Is Soy Good For People Or The Environment?

There’s been a lot of press about soy and some people are nervous about substituting soy for meat. Here are two of the main concerns:
1) human health and
2) environmental sustainability.

I’ve addressed both below:

soybeans

1) Soy and Human Health

Anything in excess can be bad for you. Even water. But in moderation, many things are just fine for your health.

(Unless you’re allergic – and some people are allergic to soy, just like some people are allergic to peanuts or strawberries. If you’re allergic to soy, stay away from soy.)

The truth is, plant-based foods are much healthier than animal-based foods. So even if you substituted tofu for all your meat products, you’d still likely be eating more healthily than if you kept eating meat.

However, a proper diet should contain a wide variety of plant-based foods. You shouldn’t merely substitute a meat-centric diet with a tofu-centric diet. You should make your diet plant-centric instead, and include a wide variety of plants, including, but not limited to, soy.

If you look at vegan cookbooks, you’ll notice that many barely call for tofu anymore. I’d say fewer than 1/8th of all vegan recipes call for tofu. There are just so many other kinds of foods available. Some vegans don’t eat soy at all. There are plenty of options other than soy. So if you’re really worried about it, avoid soy.

Once you make the switch to veganism, you’ll see for yourself how many options you have other than just tofu and other soy products. Just try it!

2) Soy and Environmental Sustainability

First, here are three facts about soy and sustainability:

  • Most soybeans are not produced to feed vegans.
  • Most soybeans are produced to feed livestock. Thus the majority of current soybean production is to feed non-vegans.
  • Even if the world went vegan tomorrow, there would be a reduction in the need for soybeans for the human food supply, not an increase, because vegans consume soybeans more efficiently than non-vegans, by virtue of the food chain :)

If you think about it, basically anything can be grown sustainably or unsustainably. It just depends on who grows it and how they do it. Certainly, some soy is grown in ways that are harmful to the environment. But some soy isn’t. The key is finding the sustainable soy. Read labels and shop at farmer’s markets to find sustainable soy.

Furthermore, the fact is, most meat isn’t sustainable. When it’s a choice between meat and soy, soy is more sustainable regardless of where it comes from. Vegans do less damage to the environment than meat-eaters. Simple as that.

For more information about soy please check out these websites:

So feel free to enjoy soy if you want it. As part of a healthy diet, soy can be a great source of protein.

And if you’re still worried, fine, avoid soy. But don’t let a fear of soy keep you from going vegan! There are plenty of other options to try within vegan cuisine. Soy is just one of hundreds of vegan foods and soy products are just some of the thousands of vegan products you can choose from.

8 Responses to Is Soy Good For People Or The Environment?

  1. There are some decent tasting soy burgers available, but I have also had some really bad ones. I guess it all depends on a persons tastes.

    Living here in Hawaii while not eating a lot of soy we do use a lot of soy sauce. My sytem was not used to it, but I haven’t had any adverse effects from it.

  2. Hi, I’m Paul Smith from Australia, I’m also a blogger. It’s interesting what you wrote about soy being a replacer.
    I’m passionate about this subject, particularly about Coeliac/Celiac Disease. If you have some time visit my blog on www (dot) glutenfreehealth (dot) net.
    Thanks for your information.
    regards
    Paul Smith

    ~ Recent blog post: Eating Gluten Free Can Be A Family Affair. at http://glutenfreehealth.net ~

  3. I am concerned about all the current talk of destroying forests to grow soy. Not sure how environmental that is for us. I’m not saying to eat meat, but I am considering other products for protein and mild (such as almond milk) because of what I’ve heard about soy and forest reduction.
    Any info about the forests?
    Thank you – going towards vegetarian

  4. Marlene, most soybeans are produced to feed livestock. Thus the majority of current soybean production is to feed people who eat meat. The Amazon rainforest is cut down every year for grazing cattle and to grow soybeans that are used for animal feed! If you choose soy and other plant proteins instead of meat then you will be contributing less to environmental damage like rainforest destruction. For more info on how to get vegan protein, check out this link: http://www.veganhealth.org/articles/protein

  5. I’m still not convinced. Where in the world is livestock fed on soy? In Australia, our sheep and cattle graze in paddocks. A lot of soy is imported. The way I understand it is, eating a local diet – plants and animals grown locally, is far better than eating vegan, which requires so many imported ingredients (therefore, ship and air freight a larger environmental impact).
    And should people in the Amazon not have cattle? I don’t think you can accuse some of the world’s poorest people of causing environmental damage, when subsistence farming has been the tradition of Amazon farmers for thousands of years.

  6. Rachel,
    regarding local food, please read this: http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2009/0803/opinions-energy-locavores-on-my-mind.html
    Regarding livestock feed and soy, please read: http://www.forestdisclosure.com/page.asp?p=4724
    Regarding the Amazon, that is NOT subsistence farming. Look: http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/01/cattle-pastures-amazon-deforestation-iceland.php

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