Here’s Why You Don’t Want To Be Eating Soy

Here’s Why You Don’t Want To Be Eating Soy

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Soy is an ingredient in oh-so-many food products nowadays. It’s incredibly popular, and ubiquitous in packaged foods of all sorts. It’s not just in soy milk, tofu, and edamame – soy is in a plethora of foods as an added component. Apparently, soy in the form of soybean oil accounts for 10% of the typical caloric intake for most Americans.

Soybean oil and soy flour are very common in packaged foods, such as snack bars, protein bars, chocolate, sports drinks, and many gluten-free products that can’t use regular wheat flour. This is why reading ingredient lists and labels is so important; soy is cleverly hidden in so many more products than people think. But what’s the big deal?

Well, it’s a pretty big deal, and soy should ideally be avoided, whenever possible. Here are a few of the reasons why…

Photo: Flickr.com/Aqua Mechanical

Glyphosate

Glyphosate is an extremely toxic pesticide used on soybean plants in order to protect the crop from damage and destruction. Also known commercially as “Roundup,” it’s the brain-child of scientists at Monsanto, the leader in food modification. The problem is that glyphosate is known to be extremely toxic to humans in even small doses. The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified Roundup as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” Problems include:

  • Increase in estrogenic activity in the body
  • Increase in miscarriages and premature births in farming families that use Roundup
  • Poor liver health, and liver damage
  • Decreased sex hormone production
  • Studies show that Roundup can alter the gut microbiome, leading to digestive issues, such as gut dysbiosis
  • Roundup exposure causes bacteria to become resistant to antibiotics
  • Government reports have confirmed higher rates of cancer and birth defects in people exposed to Roundup spraying (farmers)

In one study it was found that glyphosate-contaminated soybeans fed to pigs contributed to “congenital malformations,” such as cranial and spinal deformations, ear and leg atrophy, malformations in eyes, trunk, tongue, testes, and skull.

Photo: WikiMedia Commons/Nyttend

GMOs

Genetically Modified foods are also brought to you courtesy of Monsanto, as mentioned above. These are natural foods that are altered by scientists in order to be more resistant to drought and pests, and to increase crop yields. This all sounds well and good, but GMO foods are known to have a host of problems that are very detrimental to the health of the consumer, which is really another topic for a whole separate article. Basically, soy is the number one GMO produced crop in the U.S., with 94% of soy coming from GMO seeds. For more information on GMO dangers and concerns, check out the Non-GMO project.

Photo: WikiMedia Commons/OpenStax College

Hormone Disruption

Of added concern – in case the other points aren’t raising enough red flags – soy contains a type of phytoestrogen known as isoflavones, which has been linked to disruptions in endocrine function.

This is associated with detrimental health side effects, such as:

  • Decreased mineral absorption
  • Inhibited enzyme function
  • Reproductive system problems
  • Increased allergic reactions
  • Goitrogenicity (enlargement of the thyroid gland)

There are numerous studies that support the data showing the harmful effects of isoflavones on humans.

Photo: Pexels/Andrea Piacquadio

Brain Damage

There is some evidence to suggest that soy consumption contributes to cognitive impairment, and an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

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Disrupted Thyroid Function

As mentioned above, soy isoflavones in the blood are associated with thyroid disease, and an increase in thyroid gland size. Soy beans contain goitrogens, which block natural thyroid hormone synthesis and also negatively impact iodine status, which is important for optimal thyroid health.

Photo: Pikrepo

Altered Estrogen And Testosterone Levels

These same phytoestrogens have been known to alter estrogen levels in both men and women. In women, they’ve been shown to alter the menstrual cycle, while some studies have shown men who are exposed to phytoestrogens at a young age have smaller testes, lower sperm count, and lower testosterone than normal. This is a very hotly debated topic, however, and more research is needed to support these claims.

Photo: WikiMedia Commons/Ian Furst

High PUFAs

PUFAs are Poly-Unsaturated Fatty Acids – highly unstable oils and fats. Omega-3 and 6 fats are classified as PUFAs. They are known to increase inflammation within the body. and heat and light exposure causes oxidation and free radical formation, which is attributed to health problems, such as:

  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Obesity
  • Immune function deficits
  • Arthritis
Photo: pxhere

Heavy Metal Toxicity

Processed soy may be contaminated with heavy metals. Harvested soybeans undergo an acid wash in aluminum tanks. This process is thought to leach aluminum into the final soy product, which is then eaten by the consumers.

Photo: WikiMedia Commons/National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Food Allergies

Several studies show a link between soy consumption and an increase in food allergies. This may be a contributing factor to why food allergies seem to be so much more rampant today than in past decades, before soy was used as a food additive staple.

Photo: Pixabay.com/StockSnap

Blocked Absorption

Soybeans contain something called “anti-nutrients” (oxalates, saponins, phytic acid, and enzyme inhibitors, such as trypsin) that impair, or even block, nutrient absorption and also impair the body’s ability to digest protein. Also, soy intake increases the body’s need for iodine and vitamin D, which many people are already lacking in.

Photo: WikiMedia Commons/Cécily Lucas, Nicolas Barnich and Hang Thi Thu Nguyen

Cancer Risk

This is the big one. For years, soy was touted as an “anti-cancer” food. Unfortunately, more recent research suggests the exact opposite. Studies show a strong correlation between soy protein intake and numerous cancers, such as colorectal, stomach, bladder, and others.

Photo: Flickr.com/Andrea Nguyen

Now What?

Now that soy has been thoroughly defamed, does that mean it should be avoided forever? Not necessarily. Soy consumption can be less harmful if a few precautions are taken:

  • Make sure that any soy consumed is in its fermented state. Fermentation of soy helps to reduce many of the dangers discussed above
  • Eat only organically grown soy that isn’t GMO and contaminated with glyphosate
  • Avoid soy that is heavily processed, and try to eat soy in its whole food form

Some examples of fermented organic soy include:

  • Soy sauce – fermented soy beans and salt. Usually contains wheat and other additives, however
  • Tamari sauce – often a wheat-free alternative to soy sauce
  • Miso – paste made from fermented soy, often used in soups
  • Natto – fermented soybeans rich in healthy bacteria and vitamin K-12
  • Tempah – fermented soybeans formed into “cakes” that can be used as alternatives to meat in cooked dishes

In spite of all the questions surrounding the safety of soy, it’s still widely used in an abundance of products. Consumers concerned with their intake of or exposure to soy need to be diligent about reading nutritional labels, and researching where their food comes from, as this will help to facilitate the best decisions for overall health.