The Soy Debate Unravelled

 I’ll start with the good:

Soybeans are part of the legume family, originating in East Asia. The soybean is significantly higher in fat, lower in carbohydrate and slightly higher in protein than other legumes. It also contains all of the essential amino acids, making it a “complete protein” and extremely valuable to those who limit animal protein.

There are areas throughout the world, called Blue Zones, where people have the longest lifespans. This phenomenon is due to diet and lifestyle, rather than medicine. One such place is in Okinawa, in Japan’s Ryukyu Island chain. In addition to the sweet potatoes, rice, root vegetables, and leafy greens, the Okinawans eat a diet high in soy, mostly in the form of miso and tofu. To put this into perspective, there are 68 centurions per 100,000 people living in Okinawa; that figure is more than 3 times the numbers found in U.S. populations of the same size. 

The benefits of soy are seemingly endless… but yet we keeping hearing about this “fear”. More on that later. I’m still divulging the truth:

The many benefits of soy:

  • May increase life span WHEN combined with a healthy diet - one high in vegetables, legumes, fruit, seeds and nuts.
  • It has been shown that eating soy results in a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • May help to treat menopause-related hot-flash symptoms
  • Helps to prevent metabolic syndrome (high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, high triglycerides and weight gain) which increases risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes
  • Researchers found that the isoflavones in soy help protect against osteoporosis. Isoflavones exhibit antioxidant, anticancer, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • It’s a healthy source of plant-based protein containing all 9 amino acids, making it a “complete protein”. Tempeh (fermented soy - tastes like cheese) contains 34 grams of protein in just 1 cup. That’s nearly half of the recommended daily amount for most people.
  • Soy has an effect on estrogen that not only protects against breast cancer, but also reduces the rate of breast cancer recurrence and breast cancer mortality
  • Contains protease inhibitors, similar to those found in treatments for HIV and Hepatitis C. These inhibitors have been shown to reduce not only breast cancer in women but also colon and prostate cancer

The bad:

  • The shaft on soy came from an article published in 2009 by Men’s Health Magazine (not exactly a peer-reviewed publication). This inaccurate report claimed that soy causes “male feminization”. Or, to put it another way, the meat industry PR machine and lobbyists have struck again! There has been no evidence of this occurring. Actually, cow’s milk can cause male feminization. The cows are given hormones to increase their milk production, which in turn causes lower testosterone production in men.
  • There has been concern about thyroid hormones being affected by soy. While it is true that soy isoflavones may inhibit an enzyme that helps add iodine to a protein that produces the thyroid hormones, it has more to do with the underconsumption of iodine.

So the solution here is to make sure you have sufficient iodine in your diet (found in salt and sea vegetables - seaweed, kelp, etc).

 The ugly:

  • Soybeans are grown on 75 million acres of land in the U.S. That’s more than 100 times the size of the state of Rhode Island. Most of this soy is NOT fit for human consumption. As a matter of fact, more than 70% of U.S. soy is grown for livestock.
  • 94% of soybeans have been genetically engineered (sprayed with glyphosate), making it vital that you only consume organic soy.
  • Most of the soy produced for human consumption is processed into soy oil and soy protein isolate (used in vegetarian “meats” and other “frankenfoods”).

The bottom line:

We should only eat organic soy coming in the form of soybeans, tofu, miso, tempeh and natto.

Soy milk is more highly processed so it shouldn’t be consumed in large amounts. Make sure you check the package label on soy products for the “Organic” stamp.

An important thing to remember when we talk about plant-based diets and superstar plants is that this does NOTHING for the profitability of the meat and dairy industry. As a matter of fact, the meat industry sees plant-based diets as a major threat. So, as more people move away from burgers, expect to see more faulty studies like what we’ve seen with soy.


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