I get asked about soy protein and soy products all the time and about whether they are healthy or not. I am presented with new ‘healthy’ protein drinks that people think we should carry in our gym nearly every week, but they are soy-based.
I am going to go out on a limb and state clearly that from all that I have read, researched and personally experienced, my answer is a clear ‘no thanks’ when it comes to soy.
So how come most people think soy is a health food? Simple – effective marketing. Marketing is responsible for far more ‘health’ trends than research ever could be. It’s about stretching a vein of truth into more than it is. It’s about revealing part of a study, or an aspect of a study rather than the whole study.
So why do I think soy is so bad? There are lots of reasons actually, starting with where soy comes from. Over 90% of soy available in North America is genetically modified to resist herbicides so that farmers can spray the fields and save money. One of the gene modifications in GM soy produces a protein that has never in history been part of the human food supply. This modification has been shown to cause allergies, and damage the DNA in our own gut bacteria. A huge problem as well is the fact that most of the soy used in the world is for animal feed (some estimates are as high as 80%) – including animals that have never, or would never, actually eat
Meat eating animals in zoos around the world began having fertility and digestion problems that stopped when soy was removed from their diet.
Soy contains elements that cause your red blood cells to clump together so they cannot properly distribute oxygen or function to remove waste in your body (hemagglutinin), as well as phytic acid, which prevents the absorption of calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc. Ironically for vegetarians – eating meat helps reduce the mineral blocking effects of phytates.
The genistein and daidzein in soy are phytoestrogens (which can mimic and block your natural estrogen). This has been linked to infertility, changing female menstrual cycles along with other hormonal risks. Further, infant formula based on soy can contain an estimated five birth control pills work of estrogen every day. This can have the effect of causing very early puberty in children and far worse problems.
Thyroid problems, early menopause, low energy, depression, and more problems all the time are being directly linked with consumption of soy. A study from Singapore showed a significant increase in bladder cancer.
Avoiding soy is getting harder all the time. Many of the foods we know and love have had the normal oils and ingredients replaced with soy. This includes things like mayonnaise and Miracle Whip, breads, crackers, cakes, pastries, cereal, salad dressings, and more.
As I have said over and over again in these articles – we must learn to read food labels – our very lives depend upon it.
As you read this, you may be wondering haven’t Asian cultures used soy for hundreds or thousands of years? Yes, and here is the big distinction to make — they used fermented soy, and only small amounts.
Soy was widely known thousands of years ago as an inedible plant, it was used as fertilizer until it was learned that by fermenting it, it could be eaten in small quantities. Fermented soy is in products such as miso, Soy sauce, tempeh and natto.
Tofu is not on the list, as it is not fermented, and therefore, not (in my opinion) healthy.
The book The Whole Soy Story: the dark side of America’s favourite Health
Food by Kaayla T. Daniel PhD, CCN is an eye opening read.
So what do people with milk allergies drink or use instead? I think that is probably the biggest driving force behind the popularity of soy beverages.
Almond Milk or Rice Milk are a good alternative. As always, read the ingredients and the avoid sugar and things you do not recognize or cannot pronounce.