Originally published October 6 2008
Six Surprising Facts About Soy
by E.L. West
(NaturalNews) When people think of living healthfully, usually what comes to mind is eating tofu or drinking soymilk. Why wouldn't they? After all, the popular magazines point to soy consumption as the ultimate form of health. This article will show some surprising facts that many do not know about soy, and facts that are actually contrary to what the magazines print and the health "officials" promote.
Soy is not the cornerstone of Asian diets
This is probably by far the most common misconception about soy products. Many of the fitness magazines, and even some dietitians, overplay the role of soy in the Asian diet.
In China and Japan, people only eat about 10 grams (2 teaspoons) a day. What's more, soy is viewed and consumed as a condiment, not as a replacement for animal products or as an entire meal. Basically, soy in those regions would be like ketchup or mustard, rather than the main dish.
Additionally, the type of soy that is consumed in the Asiatic region is quite different from the way it is eaten in the West. The soy that is prepared in Asian countries is fermented. More will be revealed below about fermented soy.
The soy that westerners eat is unhealthy
Yes, that's right. The popular soy-mantra that "soy prevents osteoporosis, heart disease, cancer," is what the soy industry would like you to think, but in reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Above, fermented soy was mentioned. The reason it was mentioned is because raw, unfermented soy contains anti-nutrients that pose great risks for those who consume soy on a regular basis.
The main anti-nutrients that are in soy are phytates, trypsin inhibitors and phytoestrogens. Soy processing results in some undesirable components as well: toxic lysinoalanine, carcinogenic nitrosamines, monosodium glutamate or MSG (a potent neurotoxin), and aluminum (a toxin to the nervous system and kidneys).
The phytates in soy reduces the assimilation of the minerals copper, iron, calcium, zinc and magnesium, creating deficiencies. Methods such as soaking and sprouting are ineffective at reducing the phytate amounts in soy.
The trypsin inhibitors make digesting proteins problematic and can lead to pancreatic disorders.
Phytoestrogens are potent anti-thyroid agents that interfere with the endocrine system, along with causing menstruation problems in women. Furthermore, women who consumed soy during pregnancy had a higher chance of giving birth to babies born with hypospadias, which is where the urethral opening of the penis is misplaced (near the base of the penis instead of at the tip). Also, phytoestrogens, along with PCBs and DDE, contribute to premature development of girls.
In Asia, soy is fermented, so many of the above problems, with the exception of the phytoestrogens, are eliminated.
Soy does not contribute to bone health
Despite popular belief, soy does not contribute to bone health. Soy increases the body's need for calcium and vitamin D, actually taking away from bone health! Also, Westerners are deficient in vitamin D as it is, eating soy foods will just make the problem worse!
Soy contributes to infertility
This fact is what many men and women need to know because if you are consuming large amounts of unfermented soy products, you will likely experience this effect. Since the phytoestrogens interfere with the delicate hormonal systems of healthy individuals, such problems are not uncommon. In fact for women, painful and irregular periods are common and for men, a decreased sperm count can be found among heavy soy consumers.
Additionally in Japan, when housewives want to decrease the virility of their husbands, typically they give them soy products.
Soy is not good for postmenopausal women
Since soy contains high amounts of phytoestrogens, a potent anti-thyroid agent and endocrine disruptor, the problems of low thyroid function during postmenopausal years is heightened. Also, tumors that require large amounts of estrogen can feed off of the phytoestrogens in the soy.
Soy formula is not a good substitute for breast milk or even milk formulas
All infants should be fed breast milk for at the very least, the first year of life. The best substitute after breast milk is raw goat's milk. Soy formula should not be considered. This is because soy-based formulas are high in phytoestrogens and the other anti-nutrients. Bottom line, feeding an infant soy formula is comparable to giving the baby five birth control pills. For girls, this can cause premature development such as breast buds, pubic hair and even menstruation before age eight. In boys, this can retard sexual development and even cause learning disabilities.
At the risk of being redundant, the point must be made again: soy formula is not a good replacement for the highest form of infant nutrition, breast milk. It is also poor when nutritionally compared to wholesome raw goat's milk.
Soy has been upheld for many years as the pinnacle of health and wellness. It has been over-glorified by being placed on a pedestal above foods that truly should represent health. Through all of its promotions, through all of the publicity, it has failed many people, leaving them with problems that are difficult to treat. Not every health fad is what it is cracked up to be. A little research into these effects goes a long way.
About the authorEmily West is a freelance writer that focuses on topics of natural health and sustainable food production systems. She also maintains a blog, The Wordsmith, at www.journeyoutofrabbithole.wordpress.com
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