In the health food section at my local grocery store, there is a healthy amount of space dedicated to soy products. If an unsuspecting person decided “I want to eat healthy,” and went to the Health Food Section uninformed, he or she would assume all items in the section were healthy. But is soy healthy?
Soy was first used in Asia as a cover crop to enrich soil. Much later Asians used it to season and enrich their meals, only after the Chinese learned to ferment soy beans to make foods like tempeh, natto and tamari. In the West, soy was first used to make paper coatings, glues and even in fire-fighting foam. In the 1950s food companies began producing soy isolate and soy lecithin. Now soy is everywhere: soups, imitation meats, non-dairy creamers, infant formulas, cereals, protein powders, etc.
MYTHS and TRUTHS:
Myth: Soy foods provide a complete protein.
Truth: Like all legumes, soy beans are deficient in sulfur-containing amino acids methionine and cystine. In addition, modern processing denatures fragile lysine.
Myth: Soy formula is a good alternative to infants who are not being breastfed.
Truth: Soy food contain trypsin inhibitors that inhibit protein digestion and affect pancreatic function. In test animals, diets high in trypsin inhibitors led to stunted growth and pancreatic disorders. Soy food increases the body’s requirement for vitamin D, needed for strong bones and normal growth. Phytic acid in soy foods results in reduced bioavailability of iron and zinc which are required for health and development of the brain and nervous system. Soy lacks cholesterol, essential for the development of the brain and nervous system. Megadoses of phytoestrogens in soy formula have been implicated in the current trend toward increasingly premature sexual development in girls and delayed or retarded sexual development in boys.
Myth: Soy food can prevent osteoporosis.
Truth: Soy foods can cause deficiencies in calcium and vitamin D, both needed for healthy bones. Calcium from bone broths and vitamin D from seafood, lard and organ meats prevent osteoporosis in Asian countries–not soy foods.
Myth: Soy is good for your sex life.
Truth: Numerous animal studies show that soy foods cause infertility in animals. Soy consumption enhances hair growth in middle-aged men, indicating lowered testosterone levels. Japanese housewives feed tofu to their husbands frequently when they want to reduce his virility.
Myth: Eating soy is good for the environment.
Truth: In one soy crop in Cordoba, the monoculture has been detrimental for the forests and pasture lands. Because of the expanding soy crops, cattle raising farmers have bene displaced, increasing land conflicts and evictions, as well as deforestation. The deforestation rate in Argentina is 0.8 percent per year, twice as high as the Amazon area (0.38 percent). But in Cordoba the deforestation rate is 2.93 percent – almost four times the national average and thirteen times the global average (0.23 percent). Researches at at Cordoba’s National University stress the direct relationship with the advance of the agricultural frontier, especially the cultivation of annual crops, primarily soy.
Soy is difficult to digest, which can cause gas, bloating and general discomfort. Fermented forms, like the tempeh, natto and tamari are more easily digested.
93% of U.S. soy has been genetically modified (GM): meaning the crop has been altered by a virus or bacteria with a certain trait, most commonly the resistance to a weed killer. We have been using GM foods for the past decade so we do not know the long term effects of these foods on our health. But the studies that have been completed thus far, begin to paint a bleak picture. Article: 15 years of GM Soybeans in Argentina
Soy can interfere with thyroid function, negatively affecting your metabolism.
Soy can interfere with thyroid, its difficult to digest and does not allow us to fully absorb minerals. Soy is deficient in essential amino acids, contain trypsin inhibitors leading to stunted growth and pancreatic disorders, increases our need of vitamin D, has no cholesterol content, is deficient in calcium, lowers testosterone in men and increases infertility. It may cause early puberty in girls and late puberty in boys. It is not a complete protein that our bodies can use.
Crops like soy are increasing the deforestation rate in certain countries. The more soy consumed, the more soy planted, the higher the deforestation rate.
Traditionally soy was used as a condiment in fermented form and Asian cultures always used soy sparingly and traditionally processed (fermented). Soy milk, soy powders or protein bars did not exist in that culture of healthy soy foods. Research shows that soy’s benefits are inconclusive and may prove harmful for your body and the environment. If you enjoy soy, use sparingly and find traditional ways to ferment the product.
Weston A Price
Kaayla Daniels PhD, CCN
Weight and Wellness