The Rise Of Soy
In 1913 soy was listed in the U.S. Department of Agriculture handbook not as a food but as an industrial byproduct.
The soy industry started to plant soy to extract the oil which was used to replace many of the healthier tropical oils. After the oil had been extracted from the bean, the soy industry ended up with huge surplus of soy protein.
Since they can’t feed it to animals because it causes health problems in animals, they had to create another market to maximize their profits. They sold it to the humans through shrew advertising and intense lobbying with the Food and Drug Administration.
Is Soy A Health Food?
Brilliant marketing has skyrocketed soy food sales in the U.S. from a fringe market of $300 million in 1992 to nearly $4 billion in 2007. However, increasing evidence confirms that soy is NOT the health food that it has been promoted to be. In 2006 the American Heart Association stopped supporting the health claims about soy endorsed by the U.S. government.
Just because soy is of vegetable origin does not necessarily make it healthy. The chemical makeup of soy raises many health concerns which I will point out below.
The only exception is fermented soy products:
- Tempeh, a fermented soybean cake with a firm texture and nutty, mushroom-like flavor
- Miso, a fermented soybean paste with a salty, buttery texture
- Natto, fermented soybeans with a sticky texture and strong, cheese-like flavor. It contains nattokinase, a very powerful blood thinner, and a beneficial bacteria called bacillus subtilis
- Soy sauce or tamari
All other unfermented soy products, including soy formula, soy milk, soy burgers, soy ice cream, soy snacks, soy cheese, tofu, and edamame, should not be a staple of your diet.
Potential Health Problems With Soy –
1. GMO Soy
More than 80% of soy plants grown in the U.S. are genetically modified organisms (GMO) and are grown on farms that use toxic pesticides and herbicides like Roundup. In fact, soybeans contain one of the highest levels of pesticide contamination of all foods.
2. Soy Allergy
It is a very common type of food allergy which occurs mostly in infants and children and in some adults. People with asthma and peanut allergy can be very sensitive to soy. Reactions range from itching and a few hives to abdominal pain, diarrhea, breathing problems, and swelling of the throat.
3. Trypsin Inhibitors Interfere With Protein Digestion
Normal cooking does not de-activate the trypsin inhibitors in soy. These inhibitors deter the enzymes needed for protein digestion and can lead to gastric distress and protein deficiency, resulting in pancreatic impairment.
In precipitated products like tofu, trypsin inhibitors concentrate more in the soaking liquid than the bean curd. Therefore, tofu poses less digestive problems and can be consumed occasionally in small quantity.
Edamame beans, the young immature soybeans, also contain less trypsin inhibitors than the dried, mature soybeans. Hence, edamame causes less digestive disruption than foods made from soybeans.
4. Hemagglutinin Promotes Blood Clots
Hemagglutinin in soy causes red blood cells to clump together so that they cannot properly absorb oxygen for distribution to the body’s tissues. Therefore, contrary to popular belief, high soy consumption is not conducive to maintaining good cardiac health. People with heart disease should avoid eating soy foods.
5. Phytic Acid Blocks Absorption Of Minerals
Soybean has one of the highest phytate levels of any grain or legume. The phytic acid in soy is also highly resistant to soaking and long, slow cooking.
Phytic acid prevents the absorption of minerals like calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, and zinc, all of which are co-factors for optimal biochemistry in the body. Hence, vegetarians who consume mainly tofu and soy foods as a substitute for meat and dairy products risk severe mineral deficiencies.
However, when precipitated soy products like tofu are consumed with meat, the mineral-blocking effects of the phytates are reduced. That’s why the traditional Japanese meals which always serve a small amount of tofu as part of a mineral-rich fish broth, followed by a serving of meat or fish makes a lot of sense.
6. Goitrogens Impair Thyroid Function
Soy contains goitrogens that suppress the function of the thyroid gland by interfering with iodine uptake. People who have low thyroid function should limit their consumption of foods made with soy.
7. Phytoestrogens Disturb Hormonal Balance
Phytoestrogens are estrogen hormone-like chemicals found in plants. Soy contains high levels of isoflavones which are a group of phytoestrogens. Isoflavones mimic the natural estrogens produced by the human body as well as the synthetic estrogens found in contraceptive pills. The human body simply mistakes them for hormones.
Therefore, never feed your baby a soy formula. Many babies who are allergic to cow’s milk switch to a soy-based formula with isoflavones. A baby fed soy will receive, through the isoflavones, the equivalent of approximately one to two birth control pills per day! The result can be very damaging.
Moreover, the same applies to children. Little girls who are overly estrogenized in this way may go through premature puberty and little boys may experience delayed or arrested puberty.
Researchers also found that soy may increase the chances of estrogen-dependent breast cancer in some women.
Soy may also affect a woman’s hormonal balance. Drinking even two glasses of soy milk daily for one month has enough phytoestrogens to alter the menstrual cycle in certain women.
Lastly, the use of soy for treating menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats has been inconclusive. Although Asian cultures have demonstrated benefit from consuming soy products, most of the soy consumed is fermented (like tempeh, natto, miso, and soy sauce). Eating highly processed tofu or drinking several glasses of soy milk a day will not bring the same benefits as the fermented soy foods.
8. Avoid Soy Protein Isolate (SPI) And Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP)
SPI and TVP are the key ingredients in most soy foods like imitate meat (such as soy dogs and soy burgers) and dairy products (such as baby formulas and some brands of soy milk). These are highly processed foods made in industrial factories.
During the acid washing process which takes place in aluminum tanks, high levels of aluminum leaches into the final product. As a result, soy-based formula has over 10 times more aluminum than conventional milk-based formulas and 80 times more manganese than human breast milk. At these potentially toxic levels, no babies should ever be put on soy formulas.
In addition, nitrites, which are potent carcinogens, and a toxin called lysinoalanine are formed during the spray-drying and alkaline processing of SPI and TVP.
Finally, numerous artificial flavorings, particularly MSG, are added to SPI and TVP to mask their strong beany taste and to impart the flavor of meat.
Therefore, avoid all soy foods containing soy protein isolate and textured vegetable protein.
Recommendations For Vegetarians
Instead of relying on soy as a major protein in the diet, vegetarians should eat dairy products and eggs from free-range or organic chickens. Those who rely on nuts and beans for protein should be sure to soak them overnight to deactivate the phytates for easier digestion and assimilation.
The Bottom Line
- The only soy foods that you should eat are fermented and non-GMO. They include tempeh, miso, natto, and soy sauce. The fermentation process drastically decreases the levels of soy’s harmful, anti-nutritive components.
- Never feed an infant a soy formula.
- Avoid processed food products made with soy protein isolate and texturized vegetable protein. These may include protein shake powders, energy bars, meat substitutes, and veggie burgers.
- Avoid drinking soy milk. Though promoted as healthy, soy milk is a highly processed food and has all the negative health risks associated with soy.
- Avoid soybean oil products like vegetable oil, margarines, and shortenings made with partially hydrogenated soybean oil. They contain the dangerous trans fatty acid which has become one of the top health concerns in the American diet. In addition, soybean oil is high in omega-6 fat, which is pro-inflammatory.
- Do not use soy isoflavone supplements.
- Tofu and edamame can be eaten occasionally in small quantities. Buy the organic, non-GMO variety.