Tag Archives: chemical

Soy: Is it Safe for Me? A Cautionary Tale for People and Planet

shutterstock_121423399-e1361475949317I came across an article this week, written by Barry Boyd, MD, a board certified oncologist and hematologist, that does an excellent job of summing up, once and for all, the myths and facts around soy as it relates to breast cancer.  Fortunately, I think we’ve finally gotten to a point in science that we can confidently stand on one side of the fence when it comes to soy and this issue.  If you’re at all confused about soy and breast cancer, I recommend you give his article a read.

But, before you go and grill up your next soy veggie burger, you should know that there’s another cautionary tale to be told about this plump little legume.  It turns out much of the soy we eat today is not plump or even all that soy-like.  Thanks (or not) to advances in food technology, much of the soy we eat today is either genetically modified, washed and extracted with a neurotoxic petro-chemical, or both.  So, with Dr. Boyd’s talents for history telling as inspiration, allow me to tell you a bit of a story…

Soy is actually quite a deserved celebrity when it comes to beans.  It’s an excellent source of soluble and insoluble fiber, contains heart healthy unsaturated fats, and is a rare vegetarian source of complete protein (a protein is considered complete when it matches the composition of the protein found in an egg).  If you’re a vegetarian, finding complete sources of protein is a big deal.  It’s also planet friendly as it’s grown domestically and has a much smaller carbon footprint than eating an equivalent amount of protein from an animal source (thus the veggie burger reference).  Maybe it’s because of all these positive attributes that soy has been such a point of focus for food scientists.  The fact that it’s a subsidized crop that US farmers are heavily incentivized to grow in mass quantities doesn’t hurt either.

Although all the aspects of a soybean are compelling, it’s really the protein that’s become a focus for the packaged food industry.  High protein diets are a bit of a nutrition fad if you haven’t noticed.   Although most of us have stepped back in recent years from the extremes of the Atkins Diet, more still seems to be better and what better ingredient to bump up protein levels in food than inexpensive and abundant soybeans?

So then, it should be no surprise that soy can be found in almost every packaged foods category.  From crackers to energy bars, ice cream to frozen waffles, soy boosts the protein levels of an incredible number of foods and can be found in more than 60% of processed foods in the marketplace today.

But here’s the thing: just as protein is an established fad, fat is an equally established phobia.  Mother Nature rarely creates food without a balanced mix of nutrients – some fat, some protein, some fiber and likely some antioxidants thrown in for good measure.  Ten grams of protein and zero grams of fat?  Nope, not found in nature and certainly not in a soybean.  So, to meet our demands for protein without all the scary fat, scientists developed a method to separate the two. Hexane is a petro-chemical that is drilled out from deep down in the earth.  When washed over soybeans it causes the fat to separate from the protein.  It’s incredibly efficient at what it does, much more so than mechanically pressing out the oil (the way expeller-pressed oils are extracted).  What you get at the end of the hexane washing process are two new ingredients, isolated soy protein and soybean oil.

Hexane is a pretty scary chemical. The Environmental Working Group classifies it as… [read the rest on KeeganSheridan.com

Real Food: Why Biodiversity Can Save Our Bodies and Our Planet

Have we declared war on the Earth?

According to Vandana Shiva, a renowned physicist, philosopher, and eco feminist, this is indeed the path we are treading. It’s a bold statement, but one that might not be foreign to you, especially in the midst of a growing environmental movement. Most of us nowadays have heard about climate change. We’ve heard about the melting ice caps and the rise of greenhouse gases. We’ve seen pictures of activists hanging off oil rigs and polar bears floating on diminished chunks of glaciers. The environment is in a state of crisis, we are well aware. And yet what does it all mean? How did we get here?

In the latest episodes of SAGES & SCIENTISTS on The Chopra Well, Vandana Shiva discusses agriculture, biodiversity, sustainability, and the importance of making peace with the Earth. For Shiva, this is a systemic issue, intrinsic in the very ways we think about nature. To address this, we must first turn to the food on our plates.

Shiva emphasizes that industrial farming is at the core of environmental degradation. This long-outdated form of agriculture, to which we have ascribed for roughly 200 years, wreaks havoc on the environment. Shiva refers to the overuse of pesticides and herbicides, as well as genetic modification of crops, as forms of violence against the Earth. This in turn translates to violence against people, against all species, against democracy, and against science itself. Reconstituted soy flour will never replace lentils, no matter how cheap or easy to produce. Chemical pesticides derived from war technology will never make our crops more abundant nor our bodies more hearty.

And yet, as Shiva relays, companies like Monsanto increasingly overpower rural farming efforts around the world and impose a framework of thinking rooted in industrial agriculture. According to Shiva, 95% of the cotton in India is owned by Monsanto. It is little wonder the country has witnessed an increase in suicides by cotton farmers who are quickly falling into debt, unable to compete with the industrial giants. These are some of the issues that inspire Shiva to put her scientific training to use as an environmental activist.

In 1984, Shiva founded Navdanya, a non-governmental organization dedicated to conserving biodiversity, organic farming, and the rights of farmers. She went on to establish Bija Vidyapeeth, or Earth University, where people gather on a property in Northern India to learn organic farming and sustainable practices. But for Shiva, organic farming is just the tip of a long, complicated struggle for cultural and economic freedom. We can begin making peace with the Earth, she says, by shifting our current framework of thinking toward one that recognizes and appreciates the diversity on our planet. Varieties of plants, landscapes, climates, animals, and cultures…this is the real tapestry of which we are a part.

The future may depend on this shift toward biodiversity, and our bodies certainly won’t complain. Think of it this way: Would you rather sit down to a bowl of wholesome lentil dal or a serving of reconstituted soy flour mush?

Let us know in the comments below!

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photo by: Peter Blanchard