Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew there were mixed reviews of soybeans and soy products, but I thought “so what?” It is not like we eat that much soy. Then we found out Andrew was allergic to soy and I began to read labels. It is literally in almost everything. Here is what I have since learned about soy and why my whole family will be avoiding it.
What is soy: The soybean is the seed of the soy plant, which is in the pea family. You can eat the beans (soy beans) or the whole pod (edamame). It can be ground into soy flour or squeezed into soy oil. Soy milk is the product of cooked beans, and that can be pressed into tofu. There is also tempeh, miso and natto, made of fermented cooked soybeans. The most important distinction to be made between all these forms of soy seems to be whether or not it is fermented. The fermentation process appears to remove the harmful effects of soy, discussed below.
GMO: The scariest thing about soy is that 91% of soy that is produced has been Genetically Modified. See my earlier post on the huge dangers of GMO. Crops that have been genetically modified are sure to have higher levels of residual pesticides and disrupt the bodies digestive function. Because GMO crops can be sprayed with heavy round up they can be cheaply produced. So cheap in fact that soy has become a staple feed crop. 80% of soy is used as animal feed. So even if you avoid soy, you still get the harmful affects through the meat you eat. GMO crops are linked to increase in food allergies. One UK study found that soy allergies are up 50% since the introduction of GMO soy in the early 2000s.
The Anti-Health Food: The Soy Association of North America will have you believe that Soy is a miracle food and is healthy for you. The truth is the opposite. Eating soy can actually leach nutrients out of your body. Some of the natural toxins found in soy are saponins, soyatoxin, phytates, protease inhibitors, oxalates, goitrogens and estrogens. Big fancy words for chemicals that can interfere with how your body digests protein. Tiny amounts would go unnoticed, but as I mentioned earlier, a stroll down the grocery isle perusing ingredients shows that Americans are eating more soy than ever before, probably without realizing it.
Hemagglutinin is a clot-promoting substance that causes your red blood cells to clump together and deprive your cells of oxygen. Goitrogens are substances that block the synthesis of thyroid hormones. You have probably heard about the increase in diagnosed thyroid function problems. Phytates (phytic acid) preventing the absorption of certain minerals, including calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc which your body needs to be healthy. A compound in soy called Isoflavones closely resemble human estrogen. This is why some menopausal women are encouraged to take soy as a natural supplement. However, these compounds are known to disrupt endocrine function, may cause infertility, and may promote breast cancer in women. My naturopathic doctor suggested that even if my son was not allergic to soy, he should still avoid it due to the estrogen like affects.
The Westin A. Price foundation lists these additional harmful effects of soy.
- Vitamin B12 analogs in soy are not absorbed and actually increase the body’s requirement for B12.
- Soy foods increase the body’s requirement for vitamin D.
- Fragile proteins are denatured during high temperature processing to make soy protein isolate and textured vegetable protein.
- Processing of soy protein results in the formation of toxic lysinoalanine and highly carcinogenic nitrosamines.
- Free glutamic acid or MSG, a potent neurotoxin, is formed during soy food processing and additional amounts are added to many soy foods.
- Soy foods contain high levels of aluminum which is toxic to the nervous system and the kidneys.
The Fact Disconnect: Dr. Oz says soy can be healthy but also warns that soy can throw hormones “out of whack.” On the other side, Dr. Kaayla Daniel, author of The Whole Soy Story, points out thousands of studies link soy to malnutrition, digestive distress, immune-system breakdown, thyroid dysfunction, cognitive decline, reproductive disorders and infertility. Why is there this disconnect? Because soy is a commercial product and there is a soy industry out there promoting it, wrapping it up and advertising it as a health food. According to the Soyfoods Association of North America soy food sales increased from $300 million to nearly $4 billion from 1992 to 2006. From 2000 to 2007, U.S. food manufacturers introduced more than 2,700 new soy-based foods, and new soy products continue to appear on your grocer’s shelves. Consider baby formula, much of which is soy based. Soy formula offers no nutritional value over milk based formulas, and children with dairy allergies are just as likely to have soy allergies, but it is marketed as a healthier alternative. According to this article 25% of infants are on a soy formula.
Soy What?: So all in all, it was pretty easy for us to choose to say goodbye to soy. This is harder said than done because it is in a lot of processed foods. It can show up as it lecithin, monosodium glutamate (MSG), hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP), textured vegetable protein (TVP), vegetable gum, natural flavoring, and vegetable broth. If I had any doubts before, they are certainly gone now. While confirming a few facts before writing this blog post I came across the photo which I added to the top of this page. It shows a third generation rat fed GMO soy. Yes that is hair growing inside of its mouth. Soy what, huh?