instead I’ll say that it should instead be replaced because it’s not as good for you as competing food options.
Alternatives to soy
Plant and vegetable based alternatives are far better for you, and better for the planet. Soy is taxing on farmland to grow, so swapping it out for vegetables is great for sustainability. They’re also better on the taste buds!
Mung beans are an excellent replacement for soy in dairy products because they’re able to provide the creamy flavour and texture that’s missing.
Hempseed, avocado, pumpkin and watermelon seeds are also excellent alternatives that provide nutrients including amino acids to your food.
Soy is rapidly growing as the newest food that kids are developing an allergy to, which is ironic because allergies to dairy are part of why it became so popular in the first place. In light of this development, it’s probably best that we show it the door.
Finding and replacing soy is definitely better for your family’s health and well-being, as well as that of the planet.
If you need convincing, have a look in your local health food store for soy free soy sauce. It’s crazy! And it shows that there’s really potential for anything! We’re only limited by our imaginations.