What is a ‘natural’ soy food product?

The term “natural” refers to the production process used by ENSA members to produce plant-based non-dairy soy food.  The products are both organic and conventional and include drinks, desserts, variations on cream, alternatives to yoghurts and meat substitutes. They use whole soybeans – as opposed to soy foods produced from soy isolates – and without any genetically modified material. ‘Natural’ also refers to the production process itself, which is a traditional extraction process without using chemicals.

What are the health benefits of consuming soy foods?

Soy foods are source of high quality protein of vegetable origin.  They are low in saturated fat and free from cholesterol.  Soy foods are naturally lactose-free and easy to digest.   More information is available here

Do the members of ENSA use soy from the Amazonian rainforest?

The members of ENSA exclusively use supplies of soy grown on land which was not previously tropical rainforest and has been used to grow soy for many years, in accordance with the ENSA Ethical charter.

Aren’t most soy beans genetically modified?

Close to 80% of soybeans grown worldwide are indeed genetically modified.  Nevertheless, All ENSA members only use non-GMO beans. Notwithstanding the fact that scientists do not have any definitive response as to whether GM crops are safe or not, we as food companies respect the precautionary principle and our consumers’ demand for non GM-products and support the cultivation of non-GM soy beans. Our members use traceability systems to ensure that the products and ingredients avoid contamination from GMOs.

What about soy and isoflavones?

A number of scientific studies have shown that soy isoflavones can have beneficial health effects. Its quantity in the soybean is variable depending on the year of harvest, the cultivation method, the climate, etc. By soaking the soy beans in water, the manufacturing processes naturally eliminate a certain quantity of isoflavones.  The remaining quantity is between 7 and 13 mg / 100 g for drinks and desserts.

Soy isoflavones have a variety of beneficial health effects.  The molecular structure of the isoflavones shows similarities to the body’s own hormone oestrogen and isoflavones are therefore sometimes called phyto-oestrogens.  Isoflavones have only a weak oestrogenic effect and clearly differ from oestrogen. More information can be found in the SAC paper on endocrine system and menopause.

How did you come to the conclusion that soydrink is 5 times better than cow’s milk in terms of CO2 emissions?

Based on the generally-accepted assumption that food of animal origin has a bigger carbon-footprint than food of vegetable origin, several members of ENSA carried out life cycle assessment of their products. While comparing the figures, we could conclude that all figures converge towards a ratio of 1:5 in favour of soy drink and 1:10 in favour of soy burgers compared to beef burgers. The reference figures for cow’s milk come from the European Dairy Association EDA as well as other studies.  The figures for meat come from various scientific sources, including the Belgian institutional body CRIOC (Center for research and information of consumers.)

How can you claim that soy is more sustainable than meat or milk when we know that soy beans are often grown in ancient rainforests?

The members of ENSA have to meet strict requirements to be part of the association and are all committed to not sourcing their soy beans from ancient rainforests.  Thanks to a traceability system, members can ensure that the soy beans used in their soy products do indeed comply with this commitment.

Are you telling people to stop eating products of animal origin? Do you expect them to do so?

Products of animal origin have a major impact on the environment and contribute significantly to climate change.  ENSA does not suggest changing eating habits drastically overnight, but to rebalance our diets by including more plant-based foods, over time.  Switching to soy products, even if only one day per week, is a simple and easy way to reduce our individual carbon footprint. We believe that small things can achieve great results.  While making this contribution to the planet, consumers also make a positive contribution to their health.

Are all soy foods organic?

The members of ENSA market both organic and conventional soy foods, which are all GM-free.  Both organic and non-organic soy foods have similar potential in helping us fight climate change and make better use of the planet’s scarce natural resources.

Soy foods contain a lot of sugar compared to cow’s milk or dairy products. Are they not contributing to the obesity epidemic?

Minimal amount of sugar is added to soy products for reasons of flavour.  In general, soy foods contain no more and often even fewer sugars than similar dairy products.  Dairy products contain lactose (‘milk sugar’), which is not present in soy foods.  Soy foods can therefore be consumed as part of a healthy, varied diet.

I’m not familiar with soy foods, how can I integrate them into my diet?

Thanks to their nutritional profile, soy foods are useful alternatives to dairy and meat products.  This does not mean that you have to completely switch to soy overnight, but you can start by pouring soy drink in your coffee or mixing soy alternatives to yoghurt in your bowl of cereal.  Have a tofu burger or a soy sausage at the next barbecue.  Cook pancakes with soy drink instead of cow’s milk.  Have a nice soy dessert or a soy alternative to yoghurt as a snack.  There are plenty of possibilities which make it very easy to start.  Enjoy, day after day!

Soy products are expensive, why is this?

Soy products are slightly more expensive than similar products from animal origin.  This is mainly due to the relatively smaller size of the soy market which prevents producers from achieving the same economies of scale as in the animal products markets.  Furthermore, subsidies as for dairy do not exist for soy products and in some countries, VAT taxes and duties on soy products are higher than for dairy.

I have had breast cancer. Can I consume soy food products? How much?

Yes, you can consume soy foods as part of a healthy balanced diet. Recent studies have shown that consuming soy after the diagnosis of breast cancer might even reduce the risk of recurrence and mortality.

The evidence clearly indicates that soy foods can safely be incorporated in a healthy balanced diet.

For more information on the current state of knowledge between soy foods and breast cancer, see the SAC position paper.