Sunday, April 20, 2008

Soy, it's what's for dinner

Ok, that statement probably isn't true for the vast majority of people. Being vegetarians, it's often true for Gen and me. Of course, contrary to popular belief, vegetarians do actually get protein from other sources other than soy: quinoa, nuts, whole grains, hemp, beans, corn, and many other foods do contain protein. Anyhow, let's get to the primary topic of today's random musing: soy, the simultaneous wonder food and nutritional pariah.

Soy is a surprisingly controversial food. Some people tout its incredible culinary versatility, health benefits, and environmental friendliness vs animal proteins. On the other hand, other people bash it for containing phytoestrogens and being an inferior protein source to meat. Of course, I really like soy, and I'm surprised that I get some grief for deriving a lot of my protein intake from soy. I've been told by several people (including my own father who is amazingly uninformed about nutrition for a biochemistry Ph.D.) that I'm going to grow breasts, become sickly, and waste away because I eat soy.

For the moment, we'll ignore the fact that I eat a fairly varied diet with other plant derived protein sources. Asian cultures have eaten soy for centuries with no noticeable ill effects. I've been vegetarian for well over 10 years now, and I'll have to say that I've actually become stronger and healthier. So, I think that the theory of soy being bad for me is total bunk. Now, what about the phytoestrogens in soy feminizing me? Well, if that's true, maybe it's not so bad being a new age, sensitive guy. But then again, I don't think that statement holds any water either.

Not a result of soy.
I'm an avid reader of Testosterone Nation, and I often have to read many comments poking fun at puny soy-consuming girly men. Ok, I admit, those comments are often pretty funny in the context of the articles, but they only thinly mask the contemptuous scorn that some carnivorous types have for soy. But wouldn't you know it, this article appeared on T-Nation recently. Finally! T-Nation itself posted an article defending soy! I'll let you read the article for yourself if you care to read it, but the overall message is that soy is just another source of protein that can be readily incorporated into a healthy, varied diet. You'd have to eat a hell of a lot of soy (almost more than is physically possible) to be feminized by the phytoestrogens.

The article did reinforce the thinking that processed soy is probably not terribly great for you. Gen's been slowly convincing me to get more protein from alternative sources, and we've been cutting back on the highly processed soy products (i.e. minimizing eating soy protein powder). I can live with that. I've been trying to cut out highly processed foods from my diet anyhow. But at the end of the day, I'm still one of the soy boys, even if I'm not quite a metrosexual girly man.

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