It is interesting that while some people choose not to eat meat, they go to great lengths to substitute it with fake foods in the form of processed soy products. Chicken schnitzels, nuggets and even battered ” prawns”.
Have you ever read a food label on one of these products ?
Vegetable protein (12 %) (Contains: Soya) · Wheat flour (Gluten) · Vegetable oil (Sunflower Oil) · Breading (14 %) (Wheat gluten · Sea salt · Corn starch · Spices · Flavourings) · Flavouring · Wheat Fibre · Thickener (Cellulose Extract) · Sea salt · Celery.
Other folks eat soy because it has been promoted as a health food and they believe that by exchanging a meal or two for processed soy or drinking down and soy milk smoothie they are doing something good for themselves.
Sadly this is not so.
What is soy?
Soybeans are legumes that originated in East Asia, but are now being produced on a large scale in other parts of the world.
- Soy is used to make many different foods. Soybeans can be eaten whole, with the immature types being called edamame. Soybeans must be cooked, as they are poisonous when raw.
- Soy is used in tofu, soy milk and various dairy and meat substitutes. It is also used in fermented foods like miso, and tempeh, which are commonly consumed in some Asian countries.
- The majority of soy in the diet in Western countries comes from the refined products that are processed from the soybeans.
- Soy is cheap and as a result soybean oil and soy protein have found their way into all sorts of processed foods. People who eat processed and junk foods are consuming significant amounts of soy without even knowing about it. Practically all processed foods contain some form of soy. Check your food ingredients! Soy lecithin, soy protein concentrate, soy protein isolate, texturized vegetable protein, hydrolyzed vegetable protein or any other phrase containing the word “soy.”
- Although soy contains a number of nutrients they are also VERY high in phytates ( what we know as anti nutrients). These phytates are substances that bind minerals and reduce their absorption.
- Soybeans do contain some protein but these are not complete proteins as they lack he amino acids Methionine and Cystine. Furthermore processing soy at a high temperature can denature some of the proteins and reduce their quality.
- While they are often promoted for being able to provide Vitamin B-12 to those eating a vegetarian diet, the Vitamin B-12 in soybeans can not be used by the body and actually cause the body to need more B-12.
- The fatty acids in soybeans are mostly Omega-6 polyunsaturated fats. Too much Omega-6 leads to inflammation and many other health issues.
Why is soy a health problem?
Soy contains large amounts of biologically active compounds called isoflavones, which function as phytoestrogens… that is, plant-based compounds that can activate estrogen receptors in the human body. These isoflavones are classified as endocrine disruptors, chemicals that interfere with the normal function of hormones in the body
Estrogens are steroid hormones mostly found in females, where they play a major role in regulating sexual development and reproductive cycles. Estrogens are also found in men, although in smaller amounts and having elevated levels is not normal. For a good article on how these phytoestrogens can adversely affect mens health READ HERE
What do studies show ?
Animal studies show that soy isoflavones can cause breast cancer . There are also human studies showing that soy isoflavones can stimulate the proliferation( rapid increase) and activity of cells in the breasts. Where one group of women was given just 60gms ot soy protein per day a significant proliferation of the epithelial cells (cells most likely to become cancerous) in the breast was seen after only 14 days !
These changes may indicate an increased risk of breast cancer, which is the most common cancer in women. The biological changes in the breasts and the studies where soy causes breast cancer in rodents are a major cause for concern.
There are also some small human studies where soy caused mild disruptions of the menstrual cycle, leading to delayed menses and prolonged menstruation.
The isoflavones in soy also function as goitrogens, which are substances that interfere with thyroid function.They can inhibit function of the enzyme thyroid peroxidase, which is essential for production of thyroid hormones.
Exposing infants to isoflavones by feeding them soy-based infant formula can have harmful effects. Studies have shown that baby girls fed soy formula had significantly more breast tissue at the age of 2 yrs than breast fed or dairy based formula fed babies. Studies have also shown that girls fed soy formula were more likely to start puberty at a young age and that they experienced a longer and more painful menstrual cycle.
Soy is also very high in manganese, MUCH higher than breast milk, which may lead to neurological problems and ADHD.
What about Asian countries where soy consumption is high?
It is assumed that people in Asian countries consume a lot of soy.However people in these countries do not consume as much soy as we assume they do. In most places, soy based foods are served as a condiment, not a main course and not as a replacement for animal protein.In addition, these foods are fermented or traditionally prepared, which minimizes the harmful factors. In many countries, soy based foods are consumed with seaweed containing foods or traditionally made broths, which both have high nutrient concentration and can help mitigate the harmful effects of the soy.
Something to keep in mind is that as with so many processed foods that claim to be good for us, studies claiming beneficial effects of soy are either sponsored by the soy industry, or the authors had some kind of financial ties to the soy industry.