Save the soybeans

Recently, a Daily Dispatch reader wrote to me and asked me why I recommended eating a “processed” soy product such as tofu. I was puzzled at this imprecise reading of a term I had used. So let me help clarify my remarks…

First of all, I have never recommended eating processed food. And I never will.

But I did talk about fermented soy–as well as “culturally processed” soy–in a recent Daily Dispatch. Anthropologists have long used the term “process” to describe what traditional peoples do to prepare food for consumption. Long before the term “processed” was co-opted by big agribusiness.

I described the traditional cultural “process” used in China to convert raw soy to a usable food. The Chinese ferment the soybeans to get rid of the toxins that can cause gastro-intestinal upset and indigestion. And they also make traditional tofu, natto, and soy sauce. These are not “processed” foods.

Whole soybeans–called edamame in grocery stores and at sushi joints–are generally safe to eat in limited amounts. However, eating too much can cause digestion problems.

Also, you must always choose organic soybeans. Ninety-nine percent of the soybeans grown in the U.S. are genetically modified. So unless you choose an organic brand, you’ll be eating a genetically modified soybean. And I don’t ever recommend that!