Pro Environment | Pro Health
Soya: dispelling the myths
7 May 2018
If there’s one topic that we encounter very frequently regarding a plant-based diet, it’s soya As vegans, soya beans are used frequently: in the form of soya milk, tofu, burgers, and other plant-based meats. But is soya healthy? And is it environmentally sustainable? Those on a plant-based diet often get asked these questions so it’s not a bad thing to get informed on the subject.
- Firstly, soya is not new. Soya beans have been around for a very long time – just because soya products can be found in every supermarket nowadays, that doesn’t mean it’s a new thing. The soya bean was first domesticated in China thousands of years ago, and has become a staple in many cultures since then.
- This humble soya bean is really nutritious – it’s a great source of protein and it contains all the essential amino acids1 2, as well as important minerals such as magnesium and potassium3.
- Concern about the health effects of soya comes mainly from the presence of isoflavones in soya beans. Because isoflavones are similar to the structure of human estrogens, they can also bind to our estrogen receptors and are therefore called ‘phytoestrogens’. However, the effects are different from those of normal estrogen (and sometimes even have opposing effects). According to current scientific knowledge, moderate consumption of soya products has more positive than negative effects on health.
- According to a recent study by the World Cancer Research Fund International, the use of soya even improves the chance of recovery after a diagnosis of breast cancer4. According to a 2009 meta-analysis, soya has also been associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer in men5.
- As for the sustainability concerns around soy, there is a lot of talk about soya and deforestation. However, about three-quarters of global soya bean crops are grown as feed crops for livestock6. If everyone chose to eat soya and other beans instead of meat and dairy, less land would be needed.
We hope that some of your questions about soya have been answered and that you feel comfortable using soy milk in your smoothies and tofu in your stir-fries.
|↑1||Henkel J. Soy. Health claims for soy protein, questions about other components. FDA Consum. 2000;34(3):13–15,18–20.|
|↑2||Young, V. R. & P. L. Pellett (1994): Plant proteins in relation to human protein and amino acid nutrition. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 59, p.1203S–1212S|
|↑3||Polak, R., Phillips, E. M. & A. Campbell (2015): Legumes: Health Benefits and Culinary Approaches to Increase Intake. Clin Diabetes. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4608274/ [24.05.2018]|
|↑4||World Cancer Research Fund / American Institute for Cancer Research. Continuous Update Project Expert Report 2018. Survivors of breast and other cancers. Available at dietandcancerreport.org|
|↑5||Dong, J.-Y. and L.-Q. Qin (2011). “Soy isoflavones consumption and risk of breast cancer incidence or recurrence: a meta-analysis or prospective studies.” Breast cancer research and treatment 125 (2): 315-323.|
|↑6||Steinfeld, Henning; Gerber, Pierre; Wassenaar, T. D.; Castel, Vincent (2006). Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. ISBN 978-92-5-105571-7. Retrieved August 19, 2008.|