Soy is a popular protein option for vegans and vegetarians, as well as anyone who likes flavor and texture. A rich and varied array of soy foods has been part of the diet of many Asian populations for centuries, and many of these diets have long been known to be extremely healthy.
However, if we think we should add as much soy, in all its forms, to our diets as possible to mimic the health benefits of the Asian diet, we are dead wrong. First, that's because soy is not consumed in large quantities in most of Asia; mostly, it serves as an accent, as a small part of a meal, or as a base flavor.
Second, there is a big difference in nutritional value between unfermented and fermented soybeans. Third, the industrial processing and pervasive genetic modification of American soybeans play a role.
To further explore this question, let's compare two popular types of soy: tofu (which is not fermented) and tempeh (a whole fermented soy product).
Tofu has been around since ancient times and is said to have been first made in ancient China sometime around 100 BC. It has a mild flavor and absorbs the flavors of all the ingredients around it. It comes in a variety of consistencies, from silky to extra firm, and comes out as a soft, slightly “fluffy” block of white.
Tofu is made by curdling fresh and heated soy milk and then adding a coagulant. In the past -and in some traditional recipes- the coagulant was natural. However, much of the tofu you find in the store is probably made with a chemical coagulant.
While tofu does have some health benefits—it's high in protein and fiber, and contains several important minerals—there's one major downside, even beyond the extensive industrial processing it undergoes today: It's made from unfermented soybeans.
As we have previously explored, unfermented soy can be very dangerous, especially in large quantities and over time. One reason is that unfermented soybeans contain "antinutrients," compounds that can interfere with the body's absorption of nutrients. For example, unfermented soybeans are high in phytic acid, which can interfere with your body's ability to absorb calcium, copper, magnesium, iron, and zinc.
Another group of these antinutrients are trypsin inhibitors, which prevent the body from digesting protein. Additionally, unfermented soybeans contain compounds known as goitrogens, which can inhibit the function of the thyroid, a vital gland responsible for regulating many bodily processes. If thyroid function is disturbed, many health problems can arise.
Another researched danger of unfermented soy is the presence of phytoestrogens, natural compounds that can mimic estrogen in the body. The authors of a 2014 study published in the journalgerman medical sciencehe wrote:
“Phytoestrogens are present in certain edible plants and are more common in soybeans; They are structurally and functionally analogous to estrogens…. Soy is used as animal feed so that residual phytoestrogens and their active metabolites, such as equol, can remain in the meat and affect the consumer's hormonal balance."
The study authors continue:
“There are only isolated reports of gender-altered behavior or feminization in humans as a result of soy consumption. In animals, intake of phytoestrogens has been reported to affect fertility, sexual development, and behavior. The effects of feminization in humans can be subtle and only statistically identifiable in large populations."
a lot for womenestrogenin the body can potentially lead to increased risk of infertility and breast cancer, as well as uterine fibroids and decreased sexual desire. In men, elevated estrogen levels can lead to a condition known as gynecomastia, which can include mood swings, erectile dysfunction, and other symptoms, including inflammation of the male breast tissue.
Furthermore, a study published in the journal in 2008human reproductionHigh soy intake has been linked to low sperm count in men.
Going back to soybean processing, most soy products consumed in the United States are made from soy protein isolate, which goes through many twists and turns on its way, separating it from its natural state. During this cumbersome process, terrifying contamination can occur. Impurities that can be introduced during this process includemonosodium glutamate(MSG) and aluminum: both can act as neurotoxins.
The history of tempeh is also rich and ancient, although not as much is known about its origins as tofu. It is believed that it was first made on the Indonesian island of Java. The knowledge of how to do it spread to other parts of Asia, probably during the trade between Indonesia and China, which took place around 1000 AD.
Unlike tofu, tempeh is a fermented whole food product. It is made by naturally fermenting cooked soybeans for several days at temperatures between 80 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit. It is fermented with the help of a so-called mold.Rhizopus Oligosporus. After fermentation, the soybeans are pressed into a mold.
The resulting product is dry, firm, hard, and slightly brown in color. Unlike tofu, which has a smooth, consistent texture, pressed whole soybeans are visible in tempeh. The flavor is also stronger; it can be described as slightly sweet, nutty, and "earthy". But it also absorbs other flavors well.
Tempeh is rich in nutrients. It contains more protein and fiber than tofu and is also rich in vitamin B2 and the minerals copper, magnesium, manganese and phosphorus. It's also much less processed, as long as you can find a variety that's made using traditional methods and doesn't contain any additives.
However, the most important difference between tofu and tempeh is the fermentation process. Natural fermentation helps break down the phytates and other antinutrients found in soybeans, making the protein more digestible and reversing many of its harmful effects. It also makes the bioactive peptides in soybeans more concentrated, potentially increasing the health benefits.
Tempeh is also rich in isoflavones, compounds that some research suggests may have cancer-preventing properties. While unfermented soybeans also contain isoflavones, they may be more concentrated and more readily available to the body in fermented varieties.
A note of caution: Some forms of tempeh, particularly commercial varieties, can be highly processed, and grains are sometimes added to the mix. That's why it's so important to get it from a trusted source and always check its ingredients closely.
Once you've chosen the original, you can use the tempeh in a number of ways. It can be added to stir-fries, marinated and grilled like meats, sliced and added to salads, or crumbled to add texture and protein to soups. The possibilities are endless!
Always choose organic products and avoid processed varieties!
An important thing to keep in mind about any soy product is the large percentage of genetically modified soybeans circulating in the United States. In fact, more than 90 percent of the soybeans in this country are genetically modified!
Much of this soybean is genetically modified to be resistant to glyphosate, also known as Roundup, a widely used pesticide that is sprayed on GM soybean fields. As we previously reported, glyphosate has been linked to some seriously scary health effects, including potentially cancer-causing properties.
Additionally, soy products present a significant risk of contamination depending on how they are processed. A 1994 study published in the journalVegetable food for human consumptiontested tofu and tempeh samples for microbial contamination and found that notable concentrations occurred during processing of both. The study authors wrote:
"The microbiological quality of the product can be improved if manufacturers avoid unnecessary contamination during processing."
For these reasons, for optimal health and safety, it is strongly recommended to choose a form of fermented organic soybeans, such as: B. Organic Tempeh made by traditional fermentation methods. Look for a local source that makes your creations with love, or a company that adheres to high quality standards that you trust.
Remember that although soy is organic and fermented, due to its estrogenic properties, soy is a food that should be eaten in moderation, so don't overdo it! Added to meals from time to time, tempeh can be a tempting treat.
– The alternative newspaper