The Trouble With Soy
Over the last 20 years the inconspicuous soybean has crept into the American diet at alarming rates. Did you know that soy is the major agricultural crop grown in the United States, second only to corn? In Asian cultures, people eat fermented soy in the form of tempeh, soy sauce or miso. But in western cultures, processors separate the soybean into two commodities – protein and oil – and sell these commodities to food manufacturers worldwide. According to the United Soybean Board, soybean oil represents approximately 79 percent of all edible oil consumed in the United States! People are not the only ones unknowingly consuming large amounts of soy; over 30 million tons of soybean meal is fed to our livestock every year contaminating the meat supply. Today, it is nearly impossible to eat at a restaurant or buy packaged foods without consuming soy oil.
The Truth About Soy
Many Americans, even those committed to a healthy lifestyle, have been falsely convinced that soy products, like soy ice cream, soy cheese or soy burgers are good for them. Much of this is the fault of large pro-soy advertising initiatives on behalf of the soy industry. According to the survey Consumer Attitudes About Nutrition 2008 (by the United Soybean Board), 70 percent of consumers believe soybean oil is good for them and 33 percent of Americans eat soy foods or drink soy beverages at least once a month. But the idea that soy is our ultimate health food could not be further from the truth!
Soy Contains Antinutrients
Soy is chalk full of antinutrients, natural or synthetic compounds that interfere with the absorption of nutrients. The antinutrients found in soy include lectins, saponins, phytate, isofavaones and others.
- Soybean lectin is known to impair intestinal permeability and cause leaky gut
- Saponins punch holes in the membrane lining of our cells and also increase intestinal permeability
- Phytate prevents the full absorption of iron, zinc, calcium and magnesium and causes nutritional deficiencies in adults and children
Leaky gut is a truly frightening condition! A permeable (or leaky) gut allows toxins and bacteria in our stomach to enter the blood stream and interact with our immune system promoting low-level inflammation. This inflammation is the necessary first step in developing auto immune disease. I often provide counseling to many people that is strictly concerned with repairing leaky gut!
Beware of Phytoestrogens
Isoflavones, another anit-nutrient in soy, have been promoted as “antioxidents” but are actually very troubling plant compounds because they basically act like female hormones in the body. Some isoflavones in soybeans and soy products are even called phytoestorgens or “plant estrogens.”
Phytoestrogens disrupt endocrine function and may cause hypothyroidism because they block thyroid hormone secretion, its movement in the circulatory system and the response of tissues to the hormone. When the thyroid hormone is deficient, the body is generally exposed to increased levels of estrogen.
Estrogen suppresses the detoxifying systems of the body causing fewer carcinogens to be excreted in the urine and have the potential to cause infertility and promote breast, uterine, liver, color and pancreatic cancer.
Soy Promotes Weight Gain
Soy? A diet food? Think again! Traditionally, polyunsaturated oils, such as soybean oil, have been used for livestock feed because they cause animals to gain weight fast. Soy oil is made up of long chain fatty acids – the kind that promote weight gain. Corn and soybeans fed to livestock have also been known to suppress thyroid function to make them get fatter while consuming less food. Imagine the frustration that comes with gaining weight even while you are eating less food – soy can cause this!
An Interesting Experiment
In an experiment performed by Ray Peat, women who suffered from premenstrual symptoms, including migraines, found their symptoms relieved when their estrogen levels were lowered. How did he lower estrogen levels? By having his subjects eat raw carrots daily! You can read more about the detoxifying effects of carrots in my full article on carrots.
Read Your Labels!
Most of us know when a food contains soy, it’s either right there in the label (e.g.soy milk) or it’s a common item like tofu or edamame. However, soy also hides in the processed foods many people eat on a day-to-day basis. Soy lecithin is added to a lot of products that you may not expect, like chocolate and protein bars. Soy lecithin is an emulsifier that companies put in products to extend the shelf life, but even small amounts of soy lecithin can be harmful. Therefore, it’s important to (1) avoid processed foods in general and (2) read the labels of all your food to be certain of what is going in your body. Common forms of hidden soy include:
- Textured vegetable protein
- Hydrolyzed vegetable protein
- Vegetable starch
- Kinnoko flour
Protein powder containing soy protein isolate or soy lecithin should be strictly avoided. If you are interested in supplementing your diet with protein powders, nothing is better than Great Lake Gelatin, a natural collagen powder. I offer this and other safe protein supplements in the shop.
Avoid All Soy!
The truth is, I have only scratched the surface about the detrimental effects of soy on the body. If you would like to learn more, I have included links to a few articles below. I recommend everyone avoid soy in their diet and have worked with clients to move them off of soy products and improve their health. Soy is not a healthy protein, even though the American public has been fooled to believe it is! If you are in search of healthy proteins, I recommend: