Is This Bean Bullying Your Health?

Say No To Soy - Holisticole

In addition to processed foods, refined foods and preservatives there are a few "health" foods that I avoid by all means possible. Depending on what website you are on, what book you are reading and what you are hearing in the media - there are many controversy's over these foods, (you and I are entitled to our own opinions).My big no-no's are agave, wheat, canola and soy (in addition to conventionally raised dairy, grain-fed beef, GMO and conventional produce). 

Without writing a book based off my intro to this blog post, I will highlight that today I am sharing with you my "beef " with soy. Whether you chose to continue to eat soy and it's by-products after this is up to you, I am just looking to provide you with referenced information. 

When did this soy nonsense begin

Soybeans originated in Asia and were first domesticated in 1100 BC. by Chinese farmers. By the first century AD. soybeans were grown in Japan and soy products such as soy sauce became popular in Europe and British Colonies in America - before the soybean seeds had even arrived in these parts of the world! In the 1800's soybeans became popular as forage for livestock in America and soybean meal has been used as the preferred livestock feed ever since. In the 1990's soy was genetically modified to withstand herbicides as it became a cash crop, as it serves more value for livestock feed and industrial use then for the farmer. [1]

Just so you can get an idea of how much soy is grown,  in 2015, 5.4 million acres were used for growing soybeans in Canada [2].  In The United States, 85.1 million acres were used for growing soybeans and 90% was genetically modified [3] [4].  Over 85% of the worlds soy is grown for animal feed, and for a long time soy was not fit for human consumption, it was grown merely for livestock. This was only until companies realized how inexpensive soy was and how many ways they could break it down and include it in processed and packaged foods.

"At least 60% of the soybeans grown in Canada are GM. There are two types of soybeans grown in Canada: beans for the “crush” market, used for oil and meal production and as a protein supplement in livestock feed; and food-grade soybeans used to make tofu, soy milk and other soy foods." [5]

Soy on the rise

From 1992-2006 the sales of soy foods increased from $300 million to nearly $4 billion, and according to the Soy Foods Association of North America, this growth occurred literally overnight.

It seemed as if these soy foods appeared out of nowhere but they were referred to as this “miracle health food” and everyone and their dog was talking about soy. However, soy did not become a so called “health food” by the praise of nutritionists and other health professionals, soy became successful due to the massive investment in the advertising of soy, which made them wildly prosperous. If you would like to see an example of what the Soy Foods Association of North America provided as "information" to low-income pregnant women, breastfeeding women,  infants and children under the age of five in 2008, click here. Pretty convincing stuff, but keep reading. 

From 2000-2007 food manufacturers introduced more than 2,700 new soy-based food products and more than 85% of the soy consumers believed that soy was a true health food. This advertising however was done by the 'business' of soy, like I mentioned - it was not health advocates and nutritionists who were giving soy this profitable rep, although many did feed into the soy craze, as at the time this was the first real substitution for animal based proteins and fats. The soy industries huge profit left their pockets full and has now left many of their consumers with impaired health! (Yes impaired health)

Unfortunately the soy we are most commonly exposed to in Canada is not the organically grown soy, we export almost all of this, and in total over 70% of our entire food supply in Canada is GM [5]. Not to mention, why would we want to consume something that has been used for centuries to inexpensively fatten up livestock?

"About 85 percent of the world’s soybeans are processed, or "crushed," annually into soybean meal and oil.  Approximately 98 percent of the soybean meal that is crushed is further processed into animal feed with the balance used to make soy flour and proteins. Of the oil fraction, 95 percent is consumed as edible oil; the rest is used for industrial products such as fatty acids, soaps and biodiesel." [6]

Soy was genetically modified by the biotech industry to be resistant to herbicides, glyphosphates  and glufosinate-ammonium. Meaning GM soy is resistant to being sprayed with highly toxic herbicides like Roundup, which kills all the weeds yet not the soy plant. Genetically modified soy has been linked to an increase in allergies, and our only published human study on GM food verified that the gene inserted into GM soy transfers into the DNA of our gut bacteria and continues to function. This means that even for years after you stop eating GM soy you may still have a potentially allergenic protein continuously being produced in your intestines [7]

In Asian cultures people eat modest amounts of whole non-GMO fermented soybean products, where as in Canada and the United States the soy is being separated into protein and oil and is hiding in thousands of products that are massively consumed.

