Holistic Health Article – The Merits and Demerits of Soy Beans by Dr. Leia Melead
A Closer Look at Soy
Soy, Health Food or Toxin?
The current common knowledge that soy is healthy and a panacea for prevention of diseases of all kinds and types is an example of a very good advertising campaign by the marketing industry to promote and popularize the use of soy products to Americans.
Just take a stroll down the grocery store aisles and you will find: soy ice cream, soy powder, soy cheese, soy margarine, infant and baby formula, soy milk, soy weight loss products, soy pills and supplements, tofu, tempeh, miso, and textured soy meat substitutes, and specifically weight loss products like Slimfast with soy protein.
Soy has been touted to help with menopausal symptoms, osteoporosis, heart and circulatory disease, cancer prevention, protein deficiency and as a healthy meat substitute. It is even used as a replacement formula for infants. Can such a single humble soy bean live up to its name?
Let us look at the myths and truth about the common soybean and its products. Hopefully this information on soy protein and soybeans will help you regulate the amount of soy you introduce into your diet.
Soy beans were first cultivated as a food in the Chou dynasty (1134 – 246 BC ) and soy was fermented to make tempeh, natto, and tamari. It was not considered edible without first going through the fermentation process to produce the above foods.
Today, many of the soy products are produced without using the fermentation process. The problem with unfermented soy is is contains toxins which are normally removed via the fermentation process. Unfermented soy naturally contains phytic acid which binds with the nutrient minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and other important necessary minerals and leaches them out of the body. Phytic acid, or phytate, can only be neutralized by the process of fermentation, and not by soaking, cooking, sprouting, grinding, pulverizing, blending or processing.
Dangers of Soy
When children are fed high phytate diets, it can interfere with their growth and can even cause deformities in various organs and parts of the growing body. Another reason why soy should not be used in infant formulas is it contains a high amount of phytoestrogen or plant estrogens which can cause premature sexual development in girls and delayed sexual maturation in boys.
Soy also contains trypsin inhibitors which interfere with protein digestion and pancreatic function which can lead to stunted growth and pancreatic problems in children. Soy lacks cholesterol, which is necessary for the proper development of the nervous system and the brain. Soy can also cause deficiencies of calcium and vitamin D, two important components necessary for the development of strong bones and healthy growth. This is contrary to the belief that soy can help to prevent osteoporosis or to help strengthen bones.
Most of the soy beans grown in the U.S. are genetically modified (GMO) and grown with herbicides and fertilizers unless they are specifically labeled as “organic”. Since GMO foods have not been around long enough to know if there are any inherent danger from eating such altered organisms, then it is wise to use only organic soy products. Furthermore, soy has been touted to be an excellent protein substitute for meat in a vegetarian diet. However, soy is not a complete protein, in that it is deficient in the important sulfur amino acids, cystine and methionine,and modern processing of soy results in the loss of lysine. Therefore it would not be good to go on a soy protein weight loss program because it lacks the correct amino acid balance.
The phytoestrogens, or plant estrogenic substances, in soy have become popularized for menopause and osteoporosis prevention. However, soy phytoestrogens are endocrine disruptors which could have the potential to cause infertility and breast cancer in women, by stimulating the growth of estrogen dependent tumors. It is also popular knowledge that soy foods can contribute to low thyroid dysfunction, which is especially prevalent in menopausal and premenopausal women. All of the major hormones in the body work in concert together and an imbalance in one can affect an imbalance in another. In men, soy phytoestrogens can cause decreased libido by lowering and interfering with the testosterone levels.
Bottom line Information On Soy
Soy should not be used in infant formulae.
- Only fermented soy should be eaten: tempeh, miso, tamari, natto.
- Unfermented soy contains toxins.
- People who have low thyroid function or disease should not eat soy products.
- Men should use soy in moderation unless they need to lower their testosterone levels.
- Always buy organic soy products, not GMO or genetically modified soy.
- Eat soy products in moderation…..more is not necessarily better, but could be toxic to your health.
More specific information about the myths and toxicities of soy can be found on the Weston A. Price Foundation website where you can print and download a free brochure entitled: “Soy Alert!” which is free and can be shared with your family and friends.
By Dr. Leia Melead