Harvard Health Letter

An update on soy: It's just so-so

The onetime health food champion is an excellent source of protein, but it hasn't lived up to its earlier billing.

These days, the notion of a separate category of health foods seems just a little out of date. Those stores with the bulk bins and organic produce are increasingly overshadowed by upscale chains like Whole Foods. And at many regular supermarkets, the crunchy, good-for-you foods aren't as severely segregated into their own separate aisle or section. In fact, food and beverage companies are spending millions trying to persuade us that pretty much all of their products are healthful choices.

Maybe that's why seeing soy in headlines seemed like such a throwback. For a long time, soybean-based beverages and foods like soy milk and tofu epitomized health foods: vegetarian, rich in protein, maybe responsible for the lower rates of heart disease and cancer in China and Japan. That many Americans had to acquire a taste for soy made it seem even healthier in that eat-your-peas way.

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