Is soy good? Is soy bad? Is soy ok? What’s up with soy? Most of the information that I have found about soy points to that soy is bad for our health.
If this is the case, why are we in the US pushing soy so much? Why do they say that it is a good replacement for animal foods such as meat, eggs, poultry and fish from the FDA? Why is the soy industry pushing it so much? Why is the pharmaceutical industry promoting fractionated phytoestrogens and isoflavones for menopausal women for hot flashes, and osteoporosis and various hormonal-based cancers?
Our society is still pushing soy products as being ok even while there are many studies in the last 50 years by scientists about the adverse effects of soy.
Bur first, let’s start at the very beginning. With soy you start with the oriental culture dating back some 2000 years ago.
Here’s the truth about the oriental cultures and soy. In the Chou dynasty, around 1000BC, the Chinese people were using the soy plant as part of the crop rotation, to help the soil with nutrients. They did not eat soy because they figured out that the soy bean was not good for their health.
Quite some time later, they learned that if they ferment the soy beans, they could make the soy not as toxic to their health. With fermented soy, they made soy sauce, tempeh, natto, and tamari. They also figured out how to make fermented tofu, which is not the same as modern day tofu. Today’s modern day tofu is not fermented and still contains the bad elements of soy.
What’s bad about soy?
#1 We all know that our bodies need minerals such as copper, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc. Phytic acid blocks the body’s absorption of minerals, and soy is high in phytic acid. Cooking soy does not significantly reduce phytic acid, while fermenting greatly reduces it. This is one of the primary reasons to not eat non-fermented soy. (reference) (counterpoint)
#2 Soy is also an endocrine disrupter, which means it messes with the hormone system. This can cause cancerous tumors, birth defects, and learning disabilities such as ADHD. The worst time for this is as an infant, when the body / brain is developing or while still in the womb, which means pregnant moms need to watch their diet.
#3 Soy has trypsin inhibitors which interfere with protein digestion. Trypsin is an enzyme that aids in digesting protein. Without proper trypsin levels, we’ll be more prone to stunted growth, or pancreatic disorders.
#4 Soy is high in phytoestrogens. This plant based estrogen mimics the estrogen that naturally occurs in our bodies, the same estrogen, when too high, leads to breast cancer, endometriosis, infertility, and other problems. The phytoestrogens also act as an anti-thyroid agent, and can hypothyroidism from as little as 4 tablespoons per day.
#5 Processing soy into soy protein isolate creates toxic lysino-alanine and carcinogenic nitro-samines. What’s interesting about soy protein isolate is that it is the main ingredient of soy-formulas. It is also the ingredient that makes up TSP/TVP, through a high-pressure extrusion process. Did you know that when infants take soy-formula, they are effectively getting the estrogen contained in 4 birth control pills every day? (reference)
#6 This one is for men only. Women cover your ears. Soy reduces testosterone, which of course, leads to less…potency. It’s true that zen monks ate a lot of soy after they figured out it decreased their drive.
The list goes on and on. So why are we still talking about eating soy? Well, in 1998 the FDA approved the ruling allowing health claims for soy based on a very specific research that showed that soy protein could lower cholesterol levels in specific conditions.
Based on that ruling, the Soy Ag industry decided it was ok to market soy as a healthy product. That is even after 288 references in the FDA’s own poisonous plant database against soy.
That, plus the soy industry time and time again states that the Asian cultures eat lots of soy and they have lower rates of heart disease. It’s just not true. Well, it is true about the lower rates of heart disease, just not that they eat lots of soy. In the Asian cultures, soy is used as a condiment, such as we would use ketchup or mustard. (reference) It is usually mixed into other things, or used as a flavoring as in soy sauce. It is not used as a meat or fish replacement as the american industry would have you believe. The typical daily intake is about 2 teaspoons of soy per day. That’s not exactly a veggie burger patty, but more like the squirt of ketchup on the patty. In Japan they may eat tofu with mineral-rich fish broth. This tofu is probably the fermented version, and hence would not block the absorption of minerals. Our soy industry recommends 10x that amount. (reference)
The one last part of soy that I would like to talk about is Soy Lecithin.
Soy lecithin is made from the sludge byproduct of the production of soy oil. The soy oil production is a chemical and industrial process that uses solvents to extract the soy oil from the soy itself in a refining process. A byproduct is sludge. In the early 1900’s the foul-smelling sludge was piling up and there was a problem of how to dispose of it. German companies came up with a process to extract the lecithin out of the sludge and hired scientists to figure out a way to use the product. It made its way into skin care products where it helps soften the skin, as well as helped the ingredients penetrate the skin better. In food products, it is used as an emulsifier as well as a preservative. It helps food “stick together” better, blend smoother, rise better, etc.
In Sept 2001, the FDA allowed the health claim “A Good Source of Choline” for products containing enough choline in them, including soy lecithin. Now Soy lecithin is in everything. Chips, ice cream, chocolate, bread, just about every pre-packaged food. It’s hard to avoid. Just check the labels. I have a hard time finding bread that doesn’t have soy lecithin in it. The easiest way for me to find it is to bake bread myself.
In our household, I am trying to avoid non-fermented soy products. That means nothing with soy lecithin, soy oil, soy flour, soy beans, or tofu. But removing these from our diets is very hard. Even snack foods that are claimed to be “good” or “healthy” probably contain soy lecithin. Even the higher name brands of chocolate like Ghiradelli, contain soy lecithin. (I did however, find one brand of chocolate chips that don’t contain soy lecithin, Nestle Dark Chocolate Chips)
I still haven’t answered the question of “Why is soy pushed so much in our country?” The only reason that I can come up with is that “big ag” is voting with their dollars. Soy is cheap to produce and therefore they have higher profits. Soy is government subsidized. For the companies that make money from soy, well, they can make more money from selling more soy.
The soy controversy:
Soy is being billed as a health food, but there is also a lot of negative press about soy being harmful. What I can’t figure out is… Who is right?
What I have found, like Leo Babauta of Zen Habits is that a ton of the negative research on soy points back to Weston A Price Foundation. Even Mercola is a part of the WAPF. So how is one to know when we’ve been had? BUT WAPF has a lot of resources to back up their claims. Here are some of the resources on WAPF that have many references to numerous studies.