Archive for the ‘Soy’ Category

Soy Formula

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

I just updated with information from an April 2009 review on soy infant formulas (link). Here is an excerpt from the paper:

“Even though soy isoflavones can bind and activate [estrogen receptors (ER)], they do not behave like typical estrogen agonists but rather as selective ER modulators and, in addition, have many other actions that are ER independent, eg, tyrosine kinase inhibition. It is unfortunate that soy isoflavones have been called “phytoestrogens,” because they are not estrogens and are not truly estrogenic at nutritionally relevant concentrations. The weak isoflavone potency for activating the ERs combined with competition with endogenous estrogens for the ERs make isoflavone-related ER activity minimal when fed in amounts similar to those found in [soy formula], even when fed during early development. Moreover, although some studies have shown similar gene expression profiles for genistein (the major soy isoflavone) and [estrogen] in some tissues in vitro and in vivo, ingestion of soy foods results in a complex mixture containing hundreds of phytochemicals and peptides being introduced to the gastrointestinal tract, many of which are absorbed and have biological actions. This situation is not unlike the mixture of phytochemicals found in a typical meal containing a mixed salad and vegetables.”

As the Soy Turns

Friday, June 19th, 2009

I just updated Another Internet Soy Article on with information on breast cancer. Link. It’s too much to reprint here but it is all good news, with decent evidence that eating soy in moderate amounts can actually decrease the risk of breast cancer. I wouldn’t go so far as to claim that we know it does, but at the very least we can conclude that it doesn’t increase the risk for breast cancer.

Soy, Sperm Count, and Testosterone

Friday, March 27th, 2009

Ginny Messina has sent me an update to the article, Is It Safe to Eat Soy?, which she and her husband Mark wrote for

Quick summary: Soy does not appear to lower sperm count or testosterone levels.

More details can be found here.

TVP and MSG Follow-UP

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

I spoke with Beth Ragan at Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) on March 25. She told me that at this time, ADM sells 60 TVP products and two of the 60 have MSG added as part of the artificial beef flavoring.


Saturday, March 14th, 2009

In September of 2007, I got in a discussion on the Sacramento Vegan Meetup boards about monosodium glutamate (MSG) in textured soy protein (here).

Textured soy protein is also known as textured vegetable protein, texturized vegetable protein, TVP, and TSP. (See this Wikipedia entry for an explanation of these names.)

The question of MSG in TVP comes up from time to time, and I normally send people a link to the Meetup discussion mentioned above. But I got to thinking that if that page were taken down at some point, I would want the information elsewhere. So I thought I’d put the following synopsis of it on

The discussion started out with a link to a video by Dr. Joseph Mercola in which he warns about the dangers he sees in unfermented soyfoods. In the video, Dr. Mercola says:

Soy protein isolate, or textured vegetable protein, is also another food you want to avoid. It is not something made in your kitchen and is produced in large commercial factories and industrial settings and they use an acid wash typically dumped in aluminum containers so it’s loaded with aluminum and they also add very high levels of MSG or monosodium glutamate. And Dr. Blaylock has written a very good book called Excitotoxins and that will explain in great detail how you want to stay away from MSG because it can actually destroy your brain cells. So, any product that has textured vegetable protein is loaded with MSG and should be avoided.

I don’t know anything about his aluminum claims, but from what I have been able to uncover, there are not large amounts of MSG in TVP. I could not find anything on Archer Daniels Midland’s website about MSG in TVP. I just put an email into them (3/14/09) and will post to the JackNorrisRD blog if I get a response. If not, I will try to call them.

In the meantime, Karen’s Kitchen has this to say on the matter:

TVP® does NOT have MSG added to it, but glutamic acid, one of the components of the gluten that is a vegetable protein, will be spun off and bond with sodium in the hydrolizing process, so that monosodium glutamate WILL be naturally formed. However, this is more an issue of hysterical reporting. You will find more naturally occuring MSG in other grain foods than you will in TVP®.

Someone responded to the Karen’s Kitchen article by saying:

> You will find more naturally occurring MSG in other grain foods than you will in TVP®.

This is true however, there are two kinds of MSG, free and bound. It’s the free form that is a flavor enhancer and in natural foods the free form is about 100 times less abundant (see wikipedia table).

The Wikipedia table is no longer there, but I responded:

That chart is a list of glutamate in foods, not monosodium glutamate. The statement above that, “You will find more naturally occurring MSG in other grain foods than you will in TVP®,” would not include bound glutamate because bound glutamate is not MSG. While some glutamate will be spun off of the protein and form MSG during the making of TVP, I’m betting that the vast majority of it remains bound in the protein (otherwise TVP would not be chewy). I tried to find out an exact answer to this, but couldn’t find any listing of how much free vs. bound glutamate there is in TVP or other soy protein isolate. I have recently spoke with Dr. Mark Messina who told me that soy does not contain unusually large amounts of free glutamate.

Even if TVP were to have large amounts of MSG in it, there may be no reason for panic. Here is what an abstract from a 2006 review on MSG says:

This article reviews the literature from the past 40 years of research related to monosodium glutamate (MSG) and its ability to trigger a migraine headache, induce an asthma exacerbation, or evoke a constellation of symptoms described as the “Chinese restaurant syndrome.” … MSG has a widespread reputation for eliciting a variety of symptoms, ranging from headache to dry mouth to flushing. Since the first report of the so-called Chinese restaurant syndrome 40 years ago, clinical trials have failed to identify a consistent relationship between the consumption of MSG and the constellation of symptoms that comprise the syndrome. Furthermore, MSG has been described as a trigger for asthma and migraine headache exacerbations, but there are no consistent data to support this relationship. Although there have been reports of an MSG-sensitive subset of the population, this has not been demonstrated in placebo-controlled trials.

How can I get plant protein without eating soy?

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

Before I answer, I’d like to make everyone aware of a page on protein at It is a technical article and definitely not necessary to read in order to eat a healthy vegan diet. But, if someone out there is haranguing you about not getting enough protein, you might find it helpful. My one concern is that all the technical information might make it seem difficult to get the protein you need. The most important things to know are right here.

First of all, soy is an excellent source of protein for vegans and as long as you do not have an allergy or intolerance to soy, it should be safe to eat 2 to 3 servings of soyfoods per day. (See for more info on soy safety.)

In addition to soy, the best whole food sources of plant proteins are legumes, followed by nuts.

Legumes include a wide variety of foods including:

Garbanzo beans — falafel, hummus, chana masala
Pinto beans – refried beans, burritos
Black beans – soup, burritos
Lentils – dal, soup
Split peas – soup
Peanuts – peanut butter
Chili beans
Green peas

Almond butter is high in protein and other nuts are also decent sources.

While most grains have only moderate amounts of protein, quinoa is the exception in having quite a bit (8 g per 1 cup cooked). I found quinoa to taste unusual at first, but I quickly grew to like it. Make sure you rinse it thoroughly before cooking.

In terms of total protein content, products made from wheat gluten, such as seitan, are some of the highest in protein. Like soy, it’s probably good to minimize the wheat gluten products to 2 to 3 servings a day.

Finally, there are both soy and non-soy vegan protein powders on the market, such as Naturade Soy Free Veg Protein Booster (an Internet search will provide many places from which to purchase them).

As a general rule, if you eat 3 servings of the above foods per day, your protein needs should be taken care of.