I’ve always thought that soy was good for me”one of those health foods that I should try to incorporate into my diet more often.
But I recently uncovered some disturbing data that’s made me reconsider whether soy is a health food after all. Proponents of soy tell us that it’s a major staple in the Asian diet, and one of the reasons why there are low incidences of heart disease, cancer and other diseases in the countries of Japan, China, Korea, Vietnam and Thailand.
It’s true that soybeans are an important nutrient in China, for example. There, they’ve been used as both a food and medicine for more than 5,000 years. However, the Chinese only consume about 1.5 percent of their calories from soy foods, which isn’t very much. They also eat fermented soy products such as tempeh and miso.
The process of fermentation destroys toxins present on the soybeans, making the nutrients in the beans available to the body. In contrast, tofu, soymilk other non-fermented soy foods contain harmful phytochemicals that can have toxic effects on the body. In fact, unfermented soy has been linked to immune and reproductive disorders, allergies, digestive upset, endometriosis, premenstrual syndrome and a higher risk of heart disease and cancer.
Isoflavones are one cause of soy-related health issues. These are phytoestrogens, or plant-based estrogens, that are found in unfermented soy and which mimic estrogen in our bodies. These isoflavones can disrupt your menstrual cycle, enlarge your thyroid and suppress your thyroid function. Research has shown isoflavones can also cause infertility, thyroid disease, and liver disease.
Soy contains phytates, enzyme-inhibitors that prevent our digestive tract from absorbing minerals. Apparently phytates are in all grains, seeds, nuts and legumes, but soy is so high in them that they are very hard to neutralize. Soy is also high in trypsin inhibitors. Trypsin is an enzyme we need to digest protein.
So if soy is suppressing its production, you face an increased risk of developing stomach cramps, diarrhea and in rare cases, pancreatic disorders. It has also been shown that soy is a goitrogen, a food that promotes the formation of goiter, an enlarged thyroid. Goitrogens work by preventing your thyroid from getting the necessary amount of iodine. Goiter can cause your neck to swell, and lead to difficulty swallowing and breathing. Some sufferers eventually require surgery to remove the mass.
Some studies reveal that is the over consumption of soy that causes these health issues, so you don’t have to avoid soy completely. But do choose fermented products, including miso, tempeh, or natto. And if you must eat tofu, soymilk or other non-fermented soy products, consume them only occasionally and in very small quantities.