* fake foods, which are laden with chemicals, such as soy burgers, ‘vegetable protein’, soy cheese, yoghurt and milk, and ice cream. If you’re vegan, get your main protein from other beans, use olive oil and try natural sorbets.
* soy milk or formula for babies and children. These fake milks have been linked with growth and thyroid problems in children. High levels of isoflavones expose children and babies to high levels of oestrogens, which accelerate sexual maturation in girls and feminise boys.
* soy aliases. Food processors are less likely to list the three-letter word ‘soy’ than technical terms such as ‘TVP’ (textured vegetable protein) or ‘HVP’ (hydrolysed vegetable protein). Ingredients listed as ‘lecithin’, ‘vegetable oil’ or ‘broth’ are also likely to come from soy.
* high isoflavone levels. Check out the website www.ars.usda.gov for the best guesstimates of isoflavone content of 128 common foods.
* meat extenders. Preformed hamburger patties and meat loaves, and ready-made spaghetti sauces often contain soy.
* soy protein isolate (SPI). This gives soy lasagne and chili their ground-meat-like texture, but it contains some 38 petroleum-derived compounds (J Am Oil Chem Soc, 1998; 74: 461-7).
* soy in vitamins and over-the-counter drugs. Also, beware of pills with soy-oil bases, vitamin E derived from soy oil and soy components such as isoflavones. A new type of aspirin called ‘aspirin cochleates’ made with ‘all-natural’ soy-derived phospholipids will soon be on chemists’ shelves.
* low-carb processed foods, many of which substitute soy protein for traditional flour.
* soy oil or margarine. Use good-quality olive oil instead.
But if you must eat soy . . .
* eat it sparingly. The Asians eat soy only as a condiment and rarely more than once a day.
* stick to products made by traditional fermentation processes (such as miso, tempeh, natto and tofu). Fermentation predigests the soybeans, deactivates protease inhibitors and eliminates mineral-depleting phytates.
* buy traditional products such as miso from reputable companies that use lengthy fermentation processes and only natural whole ingredients.
* avoid ‘quick’ miso, which is likely to contain sweeteners (usually sugar or caramel syrup), bleaches, preservatives, colourings and MSG, and is usually pasteurised. This includes the dehydrated instant powders and dried soup mixes.
* only use traditional shoyu or tamari. Modern soy sauce is a refined chemical stew of hydrochloric acid and sodium carbonate, sugar, colourings and glutamic acid (as found in MSG) to shorten the fermentation process. It may also contain mutagens (gene-changing agents).
* eat traditionally made tofu, rather than the ‘silken’ variety, which contains more of the unwanted antinutrients.