Photo: Augapfel/Flickr.

Photo: Augapfel/Flickr.

In recent years, much has been written about soy. Experts disagree about whether soy is a new health breakthrough, a dangerous fad or somewhere in between. Here, I’m offering some guidelines from Chapter 9 of Sweetness without Sugar for you to decide whether eating more food products and recipes made with soy is right for you.

If you are incorporating soy into your diet, it’s best to choose organic soy sources. Spending additional money on organic soy will likely be less expensive than meats and many other packaged and “convenience” foods. Certified organic foods are grown without genetically-modified ingredients.

Some questions to ask yourself when making the decision about whether soy is right for you:

  1. Does the soy product you consume (or want to consume) use whole soy foods? Or does it contain soy isolates or manufactured items containing soy? I recommend eating only whole or fermented soy foods. See page 52 for a more detailed list of my recommendations. If the ingredients listed on the soy food label are unrecognizable, sound particularly scientific or are hard to pronounce, manufactured soy is often the main ingredient.
  2. How does your body respond to eating food containing soy ingredients?
  3. Do you have a family history of cancer? Do any women in your family have an estrogen-positive (ER+) form of breast cancer? If the answer is “yes”, and you are a woman, then I recommend you avoid soy products.
  4. How strong is your immune system at this time? (e.g. Do you get sick frequently? Are you living with chronic disease? How is your thyroid health?)

Here are some additional questions for families deciding whether to incorporate soy into their family’s diet:

  1. Are you preparing for conception? Diets high in soy, in some instances, have been linked with infertility.
  2. Are you pregnant and/or breastfeeding? If you consume high amounts of soy (4-5 times per week) and you or your baby experience a lot of gas or bloating, reducing your intake may be helpful.
  3. How old are your children? Have you already introduced soy into their diet? If so, at what age, in what form and at what frequency? If you haven’t already fed soy to your baby, I recommend waiting until they are 2 or older, which will give their immune systems time to mature. If you choose to feed soy to your children, I suggest offering them only organic, fermented forms of soy. Occasionally, they can enjoy sprouted soy products.
  4. Have your children been vaccinated? If so, at what age? Vaccinations directly affect our immune systems. Because soy is often listed as one of the foods that can cause sensitivities (related to our immune system function), as mentioned in question #3, I recommend waiting until children are 2 years of age or older before introducing soy into their diets.
  5. Are you feeding your children a vegan diet? If so, I recommend obtaining protein and nutrients from sources other than soy. Also, when incorporating soy foods for children, I recommend including only whole food sources of organic soy (see question #3).

Chapter 9 of the book also offers questions for people who like to read medical articles.  For example, was the research conducted on humans or animals? Look for research performed on humans.

Eating foods made with soy requires special care because the soybean is of the most genetically modified crops on the planet.  Soy is found in many processed foods these days, commonly in the form of soy lecithin.  When used in those foods, the soy likely contains GMOs. So it’s worthwhile to read the labels and, when in doubt, err on the side of caution.