There’s loads of information out there about soy and how good it is for you and there’s loads of information out there saying how bad it is for you. What’s the truth?
I was totally confused so this week’s post is based on my search to find out the truth about soy.
Off I went in search of more info, in particular I wanted to know what it was, why it wasn’t good for me and if any of it was safe to eat and in what quantities. The search started with finding out what it was.
Read on to find out how I got on.
What is soy?
It’s a bean, a legume and it’s one of the few plants that contain essential amino acids (perfect protein) in the amounts that our bodies need to survive. It’s also naturally high in fat and protein and is toxic to humans if it’s not cooked first. Check out the picture of it below.
It’s also known as soybean in the US and soya bean in the UK.
As with all foods they pack a nutritional punch only when they’re in their natural state, that is they’re not processed in any way. So it comes as no surprise to know that soy is perfectly OK to eat as long as you eat it as naturally as possible.
Does that mean I can still eat tofu burgers and sausages?
The short answer is no because they’ve been heavily processed.
As soon as the bean is processed it loses all its nutritional goodness. Manufacturers buy soybeans that are genetically modified and sprayed with loads of pesticides. They grind it, heat it and pull it apart and remove all the goodness – the dietary fibers, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, and hundreds of other helpful plant chemicals – leaving behind almost pure soy protein.
This soy protein is then used in loads of food that you see in the middle of the supermarket (remember to always shop on the outer edges of the supermarket, see this post for more info) including salad dressings, soups, meat analogues, beverage powders, cheeses, non-dairy creamer, frozen desserts, whipped topping, infant formulas, breads, breakfast cereals, pastas and pet foods.
Importantly it’s also used to make artificial ‘fake’ foods that look and taste like real cheese, hot dogs, sausages, burgers, luncheon meats, chicken, and turkey. But these fake foods have no nutritional value and can have a significant and detrimental effect on our health.
As Dr John McDougall says:
“There is a dark side to the soy story that warns that these foods may increase your risk for cancer, impair your thyroid, immune, and brain function, and cause you bone loss and reproductive problems. Fortunately, these worries are relevant mostly for people lured into consuming “fake foods” synthesized from man-made components of soy and other foods, and high potency soy supplements – not for those who consume traditional soy foods as a small portion of their diet.”
In Asian countries, soy is consumed naturally as:
- Boiled soybeans (edamame)
- Tofu (soybean curd)
- Natto (fermented soybeans)
- Miso (fermented soybean paste)
- Okara (a by-product of tofu)
- Tempeh (fermented soybeans)
As well as soybean sprouts, soymilk, yuba (by-product of soy milk), kinako (soy flour), and soy sauce. These foods are made from simple processes like grinding, precipitation, and fermentation so most of soy’s ingredients remain little altered from their natural state. As Dr McDougall says:
“Less than 5% of daily calories in the typical diet of Japanese or Chinese people comes from soybeans. This amounts to about 2 ounces (55 to 64 grams) derived from soy foods daily, which means only 7 to 8 grams of protein and 15 to 45 milligrams of the estrogen-like phytochemical known as isoflavone.”
In a recent study its been shown that just 40 grams of soy protein added to your diet can significantly increase levels of a powerful cancer-promoting growth hormone, called Insulin-like Growth Factor 1 – IGF-1.3
This growth promoter has been strongly linked to the development of cancer of the breast, prostate, lung, and colon.3 Excess IGF-1 stimulates cell proliferation and inhibits cell death – two activities you definitely don’t want when cancer cells are involved.
But what does 40 grams equal? Is it more or less than people in Asian countries eat? Well, one soy “chicken” patty for lunch and two soy burgers for dinner will add up to that 40 grams, or eat just four soy breakfast patties and thats you got your 40 grams as well.
At the end of the day it all boils down to whether we’re eating small amounts of traditional soy foods as they do in Asian countries or whether we’re eating artificial foods.
So after all my reading and searching around here’s my top 5 tips for you if you’re wanting to eat soy:
- Save it for special occasions. Soybeans and their by-products are naturally high in fat and protein so when you do eat it, eat it in small portions and eat the whole organic soy beans or fermented choices as they do in Asian countries.
- Only eat organic GMO free soy.
- Don’t drink glasses of soy milk.
- Never eat processed/fake/synthetic foods that contain soy protein and hydrolysed soy, this includes foods such as meats, cheeses, and soy bars.
- Always check the labels of the food you’re buying if you’re not buying it as nature intended. Soy protein can be identified on the ingredient list by these words: defatted soy flour, organic textured soy flour, textured vegetable protein, isolated soy protein, soy protein concentrates, and soy concentrates.
If you’re interested in reading more about how I arrived at these 5 tips then check out the references by clicking here.
I’ll leave you with a final thought from Dr T. Colin Campbell:
“Soybeans in their whole form (in soups, or as edamame) are fine occasionally, but I’d not recommend anyone drink glasses of soy milk, especially kids. I recommend rice milk first, then almond milk instead of cows milk.”
 1) Nagata C, Takatsuka N, Kurisu Y, Shimizu H. Decreased serum total cholesterol concentration is associated with high intake of soy products in Japanese men and women. J Nutr. 1998 Feb;128(2):209-13.
 Yu H. Role of the insulin-like growth factor family in cancer development and progression. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2000 Sep 20;92(18):1472-89.
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But, I also want to finish off with a question that I’d like you to answer…
What do you think? Do you eat soy regularly? Let me know what you think below.