Is Soy Really Bad for You? We Debunk 5 Myths

Is soy bad for you? Desiree Nielsen and Dr. Nagra debunk common myths about soy products like tofu and tempeh.
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Wondering whether or not soy is actually bad for you? 

On this episode of LIVEKINDLY With Me, Desiree Nielsen discusses all things soy with her good friend Dr. Matthew Nagra. Plus, she gives three recipes that contain it: a strawberry pineapple smoothie, a tempeh BLT, and a roasted squash and tofu soba dish.

Is Soy Bad for You: 5 Myths Debunked

It affects hormones

Dr. Nagra explains that there’s a common idea that it is estrogenic. “[It] contains what are called phytoestrogens,” he says. Phytoestrogens are plant-based compounds that mimic estrogen in the body, but they have different effects. “They’re a lot weaker,” he adds.

“The bottom line is that all of the misinformation on the internet about phytoestrogens being equivalent to estrogen is untrue,” Nielsen explains.

It is bad for babies

In older research, there was some concern about the correlation between soy formula and goiter, an abnormal enlargement of the thyroid gland. “But modern research has disproven this theory,” Nielsen says. 

“Soy milk-based formulas and soy protein-based formulas are in fact safe,” she adds. “The recommended plant-based milk alternative is soy milk. And the reason for that is that it has more protein and more fat than other plant-based milks.”

It’s subpar 

“I don’t know where this idea comes from,” says Dr. Nagra. “When we look at the amino acid content of soy proteins whether that’s in tofu or tempeh or soy milk, it is very comparable in a lot of ways to a lot of animal proteins.”

Too much is dangerous

Nielsen says this myth stems back to the misconception that it disrupts thyroid or hormone function. “At normal levels of intake, there is absolutely no cause for concern and there actually seems to be a lot of benefits,” says Dr. Nagra.

“So, in essence, the internet is really, really wrong,” adds Nielsen. “You can feel good about consuming [it] in all of its forms, multiple servings a day.”

It damages the environment

Dr. Nagra explains that this myth is built on a misunderstanding of where soy production goes. 

“Eighty-seven percent of the soy that’s produced actually gets processed in either soy oil or cake,” he says. “That cake is almost entirely used for animal feed. And only six percent of all of the soy that’s produced actually goes directly to human consumption.”

Nielsen adds that it would take far less soy to feed humans directly as opposed to the amounts of it that go into livestock for meat and dairy.

3 Recipes for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner

fruit smoothie
This fruit smoothie features soy milk. | Desiree Nielsen for LIVEKINDLY

Strawberry Pineapple Smoothie

5 mins to prep
Vegan

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (250 mL) fresh or frozen strawberries
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen pineapple
  • 2 tablespoons hemp hearts
  • 1 ¼ cup (250 mL) unsweetened or vanilla soy milk
  • 1 cup (250 mL) ice (omit if using frozen fruit)

Preparation

  1. 1
    Blend all ingredients until smooth for about 1 minute.

Recipe Notes

Equipment needed: Blender

tempeh BLT
This vegan BLT is loaded with tempeh. | Desiree Nielsen for LIVEKINDLY

Tempeh BLT

10 mins to prep
5 mins to cook
Vegan

Ingredients

Tempeh Bacon

  • 1 package tempeh, sliced into 1/2 cm (1/4 inch) slices
  • ¼ cup (60 mL) tamari or soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) pure maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon (2 mL) smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) avocado oil for cooking

Sandwich Assembly

  • 8 slices of your favourite whole grain or sprouted grain bread, toasted
  • 2 vine-ripened tomatoes, sliced
  • Iceberg lettuce, or Romaine 
  • Vegan mayo

Preparation

  1. 1
    In a resealable glass container, whisk up tamari with maple syrup, vinegar, garlic powder, cumin and paprika. Add tamari to the marinade, cover and let sit on the counter for at least 15 minutes. One hour is better. Overnight (in the fridge) is great!
  2. 2
    To cook, heat up avocado oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium. Cook tempeh until golden brown on both sides, 2-4 minutes per side.
  3. 3
    To assemble sandwiches, spread toasted bread with mayo on both sides. Divide tempeh slices between sandwiches. Top with tomato slices and lettuce, and enjoy!
  4. 4
    Note: Tempeh will keep for 3-4 days in the fridge.
tofu soba noodles
This vegan dish features roasted squash and tofu. | Desiree Nielsen for LIVEKINDLY

Weeknight Roasted Squash + Tofu Soba

20 mins to prep
25 mins to cook
Vegan

Ingredients

  • 1 350g package of extra firm tofu 
  • 1 smallish acorn squash (or 3 cups leftover roasted acorn squash chunks)
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil
  • ¼ cup (60 mL) gluten free tamari or soy sauce, divided
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) sriracha-style hot sauce
  • 1 package of gluten free buckwheat soba noodles
  • 4 cups (1 L) mushroom broth
  • 1 bunch enoki mushrooms, trimmed and separated
  • 4 cups (1 L) baby bok choy, washed and leaves separated

Preparation

  1. 1
    Preheat oven to 450 Fahrenheit (230 Celsius). Prepare a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. 2
    Cut tofu into 1 inch cubes and place on one half of the baking sheet without any oil.
  3. 3
    If using fresh squash, trim and scoop out innards. Then, slice the squash into 1/2 inch (1 cm) by 1 inch (2.5cm) pieces.
  4. 4
    In a mixing bowl, toss squash pieces with 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil and a generous pinch of salt and pepper and place on other half of baking sheet.
  5. 5
    Bake squash and tofu for 22-25 minutes until tofu is dried out and crisp and squash turns golden. Remove from heat.
  6. 6
    In the same mixing bowl, mix 2 tbsp tamari, 1 tbsp sesame oil and sriracha and toss tofu cubes with marinade. Set aside.
  7. 7
    While tofu is roasting, fill a large pot halfway with water and heat to boiling. In a small pot, simmer mushroom broth over low medium heat with 2 tbsp tamari.
  8. 8
    When the large pot is boiling, add soba and cook according to package directions.
  9. 9
    Place the enoki mushrooms and the bok choy in a colander in the sink. When the soba is ready, carefully pour it over the vegetables to help them wilt. Give the noodles a quick rinse with cool water.
  10. 10
    To assemble, portion out the noodles and vegetables into four bowls. Top with tofu. Pour out the remaining tofu marinade into the broth and then ladle broth over the noodles.
  11. 11
    Note: If you cannot find enoki mushrooms, substitute two cups (500 mL) of sliced cremini mushrooms and add them to the simmering mushroom broth to serve.