Errrrr…stop. Step away from the edamame.
Soy has been touted as one of the protein replacement, as a health food even. You will find it in various forms in lots of packaged foods because it is and inexpensive substitute for other ingredients. You will find vegans and vegetarians everywhere devouring tofu products by the pounds. You will find it in your name brand chocolate, in your mayo (even your “made with olive oil” mayo), and yikes…even as the main ingredient in infant formulas.
Just yesterday my hubby brought home some little packages of Kraft Balsamic Vinaigrette that touted “made with Extra Virgin Olive Oil.” I thought “WOW” that is amaze-balls! But a quick flip of the package to the ingredients list revealed….oops, no its vegetable oil that is a mix of “soy oil and other vegetable based oils”…. WHAT?!?!?!
So why exactly is soy so bad for you?
In short, there are thousands of studies, not a handful but THOUSANDS linking soy to:
- digestive troubles and immune-system breakdown
- autoimmune disease
- mental decline
- reproductive disorders, including infertility
- increased risk for cancer and heart disease
It’s unfortunate that so many have been led to believe that soy is a part of a healthy lifestyle. For years it was marketed as a “superfood” but the truth is that it is something to diligently avoid.
Okay, but what about the details, ya know scientifically?
Where to start?… Let’s keep it simple… soy is the most rich plant in something called phytoestrogens. (Comes from the greek word phyto meaning plant and estrogen the hormone that causes fertility in all female mammals.) In nature, phytoestrogens exist in plants as a defense mechanism to help stifle the fertility of animals that eat them.
In humans, phytoestrogens disrupt the endocrine system with the potential to cause fertility problems in women and cause hormonal changes in men that may lead to lower testosterone. Phytoestrogens are anti-thyroid agents that cause thyroid issues such as hypothyroidism. Phytoestrogens are also shown to increase Alzheimers diagnoses.
Phytoestrogens are also linked to weight gain.
Soy is also very high in phytic acid. Phytic acid reduces the bodies ability to absorb important vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin D, vitamin B12, calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, and zinc.
Soy is often touted as a “complete protein.” From a biological standpoint, it is missing key amino acids, halting protein synthesis in the body for that particular cell.
What about baby formula?
Babies consuming soy have 13,000 times or more estrogen in their bloodstreams. Some experts tout soy formula as “birth control for babies” because infants fed exclusively soy formula are receiving the estrogen equivalent of 4 birth control pills per day (source Dr. Mercola). In infants, soy phytoestrogens have been linked to autoimmune thyroid diseases, and is heavily linked to seizures in children (source Health Ambition).
Is there a way soy is safe?
There is a group of women, age 50+ or those that have reached menopause that can benefit from phytoestrogens, however in general the risks of soy far outweigh the benefits.
Additionally organic fermented soy, as a condiment helps to reduce the harmful aspects of soy and enhance the healthy ones.
What should I do?
Read labels carefully, you will be surprised as to what has soy in it and what doesn’t. Try to avoid it as much as possible. If you are consuming whole food diet (not pre-packaged) then you are avoiding it mostly. If you are thinking that you don’t consume too much soy, but you are suffering from conditions associated with too many phytoestrogens, consider that there are phytoestrogens occurring in lesser concentration in lots of other things: Beer, Coffee, Bourbon, Wheat, Oats, Barley, Hops. It’s even found in some essential oils like Clary Sage and Jasmine. So it maybe a combination of all the other things you consume + your soy.
This will likely rub vegans and vegetarians the wrong way, as people who choose that lifestyle typically consume far more soy in the form of protein supplementation, tofu, etc than the average meat-eater. While I am an advocate for a Paleo/Primal lifestyle I understand that it is not for everyone. If you are vegan or vegetarian, there are numerous soy alternatives for protein.