Thanks to the marketing efforts of the soy industry in the U.S. (we are the top producer of soy, contributing around 35% of the world supply), we’ve been deceived into thinking that soy is a phenomenal health food. It’s supposed to be heart-healthy and keep you young. Vegetarians rely on it as a protein source. It’s a widely available alternative for those with lactose intolerance. And the Japanese, whose diet is considered one of the healthiest in the world, have eaten it for years. Unfortunately, the truth is that it’s cheap, easy to process, and therefore has great margins for making money, hence the pervasive marketing. Even worse, it’s toxic to our bodies when not prepared or grown appropriately. Bad news is that the toxic kind is how it’s currently produced and consumed by all of us today.
Soybeans contain two chemicals, goitrogens and phytoestrogens, that affect your thyroid and sex hormones. Traditionally, the Japanese would soak and ferment the soybeans before using them, which neutralizes these harmful chemicals and creates tasty and healthful miso, tofu, etc. But now, in commercially made soy products (even in many of those organically grown), the fermentation process is skipped because it’s cheaper & quicker to do so; instead it is hydrolyzed, a process that does not remove the toxins. So the soy sauce, soy milk, infant formulas, soy protein bars, tofu and most processed products you buy in stores and eat at restaurants are passing those chemicals straight to your body. These chemicals cause thyroid (regulates growth, metabolism and energy levels) issues, like hyper/hypothyroidism and thyroid & pancreatic cancer, as well as reproductive organ problems for both men and women. Soy is also one of the most common allergens, especially among infants and toddlers.
In addition to the fact that already-present chemicals are not removed, the toxic solvent hexane (a chemical by-product of gasoline refining) is used to process soy proteins. Hexane can cause cancer, birth defects, reproductive issues, and adverse effects on the environment.
Even worse, 90% of soybeans are genetically modified, a serious health issue I discussed at length here. The GMO quality of these beans only adds to the health effects, now being linked to sterility and infant mortality.
Seeing a trend here? I don’t know about you, but when I learned about all this, I was immediately motivated to remove soy from my diet. Personally, I saw amazing changes in some hormonal issues I was suffering from within just a few weeks (starting with getting rid of my daily soy-protein bars at breakfast). Here’s a few suggestions to get you started:
- When shopping, go for fresh foods instead of processed items. If you do buy packaged (even organic), look at the ingredients label and avoid these substances: soy, soy protein (isolate/hydrolyzed), soy lecithin, hydrolyzed plant/vegetable protein, monoglycerides, MSG, and soybean oil
- If you are lactose-intolerant or vegetarian, go for cashew, almond or, my favorite, coconut milk. I find that unsweetened, full fat coconut milk tastes the most similar and works in recipes as an easy substitute – plus it makes delicious and healthy whipped cream!
- Start your babies off right – most infant formulas contain GM soy. Breast-feeding is best, but if you must use formula, you will have to make your own, find a local goat farm for milk, or participate in a milk sharing program. Unfortunately, there are no soy-free options available for sale in the United States, but you can import from Europe (Holle brand in Germany).
- Attention meat eaters: many fast food restaurants put soy flour and soy protein in their meat and buns, among other things…
- Lastly, you can still enjoy those tasty Asian dishes with traditionally fermented soy sauce instead. I have found it at every grocery store I’ve visited and I actually like the taste better. Here’s one brand to try. Or, you can use coconut aminos, which has a very similar taste and is completely soy-free.
I’d love to know… Is this the first you’ve heard about the dangers of soy? Will you try removing it from your diet?