Saturday, July 4, 2009

Oh SOY! Why Does Everyone Hate Thee?...

If you're Vegetarian, and even more so if you're Vegan, then chances are you love all the soy-products readily a

vailable out there to replace all those in-humane meat and dairy foods.

But perhaps you have heard some people bash soy, warning you that it is not good for you. Perhaps even had friends or family that do not support your decision to be vegan or vegetarian and try to convince you that soy is evil and should not be trusted. Perhaps even by throwing random articles or little tid-bits they may have heard from the internet or word of mouth in your direction.

So then the question remains, if there is controversy then why? And are these evil tales told regarding your beloved soy products true or false?

I am vegan and I largely take Soy for granted so I decided to look deeper into the issue in the hopes to resolve some of the mixed opinions surrounding this vegetarian delight....unfortunately the more you research the more confusing it seems to becomes. My belief is that the mystery surrounding soy is much like your friends trying to telling you it isn't healthy for you, except instead of friends it's the multi-billion dollar meat and dairy industries threatened by your decision to stop eating animals. However this is just speculation and I did look deeper, spending hours of research onli

ne trying to find reliable sources. What I discovered was that there is no solid answer as most research is in-conclusive, however this is what I came up with; Soy is healthy in Moderation. Of course I did not just decide this for no reason, read on for my reasons and for information you might find useful to save yourself the same time-consuming research I went through.

There are four possible dangers that scientists associate with eating too much Soy--and I will emphasize this, TOO much Soy!! These issues are that the Estrogen levels can disrupt possible hormone function, they contain a toxin that can possibly cause digestive problems, another toxin that can rob the body of minerals, and lastly that it can cause Thyroid disfunction.


You may have heard people warning males that if they eat soy then they'll grow boobs. Or that you don't want women to increase their estrogen levels--we all know how much fun the pill can be right? This may be a large stretch from reality but let's get down to why the exaggerations exist.

Indeed, Soy contains high levels of phytoestrogen. What is phytoestrogen you say? It is an estrogen-like compound in soy known as isoflavones, which occupies estrogen receptors and has weak estrogen effects.

The problem comes down to the estrogen levels in our bodies. These levels change as man and woman age and develop an imbalance--their estrogen ratios become higher. Why is this bad? Because the hormone imbalance is a major reason causing breast cancer and prostate cancer. But no, not feminine guys.

So, back to the phytoestrogen levels found in soy...

These Phytoestrogens mean increased estrogen levels in the body, however they are also a good thing when not over-consumed because they occupy the estrogen receptors in the body where other stronger estrogen may otherwise take over. However, if you consume too much then you end up with more receptors filled that may otherwise be empty. Therefore, the resolution comes down to a simple matter of balance. As with anything you eat or put into your body there is a matter of not over-consuming. Even with healthy foods, and even with water, put too much of it in your body and you will run into problems. This is the exact same with Soy.

Another note, Phytoestrogens have many other good health benefits, as reported in this article:

"phytoestrogens have health benefits including potential reduction in breast cancer, prostate cancer and cardiovascular disease risks, possible protection against osteoporosis (bone loss) and menopausal symptoms. Besides, both flavonoid and lignan phytoestrogens have antioxidantactivity."

If you look at the chart in that article you will also find that there are higher Phytoestrogen levels in Flax Seeds which is considered a super-food!


The research is really quite inconclusive for these next two issues associated with Soy: The toxin levels that inhibit proper digestion and absorption of Minerals. Some researchers claim it's bad, some claim these toxins can help the body.

For example, one article mentions 'Trypsin Inhibitor' found in soybeans which is the harmful toxin responsible for digestive and nutritional problems. On further research however this is a problem with raw soybeans...and how many people eat raw soybeans? Research shows that most, but not all, the Trypsin Inhibitor is removed when raw soybeans are soaked in water, and also is removed in the production of various manufactured soy products. There is also no clear evidence that the remaining trypsin inhibitor that remains has any harmful effects on humans.

