Everyone seems to have a different take on the health factors of soy- some people love it, some hate it, many shrug their shoulders, saying something like, “I dunno. I heard something about it making men grow boobs.” If you do a google search on soy, you will find a variety of studies, equally convincing, either for or against it. I encourage you to do lots of research- read multiple articles and actual studies.
Generally, I avoid tofu and other soy products simply because they are processed. Although I’m not a health professional, I have learned a few things about soy and I want to share this in hopes of clearing up some misunderstandings.
When I first stopped eating meat I went straight to soy patties and tofu chicken. My main concern was about not eating animals, and I thought soy products were a healthy alternative solely based on the fact that they were lower in calories. This is a misconception so many of us have: the fewer the calories, the healthier the food. This idea is gone from my diet, as I allow myself to consume as many calories as I am naturally inclined to take in, and I nutrient-it-up! It has been so liberating and delightful! I’ll have to post about what I eat another day.
The first detail to consider is whether the soy you are eating is organic or genetically modified (GMO). It doesn’t matter if the food itself is healthy. If it contains toxic chemicals, don’t eat it.
Where the confusion lies…
Many people mistakenly categorize soy as one type of food when talking about health benefits and/or hazards. But, there are two types of soy: fermented or unfermented. These two categories are significantly different and pose very contrasting effects on the body.
Fermented soy has been found to offer health benefits. It is rich in isoflavones, which are excellent for the heart and may even prevent cancer, and has not been linked to hypothyroidism, hormonal imbalance, allergies, or kidney disease. On the contrary, unfermented soy may be linked to all of the previously stated ailments, and more.
Soy, in its natural state, contains reactive phytic acid and phytoestrogens. Phytic acid blocks the absorption of some of the proteins and starch, and, in large quantities, can block the assimilation of essential minerals like calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, and zinc in the intestinal tract. Unfermented soy can also inhibit the absorption of one of the most important minerals needed for growth and metabolism, iodine, which is used by the thyroid gland in the production of thyroid hormones.
In large doses, phytoestrogens can potentially mimic the effects of the female hormone, oestrogen, causing hormonal imbalance and health dangers for babies on a soy formula.
When it comes down to it, food that’s derived from soy, whether fermented or unfermented, is usually highly processed. MSG, a potent neurotoxin, is likely formed during soy food processing and additional amounts are added to many soy products.
While I neither encourage nor discourage people from eating soy, ultimately, I feel that eating it in moderation is not a severe detriment to your health. While speculations are made about soy potentially having negative effects when eaten in large quantities, I have found that the effects of eating meat (digestive difficulty, acidity, putrefaction in our intestines, toxicity) are much more detrimental. Unlike animal products, soy does not contain uric acid, saturated animal fat, casein (which has been scientifically proven to promote all stages of cancer), IGF-1 (cancer-promoting hormone), cholesterol, and bovine leukemia virus.
At last, when we stick to a lifestyle of eating live, fresh, unprocessed, organic produce, these worries simply disappear. If we make sure to eat an abundance of organic, natural foods, a bit of soy isn’t likely to harm us. If fermented soy is a staple in your daily diet, try replacing the tofu with tempeh, potato, or legumes, and soy milk with almond, coconut, hemp, or rice milk. And always, enjoy lots of fruits and vegetables!