BOOK NOW
BOOK NOW

A love note to Soy…

One of the most commonly asked questions I get is regarding the health of soy foods. I either hear that someone would love to go vegan but wants to avoid soy (which is fine, but also not necessary), or that they wish they “could” consume it, but are worried about relying on it as a source of plant-based protein because of all the negative implications they have heard from someone, somewhere. Regardless, my answer is the same! The right types of soy are unequivocally, a healthful choice. I talk more about the right types below.

Let’s look at the evidence in regard to some major concerns:

Soy contains oestrogen: No it actually doesn’t. It does however contain phytoestrogens (beneficial constituents of plants, also found in flaxseeds). This type of oestrogen “imitator” is not bad, but indeed, beneficial, with its naturally occurring oestrogenic activity. They adapt to what the specific individual needs, raising or lowering oestrogen levels accordingly. Regarding female fertility, a large-scale study at a fertility centre demonstrated improved birth rates in females consuming soy and undergoing fertility treatment. A note on menopause, women dealing with hot flashes found relief from soy products according to this study.

Soy makes men grow breasts: Nooo! Men’s sex hormones, including testosterone remain unaffected by consuming soy products. This study concluded that soy does not “exert feminizing effects on men at intake levels equal to and even considerably higher than are typical for Asian males.” Soy does not adversely effect semen quality, and a study at Harvard University found soy intake had no effect overall on male fertility.

Just so we are clear on this topic, I’d like to point out the ludicrously of these claims by illustrating that the milk from a cow comes from a female animal that has just given birth. Not only is this a much bigger animal than us, with a different hormonal profile, but just as humans, when cows give birth, their oestrogen levels elevate. Therefore, it stands to reason that the concerning source of oestrogen in the diet is cows milk! And so far, I’ve just mentioned the natural oestrogen (due to their recent pregnancy)… think about the hefty doses of synthetic hormones dairy livestock are injected with to increase their milk production! This only adds to the oestrogen load of most cows milk. Yuk!

Cancer growth and recurrence: research appears to indicate soy consumption has a positive effect on preventing or slowing down the growth of cancer. Phytoestrogens (present in soy) act as antioxidants and have anti-proliferative properties to inhibit tumour growth. Among women with breast cancer, soy food consumption has been significantly associated with decreased risk of death and recurrence. This study suggests that greater consumption of isoflavone-containing foods is associated with a reduced risk of endometrial cancer in postmenopausal women. Other analyses have found that soy foods are protective against prostate cancer in men.

Bone health: I hear you, don’t we need dairy to protect against osteoporosis? No, we don’t, and evidence suggests that populations consuming higher amounts of cows milk actually have higher incidence of osteoporosis versus populations who don’t. There are a number of reasons for this, namely, the acidity of the milk causing greater calcium excretion from the body. However, I thought it apt to point out that whilst soy generally does contain less calcium, it contains triple the amount of magnesium, a vital mineral for bone maintenance. Indeed, the latest research suggests soy milk is actually much better for bone health. Interestingly, the beneficial isoflavones (types of phytoestrogens) in soy are thought to inhibit the breakdown of bones. For example the isoflavone Daidzein, is actually used to create the drug ipriflavone, which is used to treat osteoporosis.

Hypothyroidism and soy: Soy products do not cause hypothyroidism and hypothyroid adults need not avoid soy foods. However, the isoflavones  in soy may potentially reduce iodine availability, required for healthy thyroid hormone production. It is therefore suggested that people who consume soy might need slightly more iodine in their diets (which we can get from sea veggies like dulse and nori).

***There is always conflicting evidence and debate around the statistical significance of the findings in such studies. However whether there is no benefit, little benefit, or substantial benefit, I am yet to find a negative finding regarding soy, and that should be the message we hear loud and clear.

At the end of the day, the fear around soy seems to stem from a few sources:

  • The grouping of all soy together – the bad: i.e. concentrated soy proteins and soy-derivatives used to thicken or emulsify products (often non-vegan products too), GMO, non-organic, non-traditional varieties such as highly-processed faux soy meats + the good: i.e. traditional sources of soy, non-GMO and organic such as tempeh, tamari, miso, natto and even a little good quality tofu from time to time is ok. So too is edamame. Combining the good and the bad like this is akin to saying that the questionable ground meat in a fast food chain burger is the same quality as the meat from your local organic butcher (whilst I don’t think either meat is healthy, this is a helpful comparison!);
  • Rare cases of harm due to consumption of ridiculously large amounts of soy on a daily basis;
  • Similar to point 1 above, because soy is grown in ginormous quantities and added to absolutely everything, including often unhealthy packaged foods, it is viewed negatively, similarly to corn. Again, non-GMO and organic varieties in their wholefood form are fine!; and
  • Poorly-conducted research based and/or articles by groups with vested interests e.g. the Weston A Price Foundation (WAPF).

