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🍏 "Soy: The Protein We Love to Hate"


Photo by Kelly Sikkema | Unsplash

Table of Contents

Hosts: Tamar Haspel & Mike Grunwald
Category: 🍏 Sustainable Food | Soy

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[2:36] TH: "[Soy] has a PR problem. Everyone loves to hate on soy. And the reasons go back years, but lately, the big one is man boobs. [...] But there are other things too, there's the allergens, there's the association with processed food. And lately [...] there has been a total full court press in some corners of the nutrition community to really blame not just soil, but seed oils in general, for everything that ails us, for primarily disease and obesity. And that's before we even get to the environmental impact."

[3:25] MG: "[Soy] is blamed [...] especially for deforestation. There is a lot of soy grown in Brazil, so it's seen as a destroyer of the Amazon. [...] There's also a lot of soy grown in monocultures that do get drenched with pesticides and herbicides, so it's often seen as a representative of everything that's wrong with industrial ag. And of course, there's a ton of soy fed to animals. So people who don't like animal agriculture often don't like soy. [...] You have blue America hating soy, because it's unhealthy. You have red America hating soy, because it's too healthy."

[6:23] TH: "There is massive cognitive dissonance in the good food community. Because on the one hand, we have this emphasis on plant protein, [...] because of course, animals are the thing that are getting pegged for a lot of the ills of industrial agriculture. And so people want plant protein, that's the replacement. But somehow, the most efficient producer of plant protein (soy) is the devil."

[7:04] TH: "Soy is one of the [...] legumes. [...] And the great thing about legumes is that they have evolved this symbiotic relationship with these bacteria in their roots. And they are actually able to take nitrogen out of the atmosphere and fix it in the soil. And that's a huge thing, because it means that not only do soybeans need less fertilization, [...] but when you rotate legumes into your crop rotation, sometimes those other crops need less fertilization, because you have the nitrogen fixing from the legume."

[8:45] TH: "[Soybeans] are extremely high in protein. They're high in fat, which is why they're used for oil. And although high in fat doesn't raise the 'hey this is good for you' flag in the western world where overconsumption is a problem, if you're trying to feed the world, high in fat is high in calories, and that's a good thing. It also has a neutral taste and so it can be used in all kinds of applications."

[9:57] TH: "[Soybeans] deliver about 6 million [...] calories per acre [in the United States], whereas a lot of other legumes are half that, or even less. So soy is super efficient."

[11:57] MG: "Globally, soybean production has increased 1,300%, since the 60s. And the acreage is up about 400%. [...] In the United States [soybeans are] 95% GMO. [...] A main thing we should also mention is that, globally, more than three quarters of soybeans are now fed to animals, mostly chickens, also pigs. It's true that we do eat a lot of chickens in the world, about 70 billion a year, but it would be weird to blame soy for the fact that we like to eat chickens. [...] Presumably we would just have to use less efficient crops to feed animals and that would require more acreage."

[21:19] TH: "Seed oils are in processed food and eating a whole lot of processed food is probably not a great idea. [...] But if you look at the evidence for soy, it actually seems to be safe, doesn't have a lot of downsides, and it does have some upsides. And nutritionally, [...] there's just nothing wrong with soy. [...] If you look at the preponderance of the evidence, it's pretty clear that whatever GMOs' downsides are, they are safe to eat."

[25:41] MG: "I've spent some time with the head of Beyond Meat, Ethan Brown, and he made a decision to use pea protein instead of soy protein, essentially, because of soy's bad reputation. [...] But he says right out, he doesn't think there's anything wrong with soy, he just did it for reputational reasons. And personally, I think [...] Impossible Burgers, which do use GMO soy, taste better than Beyond Burgers."

[32:05] MG: "What we have is a meat demand problem. What's happening is we are eating stuff that soy is fed to. And if we would like there to be less demand for soy, we are going to have to have less demand for the animals that eat soy."

[38:17] MG: "As terrible as the deadzone [in the Gulf of Mexico] is, if you replace soy, it would be worse because soy requires less fertilizer than the alternatives. As bad as deforestation is, if you replace soy with a less efficient crop, you would have more deforestation. [...] If we replaced meat with miso or tofu or tempeh, then absolutely that would actually be better. And in fairness, [...] if we replaced meat with plants that weren't soy based, that would also reduce our impact on the land. Don't blame soy for the problems of the food system that in some ways it makes it less awful."

Rating: 🍏🍏🍏🍏

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🗓️ 09/13/2022
✅ Time saved: 44 min

Additional Links:
Paper: "Neither soy nor isoflavone intake affects male reproductive hormones" (National Institute of Health, 2021)