Soy: Friend or Foe?

Posted on September 26, 2012 by Rebecca in General Health

I am rather cautious before I suggest ruling out a certain food.

As is often the case with most research studies we receive through the media – there is more to the whole story than we are shown and quite frequently, food studies are conducted on a small portion of a select community – where results are suspect and incongruent.

With this in mind, I took the ‘soy milk is actually really bad for you’ debate with a grain of salt and started having a look at the research myself.

Soy has always been trendy with vegetarians because it’s a cheap source of good quality protein. Recently though, soy products have been cropping up everywhere, moving beyond the realms of just milk and being injected into any food product that needs a little bulking agent. This means that we are often consuming soy, whether we like it or not!

SO you don’t have to be a vegan hipster in order to consume soy. Soy is in just about all processed food and most people are unaware.

Charges Against Soy

1. It contains ‘anti- nutrients’ called phytates. These impair your body’s ability to absorb certain key nutrients. This is not specific to soy though. In fact many vegetables, like spinach and sweet potato also contain compounds, which do the same thing. And no one has reprimanded spinach…yet!

2. Another oft-touted claim against soy is that it alters thyroid function. Most studies show that this affect is minimal and only affects your thyroid ability if your iodine levels are low. If you are using a good quality, high mineral salt – you should be getting your iodine needs.

3. It contains isoflavones, plant compounds that are shaped similarly to human estrogen. Indeed these isoflavones can even fit into human estrogen receptors – thereby tricking the body into thinking that they are receiving estrogen.  The problem with the last point is that there just hasn’t been enough research to show how these phytoestrogens work in our body. Some studies have shown they can help someone who has low estrogen levels. While other studies show that those with excess estrogen can be relieved of symptoms, claiming that the additional phytoestrgoens block your estrogen receptors, preventing excess estrogen from circulating.

So- if there is a shroud of darkness hovering over Soy…

Should you drink it?

Personally, I say no – as it is a modern food and soy, in its processed form is new to our food supply.

Furthermore, if you suffer from a modern day disease such as an autoimmune illness, cancer or PCOS- any product, which has dubious hormonal consequences, is something I would steer clear of.

Above and beyond a soy allergy, which is common in its own right, I would suggest that consuming soy, like any food, should come down to:

The less processed the better.

As we all know, Asian countries have been eating soy products for centuries, with no historical incidents. But this soy came in the form of fermented food such as miso and tempeh– not suspect soy yoghurts, milks and weird bastardised creamy desserts.

So for now, I will pass on packaged products with added soy lecithin, flour and oils and opt for real food that doesn’t require fillers of any kind to bulk it out.