 

Soy sources to include:

organic and non-GMO edamame and fermented sources such as tempeh, natto, miso, tamari (easiest to digest and assimilate). Whilst soy milk and tofu are more processed, organic varieties from time-to-time if you really enjoy them are not going to negatively impact your health and should not be feared.

I am not claiming soy to be a miraculous cure-all, I am simply pointing out that there is a lot of good evidence indicating its benefits, and that you should feel confident in including it as part of a plant-rich varied diet (if you so choose). 

 

Best Natural Beauty Buys!

Let me just say, I am no expert in navigating the beauty aisle in a store. I know food labels like the back of my hand, but when it comes to beauty products… not so much! Since moving into my new home I have made a big effort to educate myself when choosing household and personal products. Just as with food – buzz words like “natural” and “pure” don’t always mean what they might appear to. With all the environmental toxins out there that are unavoidable, it makes sense to me to try to minimize exposure through making conscious consumer choices when it comes to what you bring into your home. Why? Well, in a nut shell, these chemical substances can interfere with our health (endocrine and reproductive functions), in a similar way to what we eat can. We often forget that our skin is one of our largest organs, and absorbs what we “feed” it just as much as what we put into our mouth does.

I trial a lot of products- some I buy, some that get recommended to me, others that get sent my way or handed out in goodie bags from events… so I have accumulated quite the collection of good, and not-so-good personal care items. Here are a few that I have used long enough to notice true benefits, and would love to share with you to help you clean up your own regimen…

As I mentioned, I am certainly no authority when it comes to beauty products. For that, I turn to one trusted website that I know scrutinizes each product to ensure it is 100% natural, no nasties, ethically produced and of high quality. These goodies are my top picks of the moment from Orli and have really added value to my beauty regimen (note: you can get 15% off with my code “SamiBloom”!):

Erica Brooke Deodorant – When I say I’ve tried a lot of natural beauty products, the one I have trialled the most is natural deodorant. I have been recommended dozens, by people I trust, and still haven’t found one that suits me. Until now! I love this one because it isn’t roll on which means your not spreading your own bacteria around, has the Orli tick of approval and it actually works- no funny smells, streaks, or sweat patches. I’m a fan!

Adorn Cosmetics Make-Up I can safely say this is one of the better natural make ups I have used. I love this hydrating crème as it moisturizes my skin as well as offers coverage, and is also really great when combined with my moisturiser for a lighter coverage, making it last longer. I haven’t tried all their products, but this foundation has so far proven to be a favourite. I like their concealer too.

Earth Yard Essential Oils – ahhh oils, I really have grown fond of them! This is my go-to brand because it is Australian, 100% pure, organic and reasonably priced. They don’t add synthetic fillers and don’t even mix oils if they’re from 2 different native regions! Some favourites are lavender for calm, lemongrass/tea-tree diluted in cream for blemishes, rosemary to assist study/memory, and a blend of jasmine and frankincense in my diffuser. Delicious!

Kester Black Nail Polish – I am not the best at painting my own nails, but I do take this brand with me to the salon when I treat myself to a mani/pedi. Nail polish is hardly a natural product, so when choosing to paint your nails it is best to choose a “five free formula”, meaning it is free from the 5 main nasty chemicals commonly found in polish.

Some other goodies…

Konjac sponge – a 100% natural sponge made from vegetable fibers of Konjac (this one also includes exfoliating bamboo charcoal). I use this to wash my face with. It ensures I don’t pull on my face or aggressively rub my skin with a towel – not to mention that it itself is rich in natural vitamins and mineral to enrich and rejuvenate the skin.

Jason Sea Fresh toothpaste – Say what you will about the flouride debate, I know where I stand on it. Please do your own research, here is a great article on it, but this is a toothpaste that I love that is SLS and flouride free and hasn’t made my teeth fall out! In fact, I often get compliments on how white they are. Pleasant taste too!

