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You Ask, I Answer: Soy Protein Isolate

Posted Apr 17 2011 12:02pm

Is soy protein isolate a bad form of protein?  Why?

– Kelsey Lepp
(Location Unknown)

Few foods are as polarizing and misunderstood as soy.  The average consumer is certainly bombarded with conflicting bits of information.

On the one hand, foods that contain at least 6.25 grams of soy, less than 3 grams of fat, less than 1 gram of saturated fat, and less than 20 milligrams of cholesterol can legally display an FDA-approved statement about soy’s role in helping to lower heart disease risk.

Okay, I have to address that before I go on any further.  Lazy science aside (this statement perpetuates the inaccurate “low fat = healthy” dogma that to this day has people afraid of consuming heart-healthy foods like nuts, avocados, and coconut; additionally, there are no limits on how much sugar a product with this statement can have, despite mountains of research showing sugar’s harmful effect on heart health), the company that petitioned the FDA for that statement was none other than Protein Technologies International, a company that manufactures what else soy protein!

Moving on.  Just as soy has enjoyed plenty of good press, there is also a strong anti-soy movement (some of it led by the National Cattle Association, no less) blaming it for everything from breast cancer to early onsets of puberty to the feminization of men (that last one has more to do with latent mysogyny and silly homophobia than anything else).

Alas, soy supporters and unabashed critics are simultaneously right and wrong.  I have formed my very own soy spectrum.  On the “healthful” side, you have fermented, minimally processed versions (tempeh and natto).  Somewhere in the middle you have soy milk and way on the other side (the “consume sparingly, if at all” side) lies soy protein isolate.

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