Soy vs. the prison system
November 30, 2011
Filed under Archives
It lurks in tofu, vegetarian hot dogs, non-dairy milk and many packaged food products.
The culprit is soy and it is almost as famous as corn in the foods that Americans consume. While there are perks to being a celebrity, soy faces a world of criticism.
Recently, this criticism has come from a prisoner in Florida. According to a New York Times article, Eric Harris is suing the Department of Corrections because he says that the prison’s soy-based diet is hazardous to his health.
“Florida prisons serve meals with 50 percent soy and 50 percent poultry three times a day,” the New York Times article said.
Yet, Florida is not the only prison system incorporating soy into the inmates’ meals. The Illinois prison system serves over 100 grams of soy protein a day to their inmates.
Based on a 2,000-calorie diet, a person should eat between 50-175 grams of protein a day. So, this means that prisoners in Illinois are probably either eating too many calories, too much protein from soy, or too much protein in general if protein sources other than soy are being served.
Soy is not unhealthy, but the amount and the quality of soy act as vital players to one’s wellbeing.
The Florida prison system is using soy in their meals because it is cheaper than using all meat. The fact that money is the reason behind the use of soy leads to the assumption that the quality of the soy would not be the number one concern of the prison system.
Unfortunately, cheap, low-quality soy is often a genetically modified and highly processed food. The low quality coupled with the high quantity means a substantial amount of chemicals that are not naturally found in soy are being pumped into the prisoners’ bodies daily.
This reason, and the existence of soy allergies among prisoners, is cause for concern. Lastly, the chemical components of soy are an argument against its vast use in prisons.
“(Soy) contains isoflavones, which are naturally occurring phytoestrogens,” said registered dietitian Joan Salge Blake, in her book “Nutrition and You.” “These plant estrogens have a structure similar to human estrogen.”
The majority of inmates are men, and if these men are being fed soy they are being fed a food that has similar properties to a female sex hormone. Men have small amounts of estrogen and they need to maintain a proper proportion of estrogen to testosterone. The male prisoners are more than likely eating beyond the recommended amount of isoflavones, which could affect the proper balance of hormones in the body.
However, these are prisoners. Harris committed sexual battery of a child and is serving a life sentence. Who cares what he eats? Who cares if what he eats is healthy?
The Department of Corrections, whose job includes taking care of the prisoners, should. And Americans citizens, whose tax dollars go to pay for the prison system, should. We need to care because of expensive medical bills, the right to health, and to prevent sickness in this population.
We know that a healthy diet helps in warding off sickness. Inmates do not need to feast on gourmet health foods, but their wellness should be considered because no one wants to pay the medical bill of a person in prison.
Remember, not all prisoners are guilty, and not all are serving life sentences. Prisoners are entitled to basic human rights, and one of these rights is health. There are inmates who will reenter society, and we do not want this to increase disease in our population.