A’kin Revitalising Cellular Radiance Serum – This is more of an oil than a serum… organic, cruelty-free and enriched with antioxidants and omega 3, 6, 9. I find it really hydrating and “plumping”, meaning it is getting well used in the colder months where I find my skin is dryer. I wear it underneath my moisturiser at night time. I’ve really noticed a difference!

Dry Brush – the benefits of dry brushing are well-known- it increases circulation, promotes lymph drainage, removes dry/dead skin and reduces cellulite. I find it invigorating and like to use it before a shower (if I am not sweaty from a work-out!) 3-4 times a week. You simply start at your feet and brush upward toward your heart, using light pressure, and then downward toward your heart from the upper sections. You can usually find one at a chemist or health food store.

Supplement Dispenser – just thought I would throw this in as the organised, perfectionist in me just loves my little (or rather, big) pill case! Pick one up at your chemist, and re-fill each week with all your non-refrigerated supplements to ensure you never forget to take them 🙂

The Skinny on Stevia

This topic is an important one to me because 1) stevia is my no.1 clean treat cooking tool and 2) a lot of people seem to be cautious of it or not like the idea of it. I’m hoping to clear up any confusion you may have! Here is why I love this particular “white stuff”…

It’s sugar-free…

Other than natural fruits, I am completely sugar-free, very rarely even using things like maple syrup or dates. First things first, let me just say that these natural sweeteners are nutritious in their own right, however, from a sugar perspective, they are still sugar, which is why I prefer stevia – a natural, healthy and sugar-free alternative.

It’s natural…

To me, stevia is a superfood because it allows us to have something sweet without the sugar rush. Let me be very clear, Stevia is natural, it is NOT an artificial sweetener!

You use less…

It is said to have sweetening power 100+ times that of refined sugar, meaning not only is it better for you, but you use less.

It’s extremely beneficial, particularly for blood sugar stabilisation…

It has antifungal, antimicrobial, digestive, diuretic and of course, sweetening properties. Studies have shown a beneficial relationship between stevia and the regulation of blood sugar levels in 24 cases of hypoglycemia.

It’s nutritious…

Stevia is a good source of potassium – a major mineral for healing, muscular function, digestion, brainpower, nerve conductivity, fluid balance and the elimination of toxic wastes. It is also rich in manganese (glandular system, hormone production, transmission of impulses between nerves and muscles) and chromium (assists metabolism and efficient insulin function).

It’s safe…

It has been used in Asia since the 80s and there have been no documented cases of the sweetener having any detrimental effects. It has been used for thousands of years in South America as a healing and health promoting flavour enhancer and/or herbal tea.

 

Uses: I use it in teas, smoothies, baking, raw desserts… anywhere you would use sugar. If you scroll through my dessert and baking recipes, you will see that I use it extensively. It comes in powder and liquid drops. Lately I have been opting for liquid drops, particularly in my tea or smoothies, as you use even less.

Brands I like: Please note, at the end of the day, stevia in the forms listed below are the most palatable, however that does come at a cost. To make them white / liquid, they are processed. They look nothing like their green leaf. The same goes for other sugar substitutes (see below). This is something to consider, and if this bothers you, green powdered stevia can be purchased. I sometimes use this, but rarely, as most people do not agree with the taste. It is a choice you make – I choose stevia regardless of the processing because I believe it is the best choice for my health, my insulin levels, hormones, weight, and overall wellbeing. It gives me no digestive upset whatsoever. Find what works for you.

For stevia drops I use the vanilla crème sweet drops, however all flavours by this brand are a good option. Otherwise I choose Natvia, which blends stevia with erythritol (see below).

 

Brief overview of other sugar substitutes:

Erythritol is a sugar alcohol, however there is no ethanol in erythritol and so it is not the same as an alcoholic beverage. This merely refers to its chemistry. It comes from plants like melon, has no calories, does not raise blood sugar, is well digested and does not have any carcinogenic properties. These characteristics are akin to Xylitol, another sugar alcohol and one that I have in my kitchen and use frequently in cooking.

Cautions:

If you experience bloating or digestive upset, stop use. Ensure you chose a brand that is 100% stevia/xylitol unless it is mixed with erythritol or another natural sugar substitute. Always do your research.

SIGN UP TO THE HEALTH & BLOOM NEWSLETTER