When “Marketplace,” a consumer watchdog show on Canada’s CBC television, claimed last month that the chicken Subway used in its sandwiches was half soy filler, per a DNA test, it ruffled the chain’s feathers. Subway denied the finding and released its own study, which it says proves its chicken contains less than 1 percent soy protein.
What’s the big deal either way? It depends on how soy’s being used.
Soy filler is a processed form of soy bean that’s sometimes added as filler to meat and other processed foods such as chocolate bars, to extend shelf-life and bring down costs — a big perk for a company that once offered $5 footlong sandwiches.
But while soy in its purest form, edamame, has health benefits, such as being high in dietary fiber and protein, soy filler is a different beast.
“It’s [typically] been washed in chemicals, dried and dehydrated, it’s been stripped, it’s been re-texturized … it’s been through so much processing that it’s derivative of what it once was,” says Amy Shapiro, a nutritionist and founder of Real Nutrition NYC near Madison Square Park. “It certainly isn’t the soy we read about that might be good for us.”
And soy can be bad for us. It’s high in phytic acid, which prevents the body from absorbing many nutrients and can disrupt the digestive tract, causing gastrointestinal discomfort. It can be especially problematic if you don’t know how much of it you’re eating, as is often the case with soy fillers.