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To Soy or Not to Soy?

To Soy or Not to Soy?

Soy is often considered a health food in America, and is frequently used as a substitute for dairy on casein free diets.  But it may not be an ideal food.  In fact, it may be downright dangerous if not consumed responsibly.  Highly allergenic, full of anti-nutrients with potentially harmful estrogenic effects and other significant health risks.  Does that sound like a health food to you?  Let’s talk a bit about soy.

Why So Much Soy?

Because the Japanese consume soy and live longer, healthier lives, Americans took a leap and assumed that the soy in their diet was a big contributing factor.  Then we took another leap and decided that more soy was better and began consuming unfermented soy in large amounts.  We now actually consume more soy than the Japanese or Chinese, and we often eat it in ways those cultures would never recognize.  Not only do we prepare it improperly, we often eat it in highly processed forms such as “textured vegetable protein” and “soy protein isolate”.

Some argue that since most of the soy in America is genetically modified, consuming organic soy is safe and healthy.  While GMO soy does contain more pesticides, this is not the primary problem.

What’s Wrong With Soy?

Soy is a highly allergenic food. It is one of the top allergens now, thanks to the prevalence of GMO soy and the fact that it is very difficult to digest in the ways we consume it. Soy is broken down by DPP-IV, the same enzyme needed for the proper digestion of gluten and casein that is so often lacking.  Traditionally, in cultures that have thrived on soy as a part of their diet for generations, soy is usually eaten fermented.  But with our modern ways we tend to eat it unfermented and in processed forms that denature the soy protein, making it even more difficult to digest.  Then we go and put it in everything because it is supposedly so good for us.  Soy is a very challenging ingredient to avoid if you eat any processed food.

Soy is high in phytic acid.  Phytic acid is an anti-nutrient because it reduces our ability to assimilate minerals and can lead to deficiencies.  In order to neutralize this phytic acid, you must ferment soy for a long period of time, as was traditionally done.

Soybeans are very high in trypsin inhibitors.  Trypsin is an enzyme that breaks protein down into amino acids so that they can be used by the body.  Trypsin inhibitors block the action of trypsin so they can’t break protein down.  This can lead to digestive problems, but this is another negative of soy that can be overcome by fermentation.

Soy is also high in lectins, anti-nutrients that destroy the villi of the small intestine and increase gut permeability. Soy is high in oxalates, which cause kidney stones and many, many other health issues. The way we process soy creates MSG, an excitotoxin that damages our neurons by exciting them to death. The vitamin B12 analogues in soy create an even greater need for B12 in the body.  The list of negatives goes on.

And we are just now getting to the worst part of soy. Soy has estrogenic properties due to high content of phystoestrogens called isoflavones. This is a problem that cannot be overcome with fermentation.  These suppress the thyroid and have very questionable effects on hormones, especially in men and children.  They will have different effects on women during infancy, puberty, pregnancy and menopause, and while they are purported to be beneficial to woman, they may have very negative effects during particular stages of life.

Excess soy consumption during  pregnancy has shown in many animal studies to promote birth defects involving sex organs.

Soy’s high manganese content may be dangerous to children.  Did you know that the symptoms of manganese poisoning are indistinguishable to autism?  Soy formula, anyone? Soy formula is also associated with growth disorders, improper physical development and maturation, problems with hormones and sex organs, asthma and allergies, and disorders of the brain and nervous system.

Soy may lower testosterone in men and is not good for fertility.  In Asia this is traditional wisdom.  Did you know that Japanese wives feed extra helpings of soy to unfaithful husbands?  It is also popular with Zen monks to help them keep their vows of celibacy.

Without the benefit of traditional wisdom we are eating this powerful food improperly, with many undesired effects.

Soy Falls Flat on its Promises?

The claims that soy lowers cholesterol or prevents heart disease are shaky at best.  Evidence is now showing that cholesterol may not be a good marker of heart disease. Soy is also known to increase certain heart diseases and  heart arrhythmias.  It is likely to increase homocysteine in the body, which can cause heart disease, aging, cancer, and more.  Homocysteine pathways are already known to be disordered in autism and related conditions.

The claims about soy helping breast cancer are misleading.  In fact, some governments have proclaimed that soy accelerates breast cancer risk.   Cornell University has said that women diagnosed or with a family history of breast cancer should be careful with soy.  Soy is said to be helpful for Menopause but the evidence is showing thyroid problems with long-term use.  Some governments and agencies have actually issued warnings against high soy consumption.

What’s the Final Word?

If you are dairy free, and thinking about replacing cow’s milk with soy milk, instead of drinking cow’s milk that is promoted for its calcium benefits, you are drinking something that actually prevents the absorption of calcium. When you weigh pros and cons, soy milk is probably not the best milk replacement.

