The Big Soya Debate

One of the biggest debates in the vegan sphere centres on soy, aka soya. Protein-packed superfood to be guzzled at leisure or cancer-causing poison to be avoided? Headlines often work the latter angle – nothing sells news and wins shares like a health scare, right? Meanwhile, proponents of veganism are more likely to wax lyrical about soy saving their fakon.

With so much conflicting advice around, what’s a health-honouring, plant-powered person to do? Lucky for you, Bonsan is here to sort the news from the trues.

NEWS: Soy is the junk food of the plant-based world

TRUES: Soy’s a ‘complete’ protein and packs a micro-nutrient punch

It is true that soy protein forms the basis of many processed vegan foods. From soysages to soy-cream, there are soy-derived vegan analogues for many of the ‘junk’ products in an omnivorous diet. It doesn’t follow that soy itself is junk, however. Soy is a ‘complete’ protein, meaning it contains all the amino acids essential in a human diet. The legume in bean form contains a whopping 17g protein per 100g. It’s also rich in molybdenum, k1, folates, copper, phosphorus, thiamine. Also magnesium, iron, fibre and Omega 3s. And selenium, potassium, calcium, b6 and riboflavin. Not bad for a little bean!

As is true across nutrition: when a food is highly processed, it’s nutritional value diminishes. The closer the soy you consume is to it’s original form, the more of these lovely nutrients you’re gonna get. Bonsan foods use the whole, organic bean. Not only that, in place of chemical coagulants (to hold together the soy in tofu), we use fermented kombucha – an ancient, live tea packed with minerals and enzymes. This makes our tofu easy to digest. Bonus!


NEWS: The nutrients in soy don’t get absorbed because PHYTATES.

TRUES: Phytates aren’t such a biggie.

Seeds and legumes contain phytates – phytic acid bound to minerals in the foodstuff, potentially interfering with absorption of said minerals. Soy does contain phytates, but research shows that soy’s nutrients are actually well absorbed when it’s consumed as part of a balanced diet. There’s also more than a whiff of evidence that it’s the phytates in whole foods that have a protective effect against diseases. Their mineral-binding properties are also degraded by soaking (our beans have a bath for 8 lovely hours). Anyhow, studies have found that the human body adapts to circumvent absorption-blocking when it needs to (the human body is amazing isn’t it?).


NEWS: Soy is a GMO/Roundup nightmare

TRUES: 81% of the world’s soy is GMO. GMO free soy is grown though, especially in Europe.

The sad truth is that a huge proportion of the world’s soy is GMO – genetically modified to resist specific herbicides and pesticides, which are then used widely on (and subsequently become residual in) the crops to increase yield. Research indicates that foods contaminated with glyphosates (such as Roundup) can have adverse effects on health. Fortunately, some countries resist this dubious practise. The soy in Bonsan foods comes from Germany and Austria, is totally GMO free and is gloriously organic to boot.


NEWS: Isoflavones: infertility, breast cancer and other hormone-related problems.

TRUES: Studies are inconclusive, show no effect or suggest soy can protect against certain diseases.

Isoflavones, or phytoestrogens, resemble the human hormone oestrogen and can bind to its receptors. Soy is high in isoflavones giving rise to the argument that it could disrupt endocrine systems, cause breast cancer and even infertility in men. Research does not bear this theory out at all – despite potentially causing an increase in breast tissue, soy has been linked to reduced risk of breast cancer. It has been shown to alleviate menopause symptoms in some women and no ill effects on men’s reproductive health have been reported. Some experts do warn that individuals sensitive to hypothyroidism should avoid consuming large amounts of soy, however.


NEWS: Soy is just bad. Full stop.

TRUES: Soy has many health benefits and serves nourishing texture in vegan meals the world over.

Soy is super rich in antioxidants, seems to lower cholesterol and may reduce the risk of osteoporosis.  Men who consume soy are less likely to develop prostate cancer. It’s also an amazing, versatile, delicious food that has taken centre-stage in plant-based meals for centuries.

So where are we with that debate? All but settled? The Association of British Dieticians (BDA) summarise their findings thus: “soya is a nutritious, safe and palatable part of the diet which fits well with healthy eating guidelines and may have multiple health benefits”. Get yours and a range of other nourishing, flavourful and fun absolutely vegan foods right here.

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