Health Tip #7
Reduce or eliminate soy
Ah, yes, the almighty health food: soy. Due to some fantastic marketing, soy products have come to be one of the “healthy” staples in the American diet. Unfortunately, most of the available evidence points to that being at best an exaggeration of the truth. There are a few instances in which soy products may have some established health benefit (such as fermented soy) although even this is debated. The main purpose here will be to bring to light some of the basic reasons why soy may not be the healthy substance that it is currently thought of as well as give some of the many examples of where to look for it in our foods.
Soy beans have been part of human culture for reportedly about 5000 years, although they have likely been consumed by humans for much less time, probably 1000 years, maybe up to 2000 by some reports, and are often associated with Asian cultures and diet. As agriculture developed in the last few thousand years, soy beans became an important part of keeping balance in the soil used for farming. After crops are harvested (primarily grains) depleting the soil of nitrogen (essential for crop growth), the soy bean harvest helped restore nitrogen levels in the soil. Traditional cultures figured this out not long ago, not in terms of nitrogen levels, but discovering that some crops, such as rice, grew better if there was a harvest of soy between seasons. Although soy’s benefits have traditionally been helpful in agriculture, soy as a food has primarily been in the fermented form by traditional Asian cultures, typically in the form of miso, soy sauce, natto, tempeh and a few others. Aside from these fermented forms, soy was not part of the human diet until very recently.
A few decades ago, the agriculture and food industry started to realize that all of the soy crop they were rotating in, particularly between corn harvests, was going to waste. So, in essence, they started to create food uses from all of it. Vegetable oil became the biggest one, along with soy protein and meat replacement varieties. The problem with the creation of food uses for convenience and profit is that it does not take the health of the consumer into account.
So, here are a few of the problems associated with soy consumption…
Soy contains phytoestrogens- compounds that disrupt the estrogen binding sites in humans
– This is highly related to breast cancer, soybean oil being a big one here
– Can promote estrogen overload, not good for either men or women
– Linked to libido depression.
Soy contains anti-nutrients that prevent absorption of minerals and protein
– E.g. calcium not being absorbed
– The complete protein you think you’re getting may not be getting absorbed
Soy contains lectins, which are damaging to the lining of the gut/intestine and can lead to irritation and allergies
Soy contains goitrogens, which interfere with thyroid function (think metabolism problems)
Soy consumption is linked to infertility, blood clotting, immune problems and infant developmental problems
Nearly all soy is genetically modified, meaning it’s a far cry from the original species
– It was modified to be more resistant to the pesticide they like to use on it
Soy processing creates MSG and other toxins
The list goes on unfortunately.
Where is it? Everywhere. Particularly in these types:
Soybean oil – this is added to everything, since people got scared of animal fats a few decades ago. Very common in salad dressings
Soy milk – a common dairy alternative, includes soy yogurt and cheese
Soy protein (isolate) – added to many products, very common in protein and snack bars
Soy infant formula – more common now, but major concerns reside here
Protein replacements – takes the place of meat in several types of food products, such as tofu and TVP
Is any soy good? Probably a few versions. The natural, fermented products listed above (tempeh, miso, natto and real soy sauce) are likely ok for consumption in moderate amounts. Best if consumed with sources of iodine, such as sea vegetables, to help mitigate the thyroid impact. This is often how traditional cultures enjoyed soy products and is likely why it has been considered healthy to eat soy.
So that is the rundown on soy. Avoid it when you can or entirely if desired. Eaten every once in a while, such as edamame or some miso soup, soy will not effect your life much. If it is a staple of your diet, you may want to consider some alternatives.
Thanks for reading, let me know if I can answer anything else…
P.S. American Heart Association letter to FDA regarding stance on Soy and CVD from Heart.org
There are several proponents of soy and it has been marketed well and subsequently misunderstood by many, particularly vegans and vegetarians.
Soy products are like sugar, industrial oils and grains; in that the food industry has found them to be a cheap and easy food additive.
Henry Ford used soy to create the paint for Ford vehicles in the 1930’s and to make clothes.
More reading: Soy Articles