Next on our list of possibly harmful Toxins are Phytates, which, yes, are found in soybeans. These Phytates bind to essential minerals such as calcium, iron, and zinc in the digestive tract and prevent them from being absorbed. Soaking and fermenting techniques remove these Phytates, which are also found in a number of other grains. Not all soy products go through this process however, such as tofu, soymilk, texturized soy protein, or soy protein isolate. Still more contradictions arise with other reports that say Phytate levels are not necessarily a bad thing and may shield us from dangerously high levels of minerals such as iron. And there are even some animal studies that suggest phytates stop the growth of cancerous tumors.


There was only one issue with Soy which does seem to have sufficient evidence, and this is related to Thyroid disfunction. These reports claim that Soy consumption leads to the suppression of Thyroid function, i

ncluding hypothyroidism, and inhibits the proper consumption of people taking Thyroid medication. The tests seem to prove truthful although many say that these issues would arise only if you were already apt to hypothyroidism to begin with "For soy to actually cause hypothyroidism, you'd have to be bordering on hypothyroidism to begin with". Also a good thing to note here is that all these reports spoke of people who over-consumed Soy products, which brings me back to the thought that perhaps it is all just a matter of Balance for all these possible problems.


There are a million different inconclusive reports around soy products and one thing I have always been weary about is that the majority of soy products out there are GENETICALLY MODIFIED (GMO) and over processed which always lead to health problems. So I came to wondering if all the controversy surrounding Soy is simply due to the fact it's GMO. Unfortunately I couldn't find any articles with the possible "harmful" effects of soy being related to the GMO process. However, with the majority of soy products being Genetically modified you can be pretty sure any research regarding the controversial food is centered around the majority consumed--which, yes, would be GMO.


Among all the Negative information creeping about the internet there are just as many, if not more, studies claiming it is good. And on top of that, there are plenty of people saying Soy is a super-food and many health-practitioners recommend it.

"Soy protein is found in products like tofu and soymilk to soy nut butter and cereal. Soy protein is heart healthy (helps lower "bad" cholesterol levels) and is rich in phytonutrients. Aim for up to 25 grams of soy protein per day."

To add, Soy is considered a near-perfect protein, and is packed full of compounds that fight disease and promote good health. Not to mention Soy's isoflavones are still said to prevent cancer, cut cholesterol, reverse osteoporosis, and help reduce menopausal symptoms. I have personally seen it in health books for women (sorry I haven't checked the ones for men) under lists of things to prevent cancer, never on the list that causes cancer. On top of that it is also recommended at anti-aging clinics, and many doctors and nutritionists say that "Anyone who wants to live longer should be eating this food."

My Little Conclusion...

All of the controversial research aside, there are a million chemicals, Toxins, and other digestive disrupting foods found in the foods non-vegetarians rely on. Meat takes 6-8hours to digest alone and even longer to digest when consumed with dairy. Meat and dairy are also high in hormone levels and a number of other toxins. So why is all the controversy so high on Soy and not on Meat? Perhaps this is where we should be focussing more attention. Or perhaps all the pesticides and chemicals absorbed in non-organic food. But all that is another story...or blog.

My point is that perhaps all the controversy surrounding Soy has been blown out of proportion and it all really does just come down to a matter of Balance. In the right amount Soy is indeed a super-food, but if over-consumed you may run into the health problems suggested above. If we are going to focus so much attention on whether Soy is good or bad for you then perhaps first we should be reevaluating our diet as a whole (and our meat-eating friends' diets) to see what we eat too much of and what we don't eat enough of.

So to conclude, Balanced amount of Soy=Good. Too much Soy=Bad. And of course if you are going to eat Soy, stay away from GMO products and stick with the good ol' certified Organic Stuff.


Some of the sites I found helpful...I googled a lot more but these are the main ones I took information from.

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  1. What an excellent entry! Loads of amazing info! Kudos to you on the research!

  2. I would also like to add here that it seems to "over-consume" soy and get health problems from it, you would need to be eating over 3 servings a day. So again, you be the judge haha ;)


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