Soy: a disease-preventing superfood or a dangerous health threat disguised as a diet-friendly protein? What you need to know.


There is much confusion in the world of nutrition. Some swear by certain food benefits while others stay away from the very same food. One such food that has been the source of much controversy is soy & soy based products.

What is soy?

As stated on Wikipedia:

“Glycine max, commonly known as soybean in North America or soya bean,[3] is a species of legume native to East Asia, widely grown for its edible bean which has numerous uses. The plant, classed as an oilseed rather than a pulse by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, produces significantly more protein per acre than most other uses of land.[4]”

Superfood 

In 1999, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that diets including daily soy resulted in a reduced risk of heart disease, the No. 1 cause of death in North America. At the time of the announcement, soy officially became a darling of health food and a cornerstone of the American diet.

Now, soy products are still widely seen as healthy protein alternatives to their animal counterparts. Soy protein inundates store shelves — creeping into everything from cereal to frozen meals, not to mention more recognizable forms including edamame, tofu, soy milk, soy cheeses, and soy meats.

As soy’s popularity continues, some notable nutritionists and doctors warn against consuming soy in any form, including processed foods containing any type of soy protein.

Isoflavones: Soy’s Potentially Dangerous Compound

The reason for this warning are soy’s isoflavones, naturally occurring plant compounds present is all forms of soy, including organic soy, which is a type of phytoestrogen.

Phytoestrogen – which is produced by soy & some other plants – is slightly different from the estrogen hormone produced by the human body. In excess, it can create some of devastating effects of estrogen overload in both men and women. 

While there are isoflavones in other foods such as legumes, soy has the most concentrated amount and just to make things more confusing, while isoflavones harm some people, they have been found to be beneficial in others. Researchers are still not sure why.

Potential Health Risks

There are numerous studies that link soy consumption to malnutrition, ADHD, immune system issues, reproductive health problems, digestive disorders, certain types of cancers, and more. What’s also important is to note that non-genetically modified soy and organic soy has also been linked to these health conditions. Some countries have gone so far as to issue warnings against the consumption of soy foods for young children and infants.
Some studies still indicate that soy in moderation can still be beneficial — although many of these pro-soy studies have been funded by soy lobbying groups, such as the Soybean Board.
Here’s a look at some of the conditions soy can potentially affect:

  1. Thyroid function.
  2. Allergies.
  3. Reproductive issues.
  4. Increased Cancer risk.
  5. Menopause.

So, should you eat soy?

Soy, like all foods, has pros and cons, so like all foods, the take-home message is to consume it in moderation. Because soy often hides in processed foods under aliases such as “textured vegetable protein,” it’s important to read nutrition labels to make sure it doesn’t have hidden soy along with other ingredients.

A Personal Take

I love miso and soy sauce and I’m not about to stop enjoying these foods…however I enjoy them in moderation and don’t use soy as a protein source nor do I choose soy products in general. I’m definitely not convinced it’s a health food regardless of what some sources say. To be quite honest, whenever something is touted as a superfood or supplement, I always do my research first and see who the source is behind the promotion 😉.

Enjoy this day, and every day!

-LB

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