Is Soy Good or Not Soy Good?

Picture of Tempuna: Recipe of the Week. See ingredients and directions below.

For many years I have been eating soy foods as a major protein source. Soy foods are considered good plant sources of estrogen and are in a category called phyto-estrogens. Recently, however, some negative facts about soy have been surfacing, so I did some research via Google. I found pros and cons, inspiring me to do even more extensive research, and also to modify my vegetarian diet, once again.

Because of my growing concerns about the negative information on soy foods, I contacted BETTY KAMEN, who has a PhD. in nutrition. (See more about Betty below.*) Betty said she was not an avid fan of soy products, but if using them, they should be whole soy products. She explained that her negative view of soy for some people stems from the fact that Asians have a different protein metabolism than those descended from, for example, Northern Europeans. This is because of the limited amount of protein consumed by the former culture compared with the latter, over the centuries. In addition, any knowledgeable food expert knows that the soy protein available in America does not always meet Asian standards of quality, although organic soy may be an exception.

As a result of my research and contact with Betty, some of the changes I made to my vegetarian diet of 30 years was to add organic, free-range eggs back to my menus and to eliminate soy milk, soy cheese, and other “fractured” soy foods. Most importantly, I avoid any products that contain hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated soy oil. Of all the poor uses of soy, this one tops my list for foods NOT to eat. Hydrogenated oils of any kind are considered harmful, soy or otherwise.Even partially hydrogenated, as Betty says, is like being a little bit pregnant. (More on this is another blog. Not about being pregnant, but about hydrogenation!)

Currently, I am working to include more TEMPEH in my diet and somewhat less TOFU. Tempeh is a fermented product made from whole soybeans (fermenting a food always improves its nutrient value), whereas tofu is a fiberless food made from the “milk” of the soybean (coagulated rather than fermented), and not the bean itself. I have also added whole green soybeans, called Edamame beans, to my bean cuisine. Edamame are often served in Asian restaurants as an appetizer and I like to eat the unshelled beans as a snack and put the shelled beans in entrees. The key for me is to BALANCE my own diet with several kinds of high quality, meatless protein along with fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and beans, and sprouts.

If you are an adventurous cook and want to try something different as well as healthy, pick up a package of tempeh in the refrigerated section of a health food store or supermarket and try this salad I originally created as a “mock tuna fish” salad, but now has become a tasty salad or spread in its own right. Surprisingly, my 99 year-old mother-in-law, featured on my Mother’s Day blog last week and is not a vegetarian, loves this salad, so I feel safe in introducing here. Your comments would be welcome.


This dish is a “knock-off” tuna salad, but does not really taste like tuna, if my memory serves me correctly. But it is high in protein and phyto-estrogens, considered by many to be good for midlife women. And it does have my Good Taste of Health seal of approval from my mother-in-law!

One 8 oz. package tempeh (soy product), steamed
Two scallions, minced
One small carrot, grated
One stalk celery, diced
Mayonnaise or Nayonaise (approx. 1/4 cup to start)
Salt, pepper, and paprika to taste

1. Steam tempeh for 5-7 minutes.
2. While it cools, prepare the veggies and place in a bowl with the mayo or nayo-naise.
3. Grate the tempeh into the bowl, adding salt, pepper, and paprika to taste.
4. Add more mayo or nayo if too dry. Chill and serve on crackers, bread, or as stuffing for tomatoes.
(Feel free to add garlic powder, curry powder, Italian seasonings, mustard, etc. to vary the flavor.)


I met Betty Kamen about 27 years ago, after giving birth to my third child at the then ancient age of 41. She hosted a radio show in New York City and she interviewed me as part of a Mother’s Day program. Fast-forward to the present: Betty went back to school and earned a doctorate in nutrition at an age most women would consider too old to study.

Betty has authored many books. The one most relevant to my blog is “Hormone Replacement Therapy: Yes or No?”More importantly, she now has a website: Each day she gives one healthy hint (with another doctor). These terse, timely tips are helpful tidbits that I keep in my computer. I have also put her website in a link on the margin to the right of my article, so you can just click on the link.

Review her website and get on her mailing list (the daily hints are free). I am sure you will benefit from the website, as many readers already have. Betty has just entered her ninth decade (she’s 81) and is still going strong. That in itself is an indication of her commitment to good health.

Betty Kamen
Newest book: Lose Weight with the California
Calcium Countdown
Alternate Recipe: Substitute regular tofu (not extra firm) in place of tempeh for Eggless Egg Salad, adding turmeric to the mayonnaise to give the yellow egg color. (Tofu has no fiber, but is considered a good meatless protein source.)

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