Soy is now being linked to a variety of health concerns:

  • Danger during pregnancy and nursing

  • Hormonal imbalance

  • PCOS

  • Heavy periods/PMS

  • Breast & estrogen related cancers

  • Birth defects or abnormalities

  • Thyroid disorders

  • Digestive distress

  • Infertility/reproductive disorders

Soy advocates will argue that soy based foods will protect you from everything from colon, prostate, breast cancer, strokes, asthma and osteoporosis. However these enthusiasts never mention studies that highlight soy’s well researched downside and dangers.

What else makes soy a risky 'food' to eat

Besides the fact that almost all soy is GMO and completely saturated with herbicides, soy has other unfavourable components. It contains a variety of “anti-nutrients” which are a form of natural toxins [8].

Hemagglutinin is a clot promoting substance that causes your red blood cells to clump together, which makes it hard for your body to properly distribute oxygen to tissues. [9]

Soy also contains unique phytates, also called "phytic acid", which are highly resistant to normal phytate-reducing techniques such as long, slow cooking [10]. Only a long period of fermentation could reduce the phytate content in soybeans.These phytates bind to metal ions and can prevent the absorption of certain minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc. This is most problematic for vegetarians/vegans who depend on soy for protein. 
When soy products like tofu are consumed with meat, the mineral-blocking effects of the phytates are reduced. Traditionally the Japanese  eat a small amount of tofu or miso as part of a mineral-rich fish broth, followed by a dish of meat or fish.

Soy is also loaded with the isoflavones genistein and daidzein, these are a type of phytoestrogen which resemble human estrogen in the body. These isoflavones can mimic estrogen and have negative effects of a variety of functions, they are known to cause infertility and may promote breast cancer in women. Drinking only two glasses on soy milk daily for one month could provide enough of these isoflavones to alter your menstrual cycle. 

I truly do not believe that there is any safe age to which you could consume soy, however it said to be most harmful for infants, pregnant and breastfeeding women - if you oped the link at the beginning of the post you would see that Soy Foods Association of North America encouraged soy consumption to pregnant women, breastfeeding women,  infants and children under the age ... Soy infant formula could put your baby’s health at risk, the estrogens in soy can irreversibly harm a baby’s sexual development and reproductive health. Infants that are fed soy formula take an estimated five birth control pills’ worth of estrogen every day. Infants that are fed soy formula have up to 20,000 times the amount of estrogen in circulation as those fed other formulas

Tips for avoiding unwanted soy foods

If you read the labels of your packaged products, there are many hidden names for soy, and many additives and preservatives which are derived from soy. The following are all soy products to avoid:

  • Soy infant formula

  • Soy lecithin

  • Bean sprouts

  • Soy sauce

  • Miso

  • Tempeh

  • Natto

  • MSG

  • All tofu’s and sprouted tofu (even if organic and non-GMO)

  • TVP (texturized vegetable protein) or soy protein isolate, which contains large amounts of MSG

  • Soybean oil

  • Soy milk

  • Soy cheese, soy ice-cream, soy yogurt

  • Soy “meat” (meatless products made of TVP)

  • Soy protein + protein isolate

  • Edamame (immature soy beans)

Almost all processed foods, organic and non-organic may contain some form of soy. Don’t rely on packaged foods, and if you need to, read the label. Since soy is top allergen, if it is hidden in food colours, flavours, blends, or spice blends it must be labelled.

What's the deal with fermented soy

When soy  is fermented for long periods of time such as  miso, tempeh, authentic soy sauce and natto the unfavourable characteristics  of soy are broken down. Fermentation in general also benefits proper digestion, assimilation and absorption of minerals. Fermented soy, more specifically natto, contains the highest source of vitamin K2 which is essential for bone health and prevention of osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. 

Fermented organic soy can be a healthy addition to  your diet, but with anything - moderation. If you are worried about goitrogenic properties, please check out this blog post which debunks the myth of goitrogenic foods

To soy or not to soy

That is the question, I hope you have enjoyed this informative post. Whether you decide to avoid soy with a 10-foot pole (which I may have encouraged), consume organic soy in moderate amounts or dip into some fermented varieties, the decision is yours. 

Be educated and make a decision that is right for you! If you would like to read more on soy, check out The Whole Soy Story and Genetic Roulette for another take on this crop.

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