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Soy: Friend or Foe?

by Cheryl Grace, copyright © 2005-2012


When it comes to the subject of soy, there is conflicting information on whether it’s a super food or a source of “anti-nutrients.” Soybeans are legumes that look like peas in a pod but are much larger. Proponents of soy claim that Asian’s have reaped benefits from soy as a staple in their diet, but fail to mention that they also eat soy in moderation. Asians traditionally eat mostly fermented soy products. Anytime you eat too much of any one specific food, especially if that food is rich in protein, over time you may increase your risk of becoming intolerant to that food.

The following information will help you make a decision either way.

Soy is high in soluble fiber, Omega3-fatty acids, iron, phytoestrogens and is cholesterol-free. Soy offers the highest amount of protein in the plant food group. But not all soy is created equal. Eating large amounts of unfermented soy products, GMO-based soy products, or processed foods made with soy protein isolate can wreak havoc on your health. In the US, soy is mass-produced to meet the demand, resulting in it being one of the highest genetically altered food products on the market. Unless the food is labeled “Certified Organic”, it is treated with a staggering amount of pesticides. It may also be treated with solutions that have high aluminum content, which is extremely toxic to the body.

Perhaps the best way to reap the benefits of soy, besides moderation, is to concentrate on eating only those soy products that minimize any harmful affects to overall health.

Fermented vs unfermented soy products: Foods made with fermented soy are thought to be healthier than unfermented soy, as they don’t contain added MSG or MSG-like compounds, or hydrolyzed vegetable protein which behaves like MSG in the body. Examples of foods made with fermented soy include tamari (the real soy sauce and gluten free), miso and tempeh…which has more protein and fiber than tofu. Symptoms that signal a reaction to unfermented soy include headaches, sweating, nausea, weakness, shortness of breath or heart palpitations. Unfermented soy products to avoid entirely or eat in moderation include tofu, soymilk, processed foods may with soy and are marketed as “meat substitutes.”

Processed Soy Products: Many processed foods now contain soy in one form or another. It’s used as a meat-extending additive in readymade foods such as hamburgers, meatballs, spaghetti sauces, sausages, breads and pastries. Vegans are turning to meat alternatives that include soy cheese, soy burgers and hot dogs, protein drinks and bars, soy nuggets, ice cream and yogurt— all in an attempt to feel like they are not missing out anything they have enjoyed in the past. The vast majority of these processed foods are made with soy protein isolate and preservatives and are considered to be no better that donuts and conventional fast food. 

Frankensoy: To further add insult to injury, soy products might not be natural or food based at all! In an attempt to grow soybeans able to withstand common pesticides and herbicides, corporations have created genetically modified organisms (GMO) known as biotech or genetically engineered food. GMO refers to crop plants that have been modified in a laboratory to enhance desired traits. Critics of GMO “foods” wonder if it is even safe. It’s simply not genuine food. The government does not require manufacturers to label GMO food on their list of ingredients or packaging, so look for soy products with the label “non-GMO.”

Allergies: In the 80’s, Stuart Berger, M.D., labeled soy one of the seven top allergens behind peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, shellfish and wheat. Food allergies are abnormal inflammatory responses of the immune system. Reactions may include coughing, sneezing, lowered blood pressure, gas and bloating, sweating, hives, runny nose, diarrhea with more severe reactions including anaphylactic shock and death. The hidden amount of soy in the food supply may be responsible for triggering allergic reactions because most people aren’t aware of the soy connection. 

The most important point here is that it is best to eat a variety of foods and avoid eating large amounts of unfermented soy products. Remember, soymilk doesn’t even exist in nature, such as a fruit, vegetable or cow’s milk. It is a processed food! For detailed information on the effects of soy, read The Whole Soy Story by Kaayla T. Daniel, PhD.

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