Thursday, October 13, 2011

Soy - Good or Bad?

Soy has been touted as the miracle health food for decades and once found only at health food stores, can now be found even at convenience stores! Soy is a common topic of inquiry when discussing nutrition and many ask the same question; "Is soy good or bad?".
Originally used for plastics in the early 1900's, soy wasn't considered a food product until World War II shortages, when it became necessary to find a way to create cheap protein.
Since then, the soy industry invested a lot of time and money to advertise soy as a health food and the marketing was quite successful; leading to the following statistics:
  • 37% of Americans eat or drink soy products
  • 85% believe soy food is healthy
  • 70% believe soybean oil is good for them. 

Following, are some known, albeit not advertised facts about soy that might make one think twice about reaching for this health food:
  • Soy is the second-most genetically modified crop in the U.S. (corn being #1) - that's 91% of soy grown!
  • Soy is difficult for most people to digest due to the anti-nutrient properties (lectins, sapopins, protease inhibitors, phytates) that cannot be removed by soaking, sprouting, or slow cooking like other legumes.
  • Soy contains phytoestrogens; which are known to interrupt endocrine function and has been linked to fertility problems, breast and thyroid cancer.
  • Soy foods increase the body's requirement for vitamin D and B12.
  • Soy contains substances that interfere with thyroid function.
But wait....what about all the soy consumed in Asia??
Great question! We are talking UNfermented soy products and this is the type of soy that is so pervasive in this country.
In the Asian culture, fermented, non-GMO soy products (natto, tempeh) have been enjoyed for centuries and people have reaped the health benefits without wreaking havoc in their bodies, unlike the unfermented and processed soy products we consume in this country.
Processed and unfermented products like soy milk, soy cheese, soy burgers, soy ice cream have crept into our kitchens, making us believe that it's all health food.
The health claims that have been touted about soy, seem to have been based on half-truths and meager facts by lumping the fermented soy with unfermented soy; when in reality, we're talking two entirely different foods with entirely different outcomes.
Next time you are grocery shopping, take a look at the ingredient list of dressings, baked goods, imitation foods, diet beverages, fast foods, and meal replacements. Any place that uses industrial-developed foods like schools, senior citizen centers and larger corporate cafeterias, will undoubtedly contain soy products in their food. 
Do all soy products carry the negative health effects?
As mentioned earlier, soy CAN have great health benefits, as long as the soy is organic AND fermented. After a long fermentation process, the anti-nutrients that are predominant will be reduced, hence, the beneficial health properties become available to your digestion process.
Fermented soy includes:
Tempeh: fermented soybean cake that is firm and has a nutty, mushroom-like flavor.
Miso: fermented soybean paste that has a salty, buttery flavor (commonly used in Miso soup)
Natto: fermented soybean that has a strong, cheese-like flavor
(note: Tofu is not fermented)
Still believe soy is the miracle health food that has been marketed over the years?
Be kind to your health and the health of your family by educating yourself on what you eat - even if everyone around you believes it to be "good". Dig in and do some research.
You and your health are certainly worth it!

Dr. Mercola
Weston A. Price Foundation
Natural Health Strategies
Dr. Meade

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