Is soy good or bad or is it somewhere in the middle? It’s a food shrouded in controversy. I stand firmly in the camp of those who believe there are both benefits and drawbacks, depending on how it’s prepared. If you’re on the fence, discover 6 reasons to consider eating soy in moderation.
Disclaimer: This article is strictly for informational purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice.
Soy is a cheap food that is ubiquitous in the American food supply. Soybean oil is in all processed foods. Dairy-free infant formulas use soy protein as the main ingredient. More on this later. You may not think you’re consuming soy, but if you’re eating out, rest assured, you are! Even health foods use soy protein as a common ingredient – read labels carefully.
1. Phytoestrogens And Hormonal Havoc
As women, we struggle enough with hormonal balance as it is. The last thing we need is to consume a food that makes things worse. Many women today are already estrogen dominant, in part, due to the hormones in meat and dairy products. Add to that the BPAs and phthalates in plastics, and we’ve got a recipe for hormonal havoc.
The phytoestrogens in soy mimic our own estrogen, adding insult to injury, and leading to hormonal disruption. Estrogen-related disorders and cancer are common today, and soy products aren’t helping matters. Genistein and daidzein, two isoflavones found in soy, are compounds with estrogenic activity. Soybeans are, in fact, the richest sources of these compounds in our food supply.
Isoflavones are not the panacea they were once thought to be, instead, they are associated with digestive disorders, impaired ovulation, migraine headaches, and food allergies. Consumed in large amounts, these compounds may stimulate estrogen sensitive breast tumors.
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2. Keep Your Thyroid Happy
Isoflavones act like goitrogens, which are anti-nutrients that may block thyroid hormone synthesis especially in the face of iodine deficiency. Many people struggle with depressed thyroid function as it is, no need to add a food that may potentially exacerbate the problem.
If you’ve been eating soy, and notice symptoms, such as fatigue, weight gain, and dry hair and skin, you may be experiencing the effects of hypothyroidism. Menopausal women have been duped into thinking soy can alleviate hot flashes and brain fog associated with menopause. Truth be told, it may worsen symptoms.
If thyroid function is inhibited, menopausal symptoms will only be amplified. Contrary to popular belief, soy was not a significant part of the typical Asian diet until about 800 years ago, and was eaten as a staple food only in times of extreme famine. Today, it is used as a condiment, and eaten in small amounts.
3. Boys Should Be Boys
Soy doesn’t just affect women. Men aren’t exempt from it’s estrogenic effects, and it’s thought to reduce testosterone levels and lower sperm count. If a mother consumes soy while pregnant, sexual development of her baby boy may be adversely affected. The phytoestrogens disrupt endocrine function, increasing the risk of infertility and even breast cancer in women.
The phytates in soy have been linked to growth retardation in children, and premature sexual development in girls. Please don’t use soy formula, essentially you are supplementing your baby’s diet with birth control pills. If your infant has allergies, use goat or coconut milk instead. Another good reason to not use soy is it contains high amounts of manganese and aluminum, which are both problematic.
High levels of aluminum are toxic to the kidneys and nervous system, and manganese, consumed in high amounts, is a potent neurotoxin. Soy protein is deficient in the sulphur-containing amino acids, methionine and cysteine. These sulphur-containing amino acids are required for normal growth so it makes no sense to feed growing babies soy-based formulas.
4. Say No To GMOs
Genetically-modified foods act like antibiotics in the gut, killing beneficial bacteria. Many negative repercussions result from altering the microbiome as healthy gut bacteria are crucial for good health. They aid digestion, eliminate toxins, manufacture vitamins, and support immunity.
GMOS have been linked to allergies, GI disturbances, insulin imbalances, problems with immunity, and even accelerated aging. Safeguard your gut bugs. 90 percent of soy is genetically modified. This reason alone makes unfermented soy a food to completely eliminate from your diet.
5. Don’t Bind Your Minerals
Soy contains the highest amount of phytic acid than any other food. Phytic acid is a compound in plants that binds minerals leading to deficiencies in calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, and vitamin D. Soy also contains other anti-nutrients including saponins, trypsin inhibitors, and goitrogens that interfere with protein digestion, inhibit growth, and may result in amino acid deficiencies.
Although soy has a good nutritional profile, those vital nutrients are blocked by phytic acid and other anti-nutrients. Traditional preparation methods like soaking, sprouting, steaming, and long cooking times reduce phytates in foods like bean, legumes, and grains. However, these methods do not apply to soy. Only long fermentation is able to reduce phytate levels. Fun fact – Soy milk and tofu contain high levels of phytic acid.
6. The Form Matters
How soy is prepared matters – a lot! In fact, fermented soy can be a fantastic food. Make sure it’s organic so it doesn’t contain all the nasty fertilizers and pesticides. Fermented foods contain live probiotics and enzymes as well as vitamin K2. Weston Price called K2, Activator X or the X Factor. It was found in the diets of all the healthy populations that he studied.
Fermenting soy neutralizes the phytic acid that is so problematic with mineral absorption. Natto, a fermented soy food, is bursting with probiotics and other beneficial compounds, and one of the healthiest foods around. You just need to get over the slimy taste and texture. Tempeh and Tamari are fermented soy products, as well, and can be enjoyed in moderation. And who doesn’t love a bowl of miso soup now and then?!
Enjoy foods containing soy in moderation. Opt for fermented types that are rich in vitamin K2. Be aware that soy hides in processed foods in the form of soy oil so read labels carefully. Unfortunately, soy is not the healthy alternative to meat and milk that we have been led to believe. Make informed decisions when choosing to eat soy.
What are your thoughts on this controversial food? Let me know in the comments:)