In the last few decades, soy has become a widely popular food and ingredient that most believe to be a health food. Many vegetarians and non-vegetarians have come to rely on soy products such as soy milk, soy cheese, soy ice cream, soy burgers, edamame, etc. for their protein consumption and think that they are taking good care of their bodies by doing so. Nothing could be further from the truth.
To understand a little bit of the history, the soy industry grew out of the popularity of soy oil, which is extracted from the soy plant. As a result of the popularity of this product, there was a lot of left over protein residue that wasn’t being used and the industry had to find a market for it. Out of a massive advertising campaign and FDA support, Americans soon began to view the soybean as a health food amounting in sales close to $4 billion by 2006.
One of the most disturbing issues with soy is that over 90% of the domestic crop is genetically modified (GM). The reason for this genetic modification is to permit the use of a toxic herbicide called Roundup (produced by Monsanto), without damaging the crop. The promise to farmers is larger and more efficient soy production and a lower cost to the consumer. However, the consequences of consuming a food product that has not only been drenched with a toxic chemical but also contains genes that are not part of the original organism, tells us that the long term consequences and safety of consuming GM crops is unpredictable.
Even if you purchase non-GM, organic, non-fermented soy products, you are still putting your health at risk. Soy has certain properties that can cause blood clotting, improper thyroid function, infertility, a weakened immune system, kidney stones, digestive problems, and even promote breast cancer. When consuming these products, you are also absorbing MSG and aluminum which are formed during soy processing, as well as high amount of phytic acid which can block the proper absorption of key minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc. Those who eat meat are able to counter some of the negative mineral blocking effects, but most heavy soy eaters tend to be vegetarians. It’s also unfortunate that many non-breast feeding women feed their babies soy formula, which is equivalent in estrogen to taking 5 birth control pills daily. This amount of estrogen can be harmful to the baby’s sexual development and reproductive health.
Although non-fermented soy products have many health consequences, fermented (non GM, organic) soy products such as natto, tempeh, miso, and soy sauce (the main type of soy that the Japanese have been consuming for centuries) do offer some health benefits. To begin with, the phytic acid is neutralized during the fermentation process so mineral absorption is not negatively impacted. Fermented soy products are also very good for the digestion system and aid in balancing intestinal flora. And lastly, they are also a good source of vitamin K2, which protects you against brain disorders, cancer, osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease.
It’s important to point out that tofu is not a fermented soy product and should also be avoided for the reasons stated above.
Overall, the best foods to consume are locally produced organic, whole, non-processed, non-GM foods for optimal health and nutrition. For vegetarians concerned about protein consumption, remember that you can easily meet your daily protein requirement by consuming grains (quinoa contains all 9 essential amino acids), beans, nuts, seeds (especially flax), spirulina and chlorella. Other high protein vegetables include celery, spinach, asparagus, sting beans and cauliflower.
Published On: April 03, 2011