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Q: Should I Eat Soy? Part 1
A: One group that has a vested interest in bashing soy foods is the dairy industry. The dairy industry has attempted to keep soy foods from being included in the milk group in the U.S.D.A. Food Guide Pyramid. They have sued the manufacturers of soy milk for using the word “milk”, claiming that the dairy industry alone has the right to use that term. And, they have attempted to keep soy milk from being sold beside dairy milk in the stores.
Additionally, the Dairy Bureau spends hundreds of millions of dollars on ads and promotions telling you that cows milk is superior to soy milk. According to the Bureau, “Unfortified soy beverages contain only half the phosphorus, 40% of the riboflavin, 10% of the Vitamin A and 3% of the calcium found in a serving of cow’s milk.” However, consider the following:
- Most people, due to their meat and dairy consumption are eating way too much phosphorus, which can contribute to de-calcification of the bones. Half the phosphorus actually is an advantage.
- 40% of the riboflavin? Riboflavin is found in green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains and legumes. For people who eat a healthy diet, this is not an issue. One teaspoon of nutritional yeast, for example, contains as much riboflavin as an entire quart of cow’s milk.
- People who eat a healthy diet get plenty of Vitamin A. In fact, Vitamin A deficiency is very rare among North Americans who eat plant-based diets. The only reason cow’s milk is high in Vitamin A is that it is added through fortification. It could be added to soy milk if there was a reason to do so.
- 3% of the calcium. This is just a misrepresentation. Westsoy and Vitasoy provide just as much as cow’s milk, Edensoy provides 67%.
Meanwhile, here’s what the dairy industry does not say:
- cow’s milk provides 9 times the saturated fat as soy beverages
- soy beverages provide more than 10 times the essential fatty acids as cow’s milk
- soy beverages are cholesterol free
- soy beverages lower total and LDL cholesterol, while cow’s milk elevates both
- soy beverages contain phytochemcials that may be protective against chronic diseases – there are no phytochemicals in milk
- men who consume 1-2 servings of soymilk per day are 70% less likely to develop prostate cancer
Last, but not least, I’ll address the ongoing assertions that soy contains chemicals that are harmful. This is true, but only if the soy foods are over-consumed. And, this is true of many other foods as well. For example, broccoli, lentils and grapefruit contain naturally occurring pesticides that can cause mutations if eaten in high enough quantities. Peanuts often have traces of aflatoxin, a substance found in a mold that grows on the nuts and can cause cancer in high enough amounts. Celery harbors toxins that damage the immune system and cause photosensitivity if consumed in high enough amounts. Common mushrooms contain several substances that in sufficient quantities can be carcinogens. This does not mean that you should stop eating broccoli, peanut butter, celery or mushrooms. In fact, if you made it your policy to eat no foods containing substances that in large enough quantities would be harmful, you would have to stop eating.
This is one of the reasons why a varied diet is so important. For most people, soy is a great addition to the diet along with lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.