I get several dozen emails every day asking health and fitness questions. I try to respond to as many as I can. Often, readers will write in with similar questions, so I’ve decided that I’ll collect the multiples, as well as the toughest questions, each week and post my responses here. (First names only for confidentiality.) Let me know if this is a helpful feature for you. I’m game for just about anything that will benefit you, so don’t hesitate to contact me with suggestions.
Reader Ben wrote:
You’ve mildly badmouthed soy milk and tofu on your site many times,
usually citing processing as your biggest gripe. But what if I did
this “processing” myself? Is Big Tofu doing something insidious that I
could avoid doing myself? Real soy milk is basically just whole
soybeans that are boiled, mashed, and strained. To get tofu, just take
the real soy milk and add nigari (rinsed sea salt). Would the
mostly-healthy status of soybeans be preserved by doing this?
Big Tofu, I like that. Yes, my general beef with soy has to do with the processing . I think most can probably agree that just about any healthy, natural food, from fruit and vegetables to a humble soybean, can be and often is reconstituted into many less-than-desirable food products.
My general rule: eat food, not food products. But there is a bit of a dark side to soy food production, which you can read more about here . I’m not really “against” soy milk; I think organic, unsweetened non-GMO soy milk is certainly no worse for you than dairy milk and possibly better. And making your own tofu? I think that seems like a very healthful proposition.
Let’s remember that as “bad” as soybeans might be (this week), dairy  is a food that nature intends for hoofers, not humans. I know many of you eat dairy, and some of you are fans of raw dairy. I think there’s plenty of room for individual preference. To anyone who worries about the phytoestrogens (plant hormones) in soy, while I share those concerns to a limited extent, remember that regular old dairy – even organic dairy – is loaded with bovine hormones. Soy milk consumption hasn’t created the epidemic of man-boobs that paranoid souls everywhere feared (but then neither has regular milk). I understand the other health concerns about soy , and while I am mindful of those concerns, I feel there are other far more pressing dietary concerns, such as sugar, trans fat and heavy food processing in general. I’m not in favor of heavily processed soy foods, but a little lightly-processed or fermented soy food, especially made organically or at home? Sounds great to me.
(I often discuss “marginal nutrition” issues here at the blog. I think soy is one of them. By marginal nutrition, I mean that first science reveals a potential health benefit of some food, and before you know it, every food company on God’s green earth is injecting said food into myriad food products. Just take a look at the green tea Kit Kat in my previous post today. There’s just no magic bullet. I’ll say it until I’m blue in the face: if you’re eating mostly raw or lightly cooked fresh vegetables and fruits, with a healthy amount of animal and vegetable protein, and some good fats, you’re 90% of the way there  and doing a whole lot better than the average. Things like soy, coffee, wine, chocolate – these are marginal issues that seem to offer some nice health benefits, but taken in excess are probably harmful.)
Reader Evelyn has asked about the safety of bottled water and distilled water (as have several of you):
Distilled water is just plain unnecessary. Regular water contains important minerals vital to your health, and in fact may help prevent heart disease . Distilled water removes these valuable minerals along with the impurities in water. Tap water in this country is so safe and clean, you really don’t need to worry too much about it. I recommend a charcoal filter to remove any bad taste, but don’t waste your money on distilled water. Maybe I’m wrong on tap water, but I think there are so many health myths that get blown into paranoid scares, and this is one of them in my opinion.
I’m also not a big fan of bottled water. Many plastics contain harmful chemicals, among them phthalates , that I’m cautious about ingesting. But my primary issue with bottled water is the terrible environmental impact of single-use plastic containers . That far outweighs any possible health concerns in my opinion. Recycling and reusing are great, but remember the other, most important, part of the cycle: reduce.
Readers Lacey and Doug both have asked about reverse osmosis water filtration:
An effective purifying method. Again, I just don’t think that our regular tap water is something to worry about. Filter for taste if you like, but frankly, I don’t stress out about this issue. Though we do have occasional pollution problems, especially around industrial zones, and there are some valid debates about fluoride and chlorine, I for one am pretty impressed with the quality of our drinking water in comparison to the rest of the world. A lot of people don’t have access to potable water, period.
I don’t mean to trivialize health concerns by any means, but I prefer to focus on the major areas of health that have the most significant impact: a healthy diet of whole, fresh foods, daily exercise, proper stress management, avoidance of cigarettes and too much alcohol, and enough sleep. For a “worry fix” over every possible food, beverage, medicine and substance you might possibly ever come into contact with, I recommend Mercola .