I tend to think that organic, fermented soy is probably fine in small amounts, perhaps even beneficial, as long as you weigh the considerations above.  But we should learn from traditional wisdom and eat it with respect as a food that has very powerful properties and requires proper preparation as the Asians do.  It is probably best eaten within the context of a traditional Asian diet, which likely includes complementary nutrients. In my opinion, it always goes back to learning from the wisdom of traditional diets. Because if our ancestors have thrived on it for generations, we probably will too.

For More Information:

Soy Alert, by The Weston A. Price Foundation

The Dark Side of Soy, by Mary Vance

The Whole Soy Story: The Dark Side of America’s Favorite Health Food, by Kaayla Daniel







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This post was featured at Beyond the Peel’s Keep It Real Thursday, Weekend Whatever at Creative Christian Mama, and Healthy 2Day Wednesday at Authentic Simplicity, Young Living Oil Lady, Whole Intentions, and The Cheapskate Cook.



This post is linked to Simple Lives Thursday, Thank your Body Thursday, Thursday Favorite Things, Thought Provoking Thursday, Gluten Free Friday, Freaky Friday, Fresh Bites Friday, Anything Goes Friday, Small Footprint Friday, Simply Natural Saturdays, Clever Chicks, Butter Believer, Sunny Simple Sunday, Monday Mania, Motivation Monday, Mop It Up Monday, Better Mom Mondays, Inspire Me Monday, Hearth and Soul Hop, Family Table Tuesday, Traditional Tuesdays, Teach Me Tuesday, Heart & Home, Domestically Divine Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, Party Wave Wednesday, Real Food Wednesday, Gluten Free Wednesday, Works For Me Wednesday, Wheat Free Wednesday, Allergy Free Wednesday, Healthy 2Day Wednesday, The Mommy Club, Wildcrafting Wednesday, Seasonal Celebration Wednesday, Thriving on Thursdays, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Proverbs 31 Thursdays, Mommy-Brain Mixer, Tasty Traditions, Think Tank Thursday, Show Off Friday, Natural Living Monday, Gluten Free Monday, Mama Moments Monday, The Bulletin Board, Anti-Procrastination Tuesday, The Gathering Spot, Living Green Tuesdays, Titus 2sdays, Tutorial Tuesday, Scratch Cookin’ Tuesday, Open Call Tuesday, Mom’s Library, Adorned From Above, Whole Foods Wednesday, Encourage One Another Wednesday, Homemaking Link-Up, Sugar and Spice, What I Learned Wednesday, Your Green Resource, Keep It Real Thursday, Thriving Thursday, Frogs & Snails, Creative Juice Thursday, Shine on Fridays, Fight Back Friday, Your Great Idea, Weekend Whatever, Natural Living, Living Life Intentionally TGIF, Women Living Well, and TALU Tuesday.

58 Comments

  1. chrissy says:

    Dawn…I have always looked askance at the heavy consumption of soy in America. It is present in nearly everything that is either super processed or created as a replacement for the real deal…as in vegan stuff, fake cheese, fake meat, etc. And it tastes terrible, in my opinion. I am so thankful that my skeptical nature led me away from it from the beginning of our foray into special diets for the boys….heaven knows they don’t need MORE issues with their thyroid, digestion, etc. I am also thankful we ate a relatively whole foods type of diet before going gf etc, because that may have been a factor in protecting Elijah from some of the worst case scenario effects of unfermented, highly processed soy. He’s never had any form of formula or imitation food in his life, one episode with Daiya cheese notwithstanding (an experience we want to block out of our memory….gack!).
    It has been a simple and, I thought, an obvious choice…eat the actual thing (real cheese, real meat, whathaveyou) and eat simple things that my great-grandma would have recognized as food. We are all healthier for this path we have taken, helped liberally by you. Love ya!!!

    • Dawn Tasher says:

      Chrissy, you are such a doll! :) That mama gut of yours is incredible and you are smart enough to listen to it over the hype. Too many of us get caught up in what is purported to be healthy and we trust others above our own instincts…I am guilty of that myself. Your mama gut has served you so well and I know you will honor it always to the benefit of your entire family!

  2. [...] posts this week: Too Much Blame on the Grain? – A grain-free diet is not right for everyone! To Soy or Not to Soy? – Soy may be downright dangerous if not consumed [...]

  3. Lisa Lynn says:

    I’m in the process of weaning myself from soy milk. It’s tough! This is good information to reconfirm my decision :) I would love to have you share this on Wildcrafting Wednesday this week!
    http://www.theselfsufficienthomeacre.com/

  4. I totally agree with you. I can live with it:)

    Hopping by and following your twitter and FB.

