Think all soy products are good for you? Think again.

Posted on September 20, 2010


Commonly eaten by vegetarians, but also prevalent in many food items that you eat every single day. Soy products are one of the most common ingredients in processed foods today, and one of the most unhealthful things you can eat. “Wait, what?? I thought soy was good for you!!” And that is why we’re having this discussion today. Because it is portrayed in such a misleading way in the marketing campaigns that you may think it has health properties it does not, indeed have.

Not all soy products are unhealthy – only the unfermented ones – fermented soy products are all good & have been used for centuries by Asian cultures. What are unfermented soy products? They are every soy product EXCEPT for tempeh, miso, natto, & soy sauce (although most soy sauces produced commercially are done using wheat – which is unfortunate & unnecessary & thereby rules them unhealthy). These fermented soy products are what have been eaten in small quantities by Asian cultures that have potentially helped them live such long lives compared to the US population.

Dr. Mercola, one of the world’s leading doctors in natural health care, recently posted a comprehensive article, full article here, on why unfermented soy products are just so dangerous to our health. Here are some of his key points:

What Makes Soy So Risky?

1. 91 percent of soy grown in the US is genetically modified (GM). The genetic modification is done to impart resistance to the toxic herbicide Roundup. While this is meant to increase farming efficiency and provide you with less expensive soy, the downside is that your soy is loaded with this toxic pesticide. The plants also contain genes from bacteria that produce a protein that has never been part of the human food supply.

GM soy has been linked to an increase in allergies. Disturbingly, the only published human feeding study on GM foods ever conducted verified that the gene inserted into GM soy transfers into the DNA of our gut bacteria and continues to function. This means that years after you stop eating GM soy, you may still have a potentially allergenic protein continuously being produced in your intestines.

Even more frightening is the potential for GM soy to produce infertility in future generations, which has been evidenced by recent Russian research.

2. Soy contains natural toxins known as “anti-nutrients.”

Soy foods contain anti-nutritional factors such as saponins, soyatoxin, phytates, protease inhibitors, oxalates, goitrogens and estrogens. Some of these factors interfere with the enzymes you need to digest protein. While a small amount of anti-nutrients would not likely cause a problem, the amount of soy that many Americans are now eating is extremely high.

3. Soy is loaded with the isoflavones genistein and daidzein

Isoflavones are a type of phytoestrogen, which is a plant compound resembling human estrogen. These compounds mimic and sometimes block the hormone estrogen, and have been found to have adverse effects on various human tissues. Soy phytoestrogens are known to disrupt endocrine function, may cause infertility, and may promote breast cancer in women. Drinking even two glasses of soymilk daily for one month provides enough of these compounds to alter your menstrual cycle. Although the FDA regulates estrogen-containing products, no warnings exist on soy.

4. Soy infant formula puts your baby’s health at risk.

Nearly 20 percent of U.S. infants are now fed soy formula, but the estrogens in soy can irreversibly harm your baby’s sexual development and reproductive health. Infants fed soy formula take in an estimated five birth control pills’ worth of estrogen every day. Infants fed soy formula have up to 20,000 times the amount of estrogen in circulation as those fed other formulas!

So can soy do anything good for us or is it a “forget it forever” food? If you choose the fermented soy products listed at the top of the article, you can be happy knowing you are consuming a good amount of vitamin K – which is so helpful in maintaining the clotting properties of your blood, as well as in fighting off dementia in the brain, osteoporosis, some forms of cancer & cardiovascular disease.

How to Avoid Unhealthy Soy Products

For a simple rule of thumb, just remember that unless soy is fermented (tempeh, miso, natto, or traditionally made soy sauce), you’re better off avoiding it. Soy foods to avoid include:

  • Tofu
  • TVP (texturized vegetable protein) or soy protein isolate, which contains a large amount of MSG, which you should definitely not consume!
  • Soybean oil
  • Soymilk
  • Soy cheese, soy ice cream, soy yogurt
  • Soy “meat” (meatless products made of TVP)
  • Soy protein
  • Edamame
  • Soy infant formula

I hope you’ll take a look at your food purchases after reading this & make the move to remove soy from your diet. There are so many alternatives that it really just takes attention to detail when you’re in the store to make this happen for you & your family. Consider this yet another lesson to add to your education on exactly what is healthy & what is not. It’s a language, and we’ve just taken another step into “fluent conversation” on healthy eating!

Posted in: nutrition