Is Soy Milk Healthy?
3 Things to Consider Before You Buy Soy
It’s a burning question these days: Is soy milk healthy or not? Soy has gained quite the reputation in the food and health industry as a plant-based vegetarian replacement for animal protein. One cup of soy protein contains 23 grams of protein, which is about half of the daily requirement. In its natural form, soy also contains zinc, iron, polyunsaturated fat, fiber, omega-3 fats, and antioxidants—quite a list of potential benefits! This list, plus a general fear of saturated fats, makes it easy to understand the surge in popularity of processed soy products like soy burgers, tofu-based bacon, and dairy substitutes or soy milk.
So with all of these potential health benefits, why is soy so controversial? Well, soy products might not be your ticket to health after all. Read on to discover three main reasons you may want to think twice before adding that bottle/box/can of soy milk to your grocery cart.
The first problem lies within the soy bean itself. Soy that has not been fermented (which the majority of processed soy products aren’t) contains high amounts of phytates or anti-nutrients. Just like it sounds, anti-nutrients block your body from absorbing all of those nutrients that are in the whole soybean plant.
2. Hormone disruption
The second reason processed soy may not be the healthiest choice is that it contains isoflavones, which are compounds that the body interprets similarly to the hormone estrogen. The amount of dietary estrogen safe for both men and women to consume is heavily debated. But research shows potential side effects including hormone imbalance and even cancer.
3. Hazardous chemicals
Consumers trying to choose healthy options don’t always get the full story on the ingredients in the foods they have to choose from. This is also true with processed soy products. Over 90% of the soy produced in the U.S. is genetically modified and heavily sprayed with pesticides. When soybeans are refined to create soybean oil, a chemical solvent called hexane is used for extraction. Chronic exposure can result in severe damage to the nervous system among other serious health concerns. Since 7% of the calories in the average American’s diet comes from soybean oil (via processed foods), we’re getting more of this chemical than we think.
To sum it up, while eating fermented soy on occasion in its whole form may be a healthy way to add protein and nutrients to your diet, drinking processed soy milk may not be a great dairy alternative after all. Milk from cows contains protein and easily absorbable nutrients, and it doesn’t require harsh chemicals for processing—not to mention it tastes delicious!
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