    I am also inviting you to join my store’s first giveaway event http://thequietmom.com/blog/tdhs-1st-giveaway

  5. Sheila says:

    I had my thyroid radiated due to a tumor so now I’m on Synthroid. It is hard for me because I have a milk allergy even when I drink lactose free milk. I have to drink about once a week. Soy messes with my thyroid so I can’t drink that too often. I just read I can drink it as long as it’s been 4 hours since taking my thyroid meds.

  6. I’m visiting from the Clever Chicks blog hop! I couldn’t agree more! Soy is nasty stuff! The only thing I’m having trouble finding information about is the consumption of edamame. We eat these probably once a month and the whole family loves them. I have heard conflicting reports about their healthfulness. Do you have an opinion?

    • Dawn Tasher says:

      Hi Heather! I try not to demonize foods…edamame does contain antinutrients and phytoestrogens but once a month certainly does not sound excessive to me!

  7. Gina B says:

    I’ve never been a big fan of soy (I find it kind of yucky) but it’s in so MANY FOODS! When I took my kids gluten-free, I didn’t even know how many foods have it in them and was shocked. I have a friend who has food allergies and I think she’s lucky – soy literally gives her pain. If only it were that easy, but with kids who don’t communicate, it’s hard to guess :) thank you for this info!

    • Dawn Tasher says:

      Gina, it really is in so many foods! It is so very hard to guess what is bothering our children that cannot express their feelings! I think if you find it yucky that says a lot. I always try to listen to my instincts. :)

  8. 'Becca says:

    I think your last paragraph is a very sensible conclusion. My family eats tofu or edamame about twice a month, and we use soy sauce (fermented) a lot, but we avoid processed foods with soy. We buy only organic soy, except for our soy sauce which is from Japan so probably not GMO.

    Nobody in our family has any of the disorders on which your blog focuses. If we did, I certainly would reconsider whether the person with the disorder needed a soy-free diet.

    Here’s a nice summary on recent research about soy.

  9. Janis Cox says:

    HI,
    Linking from Inspire Me Monday – I found out I have an allergy to soy. Now – maybe it is because in trying to avoid wheat – I ate more soy products. And cutting back on beef – I ate more soy products. But I get quite a reaction when eating soy – stomach cramps and even acid reflux.

    So yes – soy may not be a good alternative. I have found that I must ask very carefully and read labels closely to find if products contain soy. We don’t eat out much.

    Blessings,
    Janis

    • Dawn Tasher says:

      Janis, I think it is wonderful that you were able to troubleshoot this. I think so many people walk around feeling bad all the time and they cannot connect their symptoms to a particular food. We don’t eat out much either. We like to know what is in our food! Thanks for stopping by!

  10. Cindy says:

    Great article! It is such a great debate! I have one with a soy allergy and one with a soy intolerance in the house and another who loves soy :) We have it all! Happy New Year!!

    Thanks for linking up at our Gluten Free Fridays party! I have tweeted and pinned your entry to our Gluten Free Fridays board on Pinterest! :)
    I hope to see you again next week!

    This week’s link up will be live Thursday at 7 pm eastern time! We will have kicking this year off with a Gluten Free Giveaway! Better Batter has graciously offered to share some Brownie mix to one lucky person! Come share all your goodies! Remember you can link up recipes, review or healthy living posts! The more you link up the more chances you have to win!

    See you there!

    Cindy from vegetarianmamma.com

  11. Peggy says:

    Love this article! My blog is about foods free of the top 8 food allergens. And while no one in my family is allergic to soy, I include that in my blog for the reasons you listed here. Thanks for spreading the word.

  12. nstanio says:

    I had a milk allergy as a child and drank soy milk as an alternative because there weren’t many others back then. At the age of 15, I was daignosed with Graves Disease which is a herediatry autoimmune disorder of the Thyroid. My 4 other siblings did not have soy and their thyroids are fine. Coincidence? I think not. I think the combination that Graves disease runs in my family and the soy that I consumed where a big factor on why I developed an auto-immune disorder at a younger age than is typical. Today, I eat edamame from our local sushi joint once every few months becuase I love it, but I stay away most soy products on a daily basis.

  13. [...] problems. Too Much Blame on the Grain? – a grain-free diet is not right for everyone! To Soy or Not to Soy? – soy may be downright dangerous if not consumed [...]

  14. I found this very interesting. I don’t deliberately eat much soy at all, but I realise it may be an ingredient in many of the things I do eat. Thank you for sharing this post with the Hearth and Soul hop.

  15. Thank you for linking up with the Clever Chicks this week; I hope you’ll join us again!

    Cheers,
    Kathy Shea Mormino
    The Chicken Chick
    http://www.The-Chicken-Chick.com

  16. Several years ago I was a teacher, and we had a lady do a presentation for us. She discussed how bad soy is for us and ever since then I really haven’t trusted soy. It’s interesting how often it is touted as a healthy food, isn’t it?

