05/30/2006

The soybean strikes out

Soybeans

There is no joy in Soyville, says Hillary E. MacGregor of The Los Angeles Times:

When soy burst onto the Western food scene in the early 1990s, the possibilities for the bean seemed boundless. The protein-packed legume had potential to prevent breast cancer, increase bone mass, alleviate hot flashes. It seemed to lower cholesterol, and thus to help prevent heart disease.

Millions of dollars were poured into research, and technologists plopped soy into every food imaginable. They ground it into burgers, hot dogs and sausages (Tofurky was born). They processed it into cheese, milk and ice cream. Manufacturers added it to baby formula, and baristas foamed it into lattes.

Purists consumed soy in its traditional Asian forms — as tofu, tempeh or edamame — while hard-core health nuts sought out soy protein powder or isoflavone-packed supplements.

But 15 years later, with ever more soy products available in the grocery store and conspicuous soy consumption a cultural shorthand for "Hey, I'm health-conscious!", the tides are turning against the Asian wonder food.

I guess our household is behind the curve, where a half-gallon of soy milk is now a regular fixture in our fridge, right next to the traditional, cow-produced variety. (Our 16-year-old daughter—and resident expert on all things trendy—claims to prefer it.) Two Asian-food-loving boys also consume industrial quantities of soy sauce and (occasionally) various soy-based snacks.

But if soy is so fifteen-minutes-ago, then what's hot? Ms. MacGregor doesn't say, but here are some modest suggestions:

  • Kudzu (If some way can be found to make it palatable, the South could rise again.)
  • Seaweed (Protects against radioactivity, for those worried about nuclear terrorism.)
  • Swiss chard (Protects against emphysema. Who can't use that?)
  • Fenugreek (Helps regulate blood sugar and aids digestion.)
  • Wheatgrass (Among other things, it allegedly "dissolves tumors" and "acts as an appetite suppressant." What's not to like?)
  • Andouillette (They say 60 million Frenchmen can't be wrong. I disagree, but, hey, what do I know?)
  • Lentils (High fiber, lots of folic acid and actually quite tasty for a legume. And they come in such cool colors.)
  • Quinoa (Actually not a grain but a fruit. Once known as "the gold of the Incas.")
  • Strawberries. (Like olive oil, a rich source of heart-healthy phenols. Also, they're coming into season right about now.)

I welcome additions to this list—frivolous and otherwise—in the comments section.

Posted by Rodger on May 30, 2006 at 09:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)