Those Americans like me with reservations about eating soy are apparently a small minority of the populace. According to a recent survey, 81% of Americans view soy as healthy.
OK, the Consumer Attitudes about Nutrition survey (PDF file) was conducted by the United Soy Board (USB), so there is reason to be suspicious of its findings. Oddly, I’m not that suspicious. I think the average American doesn’t know beans about soy, but is willing to give it the benefit of the doubt.
Just a short while ago, I myself was ignorant of most things soy. As I stated in my previous post, I once connected soy to soy sauce, and that was about it, at least as far as my own diet went.
Sure, I knew people — health-food types — who ate tofu, but I did not eat tofu. (Not on purpose, anyway. Given that I frequently share meals with higher academicians, I get exposed to a lot of . . . how shall I put it? . . . stuff. You never know what you might be swallowing.)
I also knew that American farmers were growing tons of soy, with government encouragement. Like corn, soy bore the USDA stamp of approval. It had to be good for us.
In summary, I saw soy as a bland little bean, more healthy than not. Dress it up right, and I would eat it.
That was before going low-carb/whole foods, reading dozens of nutrition articles and books, and examining food labels.
That was before knowing how much soy I was already eating, not in traditionally prepared foods like tofu or miso, but in dozens or hundreds of bottled and packaged products lining supermarket shelves.
According to the survey, only 37% of Americans say they have consumed a soy product in the last month, and a solid third of Americans say they have never eaten soy.
Clearly, these Americans are thinking only of foods and beverages with “soy” in the titles. But anyone who has poured a commercial dressing on a dinner salad, or mixed a commercial mayonnaise with tuna, has eaten soy oil, and plenty of it.
Expect to see more soy products, and to hear more hype about soy’s health benefits. It’s a big crop, and something has to be done with it. According to USDA statistics, our farmers are producing over 3.3 billion bushels of soybeans a year, on about 80 million acres. We export about half of that production to places such as China, Mexico, Europe and Japan, but that still leaves plenty of soybeans for Americans to buy and consume — in one form or another.
The soy industry is gearing up to sell it to us. A member of the USB’s marketing program outlines the soy selling points: “We’re helping to develop oils that will allow food companies to eliminate trans fats in their products, lower saturated fat and add positive nutritional elements such as omega-3 fatty acids” (USB Survey Shows Americans Love Soyfoods).
Of course, it’s easy to avoid trans fats by avoiding packaged foods; lowering saturated fat is of debatable benefit; and we can get all the omega-3 fatty acids we need from fish, flax seeds, and other natural sources. We don’t need new oils being developed for us by the soy industry.
We really don’t need more bottled and packaged foods at all.
We don’t need soy in everything. What might be good for some people when eaten in limited amounts and in traditional forms, with a careful mix of other foods, is not necessarily good for all people in large amounts and in newly developed forms.
Interestingly, the percentage of Americans viewing soy as healthy has dropped four percent from its peak of 85% in 2007-08.
Maybe people are learning about soy.