Soy has been proclaimed as a health food for the past several years. While it has some benefits, it depends on the manner in which it is consumed. Fermented soy products like tempeh, miso and soy sauce are safe and somewhat beneficial to eat. The unfermented soy products are the ones to avoid.
90% of the soybeans used to make substances like soymilk and meatless entrees are genetically modified, red flag number one. Second, soy has one of the highest percentages of pesticide residue. Lastly, the unfermented soy has to be processed in many ways to be digestible at all. Soy is not edible in its natural form. Manufacturers extract soy protein isolate to use in their products by mixing the beans with an alkaline solution to remove fiber, then precipitated and separated using an acid wash and, finally, neutralized in an alkaline solution. The last step is to spray dry the resulting curds at a high temperature to produce a high protein powder. Nitrates, which are carcinogens (cancer causing), are produced during spray drying. A variety of artificial flavors are added to the soy substance, including MSG.
Soy also contains isoflavones. Some say they are beneficial, but there is overwhelming evidence that they cannot be good for you. Isoflavones are similar to the hormone estrogen, and your body reacts the same to them. For instance, drinking two glasses of soymilk a day is enough to alter a woman’s menstrual cycle. In soy-based infant formula there is the equivalent of five birth control pills that infants drink per day. It has been linked to infertility in men and early onset of puberty in females in western cultures. Many claim soy reduces the risk of cancer and use Asian culture as an example of this. While Asians have fewer cases of breast, uterus, and prostate cancer, they have a high rate of esophagus, stomach, liver and pancreas cancers in addition to thyroid and digestive cancers. Digestive cancers imply a connection to food sources. Laboratory rats given soy exhibit the thyroid and digestive cancers, too.
Soy is also full of anti-nutrients. They contain enzyme inhibitors. Enzymes are necessary to break down proteins and other nutrients and soy makes it more difficult on the body to get what it needs from food. One inhibitor is called Hemagglutinin, which is a clot-promoting substance. It causes red blood cells to clump together so oxygen is not as easily transported. Cooking or processing does not denature these inhibitors, but they are reduced to manageable levels after a long period of fermentation.
There are more negatives than positives when it comes to soy products. Stick to fermented soy like tempeh, miso and soy sauce. If you think about it, it’s incredibly unnatural to make a meat flavor and texture out of a soybean anyway. Let’s use what nature has given us without massive amounts of processing to keep our bodies fueled. There are plenty of nutrient rich whole foods out there just waiting to be eaten!
By: Ashley Dance