To Soy Or Not To Soy.
There is a lot of controversy around soy, and some of it is pretty extreme. Many people don’t seem to know why ‘soy is bad,’ just that it is. Fortunately, I’ve been searching through some amazing nutritional sources and found some fantastic answers on the subject.
Why Soy Is Awesome
When referring to natural Soy products like soybeans, tofu, Soy milk, tempeh, and miso… here are the reasons why eating soy is really good for us!
- Soy is a complete protein, meaning it naturally contains all the essential amino acids our bodies need. This is important for vegetarians and vegans who need good sources of complete protein in their diet. Soy contains more protein than any other legume.
- It is a very versatile food due to its minimal flavor and high nutrient content; which is why you see soy versions of food so often.
- Soybean extract called sterols lower cholesterol by limiting how it is absorbed by the intestines.
- Soy is low in saturated fat, and is a good source of fiber, complex carbohydrates, and many vitamins and minerals like calcium and iron.
- The soybean is a very healing food. They have an extremely high concentration of protease inhibitors, which is believed to help slow the spread of Cancer.
- Soybeans contain large amounts of phytochemicals, which are compounds naturally found in plants that have medicinal and disease-preventing abilities. One group of phytochemicals is isoflavones, which are antioxidants that help to guard against various cancers, prevent bone loss, and lower cholesterol.
- Despite what some of us have been told, normal amounts of soy, every day, will not exert feminizing effects on men.
- Drinking soy milk more than once a day is associated with a 70% reduction in the risk of prostate cancer.
- Helps prevent heart attacks and strokes by passively maintaining clot forming cells.
- Soybeans contain phytoestrogens that act as selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs), meaning they have pro-estrogenic effects in some tissues like bone, but anti-estrogenic in other tissues like the breasts; meaning they help to regulate and stabilize estrogen levels, helping to manage menopause symptoms. Researchers suggest Soy protein may be an effective alternative for estrogen replacement therapy. A phytoestrogen in soy called genistein has been show to help prevent cancer.
- Helps to retain bone mass, which guards against osteoporosis. Soy also reduces the excretion of calcium through the urinary tract.
- Assists immune function
- Improves the function of your digestive system by helping with the breakdown and absorption of fats as well as aiding in the growth of the good bacteria in the intestinal tract.
Here’s a rundown of all the nutrients in soybeans… it’s a long list: Fiber, protein, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc, copper, manganese, vitamin C, vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (niacin), pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, folate, lipids, and amino acids. Phytochemicals include daidzein, genistein, glycitin, glycitein, ipriflavone, beta-sitosterol, gamma-sitosterol, stigmasterol, Bowman-Birk inhibitor, lignin, phenolic acids, phytic acids, saponins, lecithin, and protease inhibitors.
Why Soy Is Less Than Awesome
- Most soy products you find on the shelves today are refined and processed into ice cream, cheese, yogurt, oil, burgers, and frozen desserts; not the natural forms of soy like soybeans, or the minimally processed forms like tofu, miso, tempeh, tamari, and soymilk; all of which are found in the traditional Asian diet.
- Nothing should be consumed in excess, and soy is no different. Consuming large amounts of soy on a daily basis can lead to mineral deficiencies.
- It is believed Soy can lead to poor thyroid function; so it is not recommended for those with thyroid problems. (Fermented Soy products like tempeh and miso, however, would be fine)
- Soy is one of the most common allergens, next to milk, eggs, wheat, nuts, corn, and beef.
- Some elements in soybeans interfere with the absorption of zinc.
- The protease or trypsin inhibitors in soy can meddle with pancreatic enzymes that help digest protein; but they are mostly removed by cooking. In small amounts, these same trypsin inhibitors appear to help prevent cancer.
- Dry soybeans are difficult for your body to digest, which is why in cultures where Soy is abundant, it is usually cooked, fermented, or processed (tofu, miso, etc) to make it easier to digest.
As with all healthy foods, moderation is key; don’t eat anything in extreme amounts. Dr. Michael Greger, author of How Not To Die and creator of NutritionFacts.org suggests That “To maintain the low IGF-1 (Insulin growth factor) levels associated with a plant-based diet, one should probably eat no more than 3-5 servings of soy foods a day,” and those “consuming 7 to 18 servings of soy foods a day may end up with circulating IGF-1 levels comparable to those who eat meat.” IGF-1 is a cancer promoting growth hormone. Animal protein increase IGF-1, while most plant proteins bring it down.
It seems like soy is actually pretty great as long you don’t go overboard, aren’t deficient in zinc, and don’t have a serious thyroid issue. Remember, it is one of the most allergenic foods, so if you do have a reaction to soy you may want to steer clear of it; but, for its cancer prevention properties and ability to regulate estrogen in your body, not to mention it’s high nutrient content, soy would be an awesome addition to most diets.
Thus… SOY: GOOD