First, let me set out and restate my position on fear-mongering when delivering information. I am not a fan. With that said, there is a lot of controversy out in the food-o-sphere on soy and how great it is and equally, how terrible it is for you. So, what to believe? Basically, you have to be your own advocate. Below, I have outlined some reasons from Dr. Kaayla T. Daniel, PhD, CCN, and her book, The Whole Soy Story (New Trends Publishing, Inc., Washington, D.C., 2007). Based on her research she sets forth in her book, I have become a bit weary of this so-called “health food.”
Here are the reasons:
1.) Most soy is made from GMO (genetically modified organisms), and there is still a large concern over the safety and lack of long term testing of these types of crops.
2.) Because most soy is a GM crop (made to resist the damage from pesticides so farmers can spray weeds without harming their crop), it is heavily sprayed with toxic pesticides, especially endocrine-disrupting Roundup (glyphosate).
3.) Soy contains isoflavones, which mimic estrogen and can bind to estrogen receptors in the body. Additionally, testosterone receptor sites can be blocked by soy estrogens causing an imbalance in males affecting the hormone balance from libido to sperm count, just to name a few. For women, soy estrogen can also increase natural estrogen levels in the body, leading to imbalances affecting menopause, breast cancer and even early onset of puberty in girls.
4.) Soy is an inexpensive filler, lowering the nutritive value and cheapening the quality of foods.
5.) Soy contains phytic acid, which binds to nutrients (such as calcium, iron, copper and zinc) in our bodies and inhibits the absorption of these nutrients. (*Fermenting soy does help deactivate the phytic acid).
6.) Manganese is a crucial trace nutrient needed by the body for such functions as thyroid and adrenal health to proper growth and metabolism of sugars. However, infant soy formula levels of manganese have been found to be at a toxic levels and posing a huge threat to their health. Infants do not have the ability to eliminate the excess levels as older children and adults do.
7.) Soy is high in aluminum, which is considered a neurotoxin (toxic to the brain). Additionally, aluminum disrupts calcium and phosphorus absorption, affecting bone health.
8.) There is a large rise in soy allergens, which is concerning considering the amount of soy embedded in our processed food supply. (It is important to note that some researchers believe the rise of soy allergens is linked to the use of GM soybeans.)
9.) Soybeans contain goitrogens, which are substances that block the production of thyroid hormones, and the thyroid controls such vital processes as metabolism and parts of the nervous system (and much more!). Goitrogens are also found in such foods as broccoli, cabbage and millet, however, one would have to eat these foods to excess to experience the negative effects. Additionally, cooking or fermenting these foods greatly inactivates the goitrogens in them, whereas with soy, these methods, as well as a few others, do nothing to decrease goitrogenic activity.
10.) Soy contains protease inhibitors, which deactivate essential enzymes that help break down and digest proteins. Not only does this affect the body’s ability to take in the nutrients from the proteins consumed, but it also can contribute to gastrointestinal discomfort and distress.
Some benefits of soy are found when the soybeans are fermented (such as miso, very different than tofu). In this production method, phytic acid (pyhtates) are neutralized and enzymes are activated. Additionally, because of the fermentation process, good bacteria is added back into the food, although the amounts, and therefore the benefits, can vary.
Again, our health is one aspect of our lives over which we have some control, as we have choices as to what we put in and on our bodies. We need to use our innate wisdom (combined with factual research), to determine what is, and what is not, best for our health. Just as I tell my kiddos daily, there is good and bad to everything. We just have to determine, for ourselves, on what side the pros outweigh the cons, and we can always change our mind at any point.
*Below are additional articles for further reading. These are a little stronger in a negative stance on soy, yet I feel they do have merit within the whole soy debate.
Article from Dr. Mercola on potential dangers to health from consuming soy.
Article from GM Watch regarding a case in Argentina in which criminal charges have been brought against GM soy producers and a crop spraying pilot for exposing residents to pesticide spraying.