Mainely Tipping Points: Part IV: The American Soy Products

Part IV:  The American Soy Products


As established in Part I, my soy expert is Kaayla T. Daniel, PhD, CCN, the author of THE WHOLE SOY STORY:  THE DARK SIDE OF AMERICA’S FAVORITE HEALTH FOOD (2005).  Daniel’s credentials, experience, and extensive research on soy make her an expert.  Part II explains how soy, which has significantly potent chemicals that can harm human health, got into the human food chain.  Part III discusses the traditional soy products and how they are different from industrialized soy products.  All quotes are from THE WHOLE SOY STORY.  


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The American soy industry could not make much money from “the good old soys”—traditionally made, fermented miso, tempeh, natto, and soy sauce.  Not enough people consumed these soy products.  So, the soy industry tried, first, to produce and sell soy products made from the whole soy bean:  soy nuts and soy nut butter, soy grits, and soy flour.

Roasted soy nuts have to be heavily flavored with sugar, salt, and additives like MSG to be palatable, which is also true for soy nut butter.  With a high oil component, soy grits go rancid easily; harbor the many dangerous, unmediated chemicals found in soy; and taste “beany” (79-84). 

Soy flour proved to be more profitable, but difficult to handle.  Again, the exposed oils turn rancid easily, and the taste is bitter.  Nevertheless, soy flour can replace from one-fourth to one-third of regular flour before affecting taste.  Soy flour is used as an egg and nonfat milk solids substitute.  Soy flour can “moisten the final product, helping retain the illusion of freshness.”  So, soy flour saves “bakers bundles of money.” Note that small amounts of soy flour do not have to be labeled, so most commercial breads contain it (81).      

These whole-bean soy products did not address the burgeoning problem of how to turn the waste products from soy-bean oil manufacture into profit.  So the soy industry developed second-generation products.    

Soy “analogues” attempt to replace existing and familiar dairy and meat products.  Taste is improved, but “combining better taste with a health claim” works even better to offset consumer resistance.  Daniel’s book, however, debunks the soy industry’s claims that industrialized soy products are healthy.      

Soy milk and the analogue products derived from it (soy cheese, puddings, ice creams, yogurts, cottage cheese, and whipped cream), together with the health claims for soy,  prove to be more profitable.  But, the industrial production process for soy milk destroys key nutrients and may produce a toxin, lysinoalanine. 

Taste, however, continues to be a problem.  Soy milk tastes terrible and has a bitter aftertaste.  Thus, even “plain” soy milk is sweetened.  Additionally, the soy industry fortifies soy milk with “calcium, vitamin D and other vitamins and minerals inadequately represented in soybeans” and stabilizes the brew with emulsifiers.  The supplements, though, are “cheap, mass-produced products,” to include Vitamin D2, which “has been linked to hyperactivity, coronary heart disease and allergic reactions.”  Canola oil is added to low-fat soymilks, which are made with soy protein isolate (SPI), to provide creaminess.  And a few years back, titanium oxide, a form of white paint, was an additive used to improve color and texture (65-69).

The soy products made from soy milk are thickened with carrageenan, a water-soluble polymer or gum used as a fat substitute.  Recent studies show that carrageenan “can cause ulcerations and malignancies in the gastrointestinal tract of animals” (69).   

Soy cheeses “can be artificially flavored to resemble American cheese, mozzarella, cheddar, Monterey jack and Parmesan, and they’re increasingly used by fast food operations such as Pizza Hut.”  But, “many brands of soy cheeses contain dangerous partially hydrogenated fats” or trans fats, “with the highest levels in the brands that taste the best.  The main ingredient of Tofutti brand soy cheese, for example, is water, followed by partially hydrogenated soybean oil” (69-70). 

Soy ice creams are mostly water, sugar, oil, soy protein isolate, and, sometimes, tofu.  Tofutti’s first three ingredients are “water, white sugar and corn oil, followed by soy protein isolate (SPI) and sometimes tofu.  Brown sugar and high fructose corn syrup make up most of the rest.”  Soy Dream and Imagine “contain fewer ingredients,” but still “consist mainly of water, some form of sugar, soy and more sugar” (69-71).

Soy protein becomes more “invisible” as industry begins legally inserting it silently into our food, including, at first, such items as “preformed hamburger patties, readymade meat loaves, spaghetti sauces and even some brands of fresh ground beef” (87).  Now, textured soy protein (TSP), soy protein concentrate (SPC), soy protein isolate (SPI), hydrolyzed vegetable/soy protein (HVP/HSP), soy oil, soy margarine, and soy lecithin are put into our foods and into our food animals without any idea of what safe levels of consumption might be, considering that these foods carry elements that are toxic for humans. 

Let’s take a look at these industrial products.  Textured soy protein (TSP) is made when defatted soy flour (the oil has been extracted) is forced through an extruder under conditions of such extreme heat and pressure– that the “structure of the soy protein is changed” (90). 

Soy protein concentrate (SPC) is made from defatted soy flakes (the oil has been extracted) and becomes an industrial component of soy analogues of other foods.  It is best known for use in fake meats, but it “can replace almond paste in marzipan recipes, cream filling in chocolates, and numerous other ingredients” (92).

Soy protein isolate (SPI) is made from defatted soy bean meal (the oil has been extracted).  SPI is “mixed with nearly every food product sold in today’s stores-energy bars, muscle-man powders, breakfast shakes, burgers and hot dogs.”  It is the main ingredient in soy infant formulas.  Consuming SPI increases “requirements for vitamins E, K, D and B12” and a whole host of minerals.  Its production takes place in chemical factories and takes a “complicated, high-tech procedure” that also produces “levels of toxins and carcinogens such as lysinoalanines and nitrosamines” (93).

Soy oil production is “a complicated high-tech process that includes grinding, crushing and extracting, using high temperature, intense pressure and chemical solvents such as hexane.  Free radicals are produced, which causes rancidity, so another “high-temperature refining, deodorizing and light hydrogenation (trans fats) is used (97). 

Soy oil margarine and shortening are made by hydrogenating soy oil, which makes it solid at room temperature and a trans fat.  The compound is dyed yellow for margarine or bleached white for lard. 

Soy lecithin is, literally, “the sludge left after crude soy oil goes through a `degumming’ process.  It is a waste product containing residues of solvents and pesticides.” It is used instead of eggs as an emulsifier to keep water and fat from separating (113-114).   

These industrial forms of soy “carry their baggage of phytates mostly intact, putting formula-fed infants, vegetarians and other high consumers of soybeans at risk for mineral deficiencies” (214).  Unmediated soy can and does cause a host of health problems, as discussed earlier in this series. 

Takeaway message:  if you are going to eat soy, eat the “good old soys” (miso, tempeh, natto, soy sauce) that have been mediated by traditional fermentation and eat those sparingly.  Good luck finding traditionally made soy sauce.  Do not eat the modern industrial soy products.  Like all junk foods, they do not support health.  Know that even with four essays, I have only scratched the surface what is explained in Daniel’s very important book.