There have been many fads and health opinions that circulate and drive people to change their diets. No gluten. No refined sugar. No fat.
There can generally be some shade of truth and science to back up some decisions, but it’s not worth too much grief.
Except one. Soy still has a bad reputation among many people. Again, it’s similar to phases of mass avoidance of certain ingredients, but the myths and assumptions surrounding soy still resonate.
I’m here to tell you, through my own research from valid sources, that like anything, soy is not harmful in moderation and is, in fact, healthy in its whole-food form. Unless you’re eating multiple packages of tofu a day, you have no reason to worry.
‘Soy’ bad? Not hardly.
So if that’s the case, why do so many still hesitate? Funny enough, it all began with a marketing campaign commissioned by the dairy industry. This was back when soy milk hit the supermarket shelves as the first true dairy substitute creating major competition. Like any other politician, the go-to method of gaining back the numbers is through some trash talk.
If you look carefully, most anti-soy stories can be traced back to one single group in the US called the Weston A Price Foundation (WAPF). WAPF claims to be dedicated to promoting good nutrition by restoring nutrient-dense animal products to the diet – particularly unpasteurized “raw” whole milk. It claims that saturated animal fat is essential for good health and that animal fat intake and high cholesterol levels have no link with heart disease or cancer. They say that vegetarians have lower life expectancy than meat-eaters, and that historically humans have always eaten large amounts of animal fat. All this, of course, contradicts all the leading health advisory bodies in the world, including the World Health Organisation, American Dietetic Association and the British Medical Association.
Besides this particular fringe group, soy has become one of the most heavily researched foods because we have lots of myths and questions about its composition. The main problem: estrogen.
Among observational studies of humans who get high amounts of dietary soy, findings have shown either no link to breast cancer or lower rates of the disease. That’s because the “estrogen” found in soy is different from our own hormones. Soy contains isoflavones, naturally occurring plant estrogens, and these have not shown to have any effect on increased cancer risks nor any feminization in men.
There have been some studies looking into how excess soy consumption affected rats, and admittedly, they did see some differences in their reproductive systems, but these aren’t conclusive results that translate well to the human body. The main substance studied was genistein, assuming it could potentially cause changes in how infants develop in-utero and beyond, since many baby formulas contain soy.
To date, only one study has looked at the long-term effects of soy formula on reproductive development in people. It found that women fed soy formula as infants had slightly longer periods and more menstrual cramping than those who were not fed soy formula. Many other factors could also be involved in these results, so we must be critical in our analysis. Unless more information surfaces, the benefits far outweigh any negative consequences soy may have.
‘Soy’ many benefits.
In fact, soy is healthy! The FDA states that consuming 25 grams of soy protein per day, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may help reduce the risk of heart disease. Also, since the protein in soy contains all of the essential amino acids, it is considered a complete protein. According to the National Soybean Research Laboratory, soybeans are the only common plant food that contains complete protein and its amino acid profile is nearly equivalent in quality to meat, milk and egg protein.
However, I would limit your intake of heavily processed soy, like the soy protein isolate found in many vegan protein bars. Not only are you looking at a much longer ingredient list in general, but isolating one part of soy’s composition means more immediate exposure to soy’s plant hormones, which aren’t inherently bad, but they can affect your thyroid functioning if you eat it at every meal.
We have all this uproar over soy and its hormones, but what about animal products, ones that actually have the same estrogen we have in our bodies? Animals in the food industry are already often exposed to excess hormones, and men and women consuming meat, eggs, and especially dairy can see the same effects as animals do in terms of their fertility and overall health.
Do your research and share it with others, especially those who still believe soy misconceptions. The anti-soy argument is based on faulty science, and accurate research shows soy’s many benefits and animal products’ potential harms. Let all people eat soy, as a complete protein that supports our bodies and our environment.
What else have you heard about soy? What are your thoughts on the debate?
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie