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How to Do Soy Right (Slideshow)

If you’re going to eat soy, it’s best to enjoy moderate amounts — a little goes a long way — and to try to avoid highly processed forms and genetically modified products as much as possible. Here’s a list of go-to soy foods, as well as the ones to avoid.

  • soy
    Fermented Soy is Easier to Digest

    Foods with fermented soy create health-promoting probiotics, the good bacteria our bodies need to maintain digestive and overall wellness. Most of the soy consumed in the United States is both unfermented and processed.

  • miso
    Green Light: Miso

    Fermented soybean paste, used in soups and sauces. Rich in probiotics, the good bacteria that aid vitamin absorption.

  • tempeh
    Green Light: Tempeh

    Whole soybeans pressed into loaves, which are then fermented. Often used as a meat substitute. Tempeh is rich in B vitamins, minerals and omega-3 fatty acids.

  • natto
    Green Light: Natto

    Plain fermented soy-beans. Natto is a traditional Japanese breakfast food with a sticky texture and pungent smell. Rich in vitamin K and probiotics.

  • tofu
    Caution: Tofu

    Soymilk, curdled and pressed into cubes with coagulants added. Tofu contains antinutrients, which can block absorption of essential minerals. Traditionally a nonfermented product, tofu can also be fermented, but it is not as common.

  • edamame
    Caution: Edamame

    Whole unprocessed soybeans, commonly boiled in the pod and eaten as a snack. Most commercial edamame has been preheated to make digestion easier, but it still contains anti-nutrients and can be difficult to digest, causing stomach upset and bloating.

  • soy sauce
    Caution: Soy Sauce

    A fermented mixture of water, soybeans, salt and some type of roasted grain, typically wheat. Often contains preservatives, and some brands of soy sauce are made mainly from acid hydrolyzed soy protein instead of brewed with a traditional culture. Tamari is a gluten-free version. Best bet is traditionally fermented unpasteurized soy sauce.

  • soymilk
    Red Light: Soymilk

    A processed beverage made of ground soybeans mixed with water and boiled, which removes some antinutrients. Sugar is added to improve flavor. An 8-ounce serving contains up to 35 milligrams of isoflavones, which may change estrogen levels and hormonal function.

  • soy protein
    Red Light: Soy Protein

    Most common forms include hydrolyzed, textured vegetable protein (TVP), and soy protein isolate. Often processed with hexane, a known neurotoxin. Found in a wide range of processed and packaged foods.

  • soybean oil
    Red Light: Soybean Oil

    To extract oil, soybeans are superheated, ground, pressed, mixed with a liquid such as hexane and washed in a centrifuge. Soybean oil accounts for nearly 80 percent of all liquid oils consumed annually in the United States.

If you’re wondering whether you are sensitive to soy, the best thing to do is to cut out all soybean-based products from your diet for two weeks and then reintroduce minimally processed varieties, such as edamame or tofu. Feel fine? You’re in the clear. Stomach upset or other symptoms? Avoid.


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