For years, soy has been marketed as a healthy alternative to meat, full of protein and low fat. In fact when I started eating a more vegetarian diet I also ate lots of it: soy milk, tofu burgers, tofu steaks, tofu bacon and soy cheese just to name a few.
However, in the last few years I have become more informed about the potential hazards and have added it to my list of what I deem unhealthy food.
This does not mean I never indulge in a piece of cheesecake nor eat tofu, I simply want to know the facts and make educated decisions about what I choose to eat.
It should be noted that Asians use it as a condiment and not as a staple, as it has frequently been touted in the western vegetarian diet.
The majority of soy beans used in packaged soy products from overseas are GMO, genetically modified organisms or bioengineered food. For me, food is simple, it should nourish by providing nutritional benefits and not be modified and reconstructed in a lab to withstand pesticides.
Soy contains phytoestrogens, which is an oestrogen mimicking element and also a hormone disrupter. It is also high in phytic acid which inhibits the assimilations of many essential minerals. The Harvard School of Public Health found a direct correlation between the intake of soy products and male infertility.
The dangers further extend when one considers the implications of feeding babies soya milk and the vulnerability of their systems to the equivalent of excess oestrogen.
In soy products processed to look like meat there are many additives, sodium and often MSG. And most soy milks contain plenty of sugar and preservatives, both the ones easily found at the local convenience store (which normally offer two choices – regular and low sugar), and those that are imported and found at the higher end markets in Phuket.
For getting the best benefits of soy it is recommended to eat fermented soy products such as tempeh and miso, which create good bacteria (probiotics) in the fermentation stage and are not unnaturally treated with additives, heat and other toxic processing methods.
Sylvie Yaffe is the founder of Good Karma Online Health Food Store and consults about vegan raw cuisine and health food. She will be writing a regular column for The Phuket News. For more information, visit healthfoodthailand.com