People are beginning to realize that soy, the popular vegan protein source, can actually do more harm than good.
The good news is, you don’t have to cut out all soy. There is a safe way to consume this protein-rich bean. The fermented versions of soytempeh, miso and natto–are much better for human consumption.
Did you know soybeans are toxic? You may have heard the news, but perhaps you didn’t realize there are exceptions to the rule.
Soy contains phytates, enzyme inhibitors and goitrogens. These anti-nutrients are meant to protect the plant and keep it safe from sun radiation, bacteria, viruses and fungi. When we eat soy, however, they can wreak havoc in the human body.
Phytate is stored in grains and legumes and binds to minerals in the gastrointestinal tract. These minerals, when bound, cannot be absorbed in the intestine, thus causing mineral deficiencies. The body produces phytase to break down phytate, but unlike other animals that rely on a nut or legume-heavy diet for survival, humans produce a limited amount of phytase. That’s why too much phytate consumption can lead to digestive difficulties.
Nuts, legumes and seeds, including soy, contain enzyme inhibitors, which prevent the enzymes from activating. This is ideal for small animals such as birds who do not want a nut’s enzymes to overwhelm their small tummies. For humans however, the enzymes are where the nutrition and digestibility are. Enzyme inhibitors are what make soy nearly impossible to digest
Goitrogens are any substances that cause the enlargement of the thyroid gland, or goiter. Goitrogens often interfere with iodine metabolism. Genistein is an isoflavone that is also found in soybeans and can affect the thyroid.
Additionally, soy has been linked to cancer. Studies continue to contradict one another, but for some, the way soy can mimic estrogen is alarming enough. And, a study of 8,000 Asian men revealed that those ingesting the highest amounts of tofu had a smaller brain size and about three-times greater incidence of senile dementia compared to those who consumed the lowest amounts.
Fermented soy products are another story. The fermentation process makes the nutrients inherent in soy more bio-available and, in moderate amounts, has a positive impact on health.
Fermentation breaks down the oils, proteins, and carbohydrates in soy, making them easier to digest. If unpasteurized, there will also be living, healthy bacteria present in the mix, which does wonders for digestion.
3 Types of Healthy, Fermented Soy
Tempeh (pictured at the top) is produced by cooking soybeans and then fermenting them with the addition of a natural culture. Once it hardens, a solid cake is formed and can be cut and used as a replacement for meat. Miso is another form of fermented soy which contains over 160 healthy bacteria strains and is packed with B vitamins and powerful antioxidants that scavenge free radicals. Natto is another type of fermented soybean that has a unique taste and slimy texture. It is commonly eaten for breakfast in Japan and has been showed to contain an enzyme that dissolves blood clots.
Here is a list of exciting recipes you can try using either tempeh, miso or natto. Enjoy!
- Thai Styled Tempeh Cutlets
- Tempeh Curry
- Miso Peanut Spread
- Miso Soup with Clams and Spinach
- Natto Toast
- Yamaimo, Okra and Natto Bowl
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