Soy has become quite the trendy health food in recent years, but is it as healthy as you think it is? We are here to break down all that soy has to offer as well as the reasons to stay away from this little bean.
Why You Should Be Eating Soy
High Protein Content:
Soy is most popularly known for its high protein content. This bean contains all essential amino acids, which sounds great. However, two of these amino acids are only found in small amounts so it should not be your one and only source of protein.
Linked to cancer prevention:
Soy has been linked to the prevention of breast cancer. The isoflavones in soy closely resemble estrogen in the body. These isoflavones may bond with estrogen receptors in the body, preventing harmful cancer causing cells from binding in the same place. Research has shown that this is definitely a benefit of eating soy in moderation. Cancer.org explains it best,
Furthermore, while isoflavones may act like estrogen, they also have anti-estrogen properties. That is, they can block the more potent natural estrogens from binding to the estrogen receptor. In addition, they stop the formation of estrogens in fat tissue and stimulate production of a protein that binds estrogen in the blood (to make it less able to bind to the receptor). They also have anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and work in other ways to reduce cancer growth.
Menopause Symptom Relief:
This same soy estrogen can also help aide in the relief of menopause symptoms. Since the estrogen found in soy is not nearly as strong as the human hormone it has only been shown to decrease the severity of symptoms, not frequency.
Great Fiber Source:
Fiber is a hot dietary topic these days. Everyone is looking to have better digestive health and soy is a great way to do so. It is a very delicious source of healthy fiber.
Source of Probiotics:
Fermented versions of soy, such as miso, tempeh, and natto are great ways to get in protein all while taking in helpful probiotics. A diet with a regular dose of fermented foods leads to better digestive health and boosts immunity.
Benefits Cognitive Function:
Research is currently being conducted to examine the benefits on memory and cognitive function. There appears to be a critical window - about 65 years old - where soy can help in cognitive function before this time period.
Why You Should Run The Other Way
Most conventional sources of soy are genetically modified organisms (GMO).
Genetically modified organisms would never occur in nature. They have been created by large companies to survive under certain conditions, with the help of specific chemicals. GMOs have been linked to increased food allergies, reproductive disruption, and organ damage among many other things.
Phytic acid, an anti-nutrient, is found in high levels in soy.
Phytic acid is called an anti-nutrient because it prevents the body from properly absorbing, in this case, calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, and zinc. What makes this even more detrimental is if we examine where these nutrients come from in a typical diet compared to those who would regularly eat soy. Calcium, iron, and zinc are frequently found in animal based foods, meaning they are already hard to come by in a vegan or vegetarian diet. These are the same people who are likely to be eating soy on a regular basis, and need to absorb these vital nutrients whenever ingested. Also, according to The Weston A. Price Foundation, high phyate diets have resulted in growth problems in children. This should be noted by everyone, carnivores and herbivorous alike.
The high levels of estrogen in soy can actually promote other types of cancer, even though it may prevent breast cancer.
Also, soy supplements have lead to an increase of breast cancer cells, in lab animals. More research needs to be conducted in humans before we will know if this increase also takes place in humans. So to clarify, soy in food form has been shown to be a breast cancer prevention but soy supplements may increase the risk of breast cancer. Yes we agree, life is confusing.
Most soy products such as soy protein, milk, oil, etc are extremely processed foods.
In order to get any oil from the soybean high temperatures, pressure, and hexane solvents are required. The processing of soy denatures the oil, soy protein isolate, and textured vegetable protein. In particular, soy oil is extremely fragile when used in cooking and becomes rancid.
The bottom line
Whole, organic soybeans in small amounts is not detrimental and probably beneficial to your health. Any other form of soy has more negative attributes than positive, especially when consumed in large quantities. Unfortunately, soy can be found as a filler in almost 75% of processed foods. Be aware of this when walking down the isles in your local grocery store because you are actually eating, and feeding your children, much more soy than you may intend.
Source 1- The Weston A. Price Foundation
Source 2- The Bottom Line on Soy and Breast Cancer Risk (Cancer.org)
Source 3- Soy (Mayo Clinic)
Source 4- Soy and Women's Health: The Truth About Soy Benefits and Safety
Source 5- PUFA: What it is and Why it Should Be Avoided
Source 6- Healthy Truth About Soy