  17. Hi Dawn and Happy New Year! Thank you for your submission on Seasonal Celebration Wedensday at Natural Mothers Network! Great advice and a really informative post!
    Check back tomorrow when the new link-up is running to see if you are the featured post!

  18. [...] To Soy or Not to Soy @ Peeling back the Onion Layers A must read if you use lots of soy products! Chicken Cashew Curry @ Axiom at Home Spicy & healthy — YUM! Haybox Cooking, the Original Crockpot/Slowcooker @ Life Less Hurried, Living in the Slow Lane A homemade, non-electric cooking method that I will definitely be trying! Link up to any of our blogs with your favorite healthy post! [...]

  19. [...] To Soy or Not to Soy @ Peeling back the Onion Layers A must read if you use lots of soy products! Chicken Cashew Curry @ Axiom at Home Spicy & healthy — YUM! Haybox Cooking, the Original Crockpot/Slowcooker @ Life Less Hurried, Living in the Slow Lane A homemade, non-electric cooking method that I will definitely be trying! Link up to any of our blogs with your favorite healthy post! [...]

  20. [...] To Soy or Not to Soy @ Peeling back the Onion Layers A must read if you use lots of soy products! Chicken Cashew Curry @ Axiom at Home Spicy & healthy — YUM! Haybox Cooking, the Original Crockpot/Slowcooker @ Life Less Hurried, Living in the Slow Lane A homemade, non-electric cooking method that I will definitely be trying! [...]

  21. Melanie says:

    Looks great!

    Thanks so much for sharing at Wednesday’s Adorned From Above Blog Hop.
    Debi and Charly @ Adorned From Above
    Melanie @ Keep It Simple & Fun

  22. Great information. Thanks so much for sharing with Wednesdays Adorned From Above Blog Hop.
    Charly and Debi @ Adorned From Above
    Melissa @ Keep It Simple And Fun

  23. [...] To Soy or Not to Soy? – soy may be downright dangerous if not consumed responsibly. [...]

  24. [...] To Soy or Not to Soy @ Peeling Back the Onion Layers A must read if you use lots of soy products! Chicken Cashew Curry @ Axiom at Home Spicy & healthy — YUM! Haybox Cooking, the Original Crockpot/Slowcooker @ Life Less Hurried, Living in the Slow Lane A homemade, non-electric cooking method that I will definitely be trying! Link up to any of our blogs with your favorite healthy post! [...]

  25. Kristin says:

    Thanks for the interesting read, I found you over at New Nostalgia. Very good information about soy. I did an elimination diet while breastfeeding and found out that soy is in everything!!!!

  26. RickR says:

    Hi – I’m not trying to be a troll here, I promise… but our baby had a lot of digestive problems with organic milk-based formula. We tried a number of alternatives and landed on Soy. Now she’s very healthy, regular and happy. I hesitate to switch back to milk, based on what my eyes tell me. Can you cite any of the studies you mention here??

    “Soy formula is also associated with growth disorders, improper physical development and maturation, problems with hormones and sex organs, asthma and allergies, and disorders of the brain and nervous system.”

    Thanks. Lots of mixed messages out there, to your point…

    • Dawn Tasher says:

      Hi Rick! I would never assume you were a troll! I think it is fabulous that you are making informed choices for your little girl! The information from this article is in the articles and book I listed in the “For More Information” section. Kaayla Daniel is kind of the expert in that area. Good luck with your decision!

    • Dawn Tasher says:

      Also, you might trust your instincts on milk. It sounds like it does not agree with her.

  27. Thanks for sharing this. It is a controversial topic but I do think we eat way to much soy and the stuff that most people buy is unfermented and gmo crap. Thanks for spreading the word. I’m sharing this with the community of Keep It Real Thursdays. Thanks for coming by and contributing.

  28. [...] I’m featuring this informative post about soy from Peeling Back The Onion Layers. It answers the question: “To Soy or Not to Soy“. [...]

  29. I’ve been avoiding soy altogether because I couldn’t decipher through everything. Thanks for laying it out!

  30. VeggieVal says:

    Always a balanced approach on your site, Dawn. I found you a few TALU weeks ago and always enjoy the reading.

    I’ll be candid and mention that while I stick to fermented soy products for the most part, some of us post-menopausal veggie women find welcome relief in organic, non-GMO soy milk and the occasional (always organic) tofu recipe. I suppose that is what you mean by “responsible consumption.”

    If you have a moment, do consider guest posting for us during February over at GoingVeggie.com. http://www.goingveggie.com/a-month-of-veggie-love/

    Peace, Love and Veggies,
    Val

  31. Very interesting/informative post. I wasn’t aware of soy being highly allergenic, but I have always been concerned about consuming large quantities. [#TALU]

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