I’ve had a vegetarian client asking for ideas on meat free protein sources and most vegetarians will say that they eat soy and soy based products. I would generally say it’s not a good idea. While there are those out there who continue to praise soy as some kind of miracle food, evidence continues to emerge which exposes it’s many faults and raises questions about its safety.

Soy and other foods and herbs with properties that mimic oestrogen are often recommended to menopausal and post-menopausal women because consumption may lead to making some of the symptoms associated with the natural decline in oestrogen levels better. They are also sometimes included to reduce the effects of excess oestrogen in women with oestrogen dominance. Phytoestrogens bind to oestrogen receptors in the human body, thereby blocking the binding of the body’s natural oestrogen. And since these plant oestrogen have a much milder effect than true oestrogen, they are believed to help with some of the symptoms associated with excess oestrogen. Soy seems to play both sides of the coin. It has estrogenic effects, but can also be used to lessen estrogenic effects. Head spinning yet? Perhaps this is why the results of studies looking at soy and female health are so mixed and the truth about soy is still not completely understood.

As soy is also thought to be a good source of protein, it is one of the only complete proteins among plant foods. However, what is often not mentioned is when soy is being pushed as a plant-based protein source, soy also interferes with digestion of the very protein it provides. Soy contains trypsin inhibitors a compound that reduces the efficacy of digestive enzymes and these hardy anti-nutrients withstand a high level of processing, so they’re still present in most commercial soy foods.

So to wrap up, the effects that soy and soy based foods have upon our hormone levels are not clear so would you risk it? Also the fact that the protein it provides actually stops us from absorbing the very thing we’re consuming it for, it’s probably one to avoid. There are so many other non-meat products that provided high levels of protein:

Almonds, full of healthy fats and gives a 22.2g protein per 100g

  • Bio Yoghurt, will give you 4g of protein per 100g, makes a lovely dessert when you add a small amount of fruit
  • Nut butters, an organic cashew butter will give you 6g of protein per 2 tablespoon
  • Pumpkin seeds, 25g will give you 8.5g protein
  • Quinoa, per cup has a massive 22.2g of protein
  • Cottage cheese, 1 cup will give you the best bang for your buck with 30g of protein
  • Eggs, per egg is 6.5g and full of healthy omega fats
  • Chickpeas, 1 cup will give you a muscle building 33.5g of protein.

Happy protein hunting!

Richard