Soy can provide a significant amount of protein, vitamins, minerals and polyunsaturated fatty acids. The soybean is also a source of resveratrol, phytosterols, and isoflavones — all of which have been scientifically linked to providing benefits for a number of health conditions.
However, there is a dark side to soy, particularly unfermented soy products – dark enough to consider its inherent dangers to outweigh its benefits. The Weston A. Price Foundation is a valuable source for accurate information about our nutrition and health. They are dedicated to putting nutrient-dense foods back on our tables and have done a great job researching this subject to provide us with the truth and myths about soy. Their website contains numerous studies, over several years, should you be interested diving in a bit deeper. Weston A. Price summarizes soy dangers, myths, and truths as follow:
- High levels of phytic acid in soy reduce assimilation of calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc. Phytic acid in soy is not neutralized by ordinary preparation methods such as soaking, sprouting and long, slow cooking. High phytate diets have caused growth problems in children.
- Trypsin inhibitors in soy interfere with protein digestion and may cause pancreatic disorders. In test animals soy containing trypsin inhibitors caused stunted growth.
- Soy phytoestrogens disrupt endocrine function and have the potential to cause infertility and to promote breast cancer in adult women.
- Soy phytoestrogens are potent antithyroid agents that cause hypothyroidism and may cause thyroid cancer. In infants, consumption of soy formula has been linked to autoimmune thyroid disease.
- 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.
Myth: Use of soy as a food dates back many thousands of years.
Truth: Soy was first used as a food during the late Chou dynasty (1134-246 BC), only after the Chinese learned to ferment soy beans to make foods like tempeh, natto and tamari.
Myth: Asians consume large amounts of soy foods.
Truth: Average consumption of soy foods in Japan and China is 10 grams (about 2 teaspoons) per day. Asians consume soy foods in small amounts as a condiment, and not as a replacement for animal foods.
Myth: Modern soy foods confer the same health benefits as traditionally fermented soy foods.
Truth: Most modern soy foods are not fermented to neutralize toxins in soybeans, and are processed in a way that denatures proteins and increases levels of carcinogens.
Myth: Soy foods provide complete protein.
Truth: Like all legumes, soy beans are deficient in sulfur-containing amino acids methionine and cystine. In addition, modern processing denatures fragile lysine.
Myth: Fermented soy foods can provide vitamin B12 in vegetarian diets.
Truth: The compound that resembles vitamin B12 in soy cannot be used by the human body; in fact, soy foods cause the body to require more B12
Myth: Soy formula is safe for infants.
Truth: Soy foods contain trypsin inhibitors that inhibit protein digestion and affect pancreatic function. In test animals, diets high in trypsin inhibitors led to stunted growth and pancreatic disorders. Soy foods increase the body’s requirement for vitamin D, needed for strong bones and normal growth. Phytic acid in soy foods results in reduced bioavailabilty of iron and zinc which are required for the health and development of the brain and nervous system. Soy also lacks cholesterol, likewise essential for the development of the brain and nervous system. Megadoses of phytoestrogens in soy formula have been implicated in the current trend toward increasingly premature sexual development in girls and delayed or retarded sexual development in boys.
Myth: Soy foods can prevent osteoporosis.
Truth: Soy foods can cause deficiencies in calcium and vitamin D, both needed for healthy bones. Calcium from bone broths and vitamin D from seafood, lard and organ meats prevent osteoporosis in Asian countries—not soy foods.
Myth: Modern soy foods protect against many types of cancer.
Truth: A British government report concluded that there is little evidence that soy foods protect against breast cancer or any other forms of cancer. In fact, soy foods may result in an increased risk of cancer.
Myth: Soy foods protect against heart disease.
Truth: In some people, consumption of soy foods will lower cholesterol, but there is no evidence that lowering cholesterol with soy protein improves one’s risk of having heart disease.
Myth: Soy estrogens (isoflavones) are good for you.
Truth: Soy isoflavones are phyto-endocrine disrupters. At dietary levels, they can prevent ovulation and stimulate the growth of cancer cells. Eating as little as 30 grams (about 4 tablespoons) of soy per day can result in hypothyroidism with symptoms of lethargy, constipation, weight gain and fatigue.
Myth: Soy foods are safe and beneficial for women to use in their postmenopausal years.
Truth: Soy foods can stimulate the growth of estrogen-dependent tumors and cause thyroid problems. Low thyroid function is associated with difficulties in menopause.
Myth: Phytoestrogens in soy foods can enhance mental ability.
Truth: A recent study found that women with the highest levels of estrogen in their blood had the lowest levels of cognitive function; In Japanese Americans tofu consumption in mid-life is associated with the occurrence of Alzheimer’s disease in later life.
Myth: Soy isoflavones and soy protein isolate have GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status.
Truth: Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) recently withdrew its application to the FDA for GRAS status for soy isoflavones following an outpouring of protest from the scientific community. The FDA never approved GRAS status for soy protein isolate because of concern regarding the presence of toxins and carcinogens in processed soy.
Myth: Soy foods are good for your sex life.
Truth: Numerous animal studies show that soy foods cause infertility in animals. Soy consumption enhances hair growth in middle-aged men, indicating lowered testosterone levels. Japanese housewives feed tofu to their husbands frequently when they want to reduce his virility.
Myth: Soy beans are good for the environment.
Truth: Most soy beans grown in the US are genetically engineered to allow farmers to use large amounts of herbicides.
Myth: Soy beans are good for developing nations.
Truth: In third world countries, soybeans replace traditional crops and transfer the value-added of processing from the local population to multinational corporations.
In addition to all of the above concerns, over 90% of all soy grown in the United States is genetically modified. Decades on marketing spins on this so called “health food” will take time to undo. Try to take the time to study and learn all about Roundup ready genetically modified soy. Look at all of the studies published on soy and you are likely to reach the same conclusion that its dangers well outweigh its benefits. Put aside the comparison to Asian soy consumption. Asians consume about 10 grams, around 2 teaspoons a day, as a condiment, and it is FERMENTED. Soy manufacturers have encouraged Americans to consume 100 grams of soy protein each day – 10X that of the Asian consumption. Asians also consume soy with nutrient dense foods and minerals that naturally support the thyroid, basically negating any potential negative impact. However, the evidence is all there.
Is there a safe way to consume soy products?
ORGANIC, FERMENTED soy products such as tempeh, miso, natto, and soy sauce can safely be consumed in moderation and offer the health benefits you seek. (*Please note, tofu is NOT a fermented soy product and is NOT a healthy protein option.*) During the fermentation process the beneficial aspects of soy can become available to your system as the phytate and nutrient blocking properties are reduced.
If you are looking for a safe alternative to milk due to any intolerance, consider a coconut or almond milk. Steer clear of the soy milk. This lovely mix of soy protein, sugar, and vegetable is anything but healthy for you. Remember, soy protein isn’t exactly yummy all by itself. When manufacturers attempt to take a fake food and imitate something real, consider all of the additives that were needed to produce its copycat. That soy burger may have the ability to trick your brain, but it certainly can’t trick your health. Unfermented soy isn’t a real food, no matter how well you attempt to dress it up.
When it comes to Gout, we still see a lot of vegan/vegetarian sufferers. After assessing their situation, we almost always find either an abundance of soy being consumed or general diet imbalances by not choosing healthy and creative ways of eating in the absence of meat. Inflammation reducing diets do not have to be bland and boring. Achieving balance through better diet resources and optimal supplement support, you can gain better control of your health.