November 13, 2012

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly on Soy.

Source: photoxyz.com via Delaine on Pinterest

For the past 20 years, I’ve been extremely health conscious.

I’ve been trying to cultivate an optimal vegan diet, pouring over labels and reading words I could not pronounce in an attempt to make sure I was getting an adequate amount of protein and other essential nutrients in my diet. I took the time to plan all of my meals and added products, including soy to many of them.

Soy protein isolate?

Hm…did that mean they isolated the protein from the soy and made it more concentrated? Hydrolyzed soy protein? Didn’t sound so great. But in 1999 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved labeling that I’d find on nearly every soy product I purchased.

They actually stated, “Diets low in saturated fat and cholesteral that include 25 grams of soy protein a day may reduce the risk of heart disease.”

Awesome. I was doing something right; soy products weren’t only safe, they were beneficial!

But then several years ago, I started to notice adverse reactions when I ate soy. I’d get severe stomach pains. I’d get extremely bloated. Oh, and I had stopped menstruating. And then I got very sick. I was totally nauseated. It was extremely difficult to eat. But when I did, I craved my comfort food:  soy cheese on toast. I was ultimately diagnosed with giardia, so it never occurred to me to question my wonderful miracle food.

When I recovered from my illness, my body was still rejecting soy. As I began my path towards holistic health, my doctor informed me that I was intolerant to soy and should not be eating it at all.

Ugh. What was I going to do? 

How was I going to fulfill my protein requirements? Does this sound familiar?

What does your vegan or vegetarian diet look like? Does it include lots of grain and protein-filled vegetables? Or, are you too relying on soy for your major protein source?

You may be getting an inordinate amount of soy in your diet without even trying. It’s hard not to these days. Soy has slipped into our culture perhaps without meaning to. Once the FDA made their claim in 1999, the soy fad began. Consumers, like me, began to believe that we should be consuming massive amounts of soy each day for health reasons.

I now believe we were wrong. As I continued to study nutrition, I’d find more and more risks associated with this product. Digestive problems. I already had them. Endocrine disruption. Had that too.

Soy contains phyotoesterogens, which means eating soy can lead to fertility issues, thyroid problems, issues with sex drive and even potentially contribute to certain cancers. Soy is high in phyates, which means it can rob your body of valuable minerals like calcium, magnesium, zinc and iron. As I kept reading, I found more and more studies rebutting almost every positive claim I’d read on soy.

So what about the studies that show that Asians, particularly the Japanese, have lowered levels of breast and prostate cancers than in the United States? Don’t their traditional diets still include soy? They do, but here are the main differences:  

1. Asian diets contain about 9 grams of soy a day compared to our American diets which contain about 20 grams of soy a day.

2. The form of the soy the Asians are consuming is fermented soy. Fermented soy provides our bodies with the good bacteria it needs to fight off pesky diseases, infections, viruses and so forth.

So, it seems like soy may not be terrible for us if consumed in a minimal amount. The problem these days is that barely anyone is getting a minimal amount. Look at the ingredients of the foods you’re eating. I’m willing to bet you’ll see some type of soy product in there. It’s scary how much soy has seeped into our consumables in a very similar way that high fructose corn syrup now plagues nearly everything we touch. Soy has become the natural binder that most food companies and producers are using.


Healthy Soy

The Guardian

Mary Vance



Ed: Brianna B.


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ann Nov 14, 2012 12:55pm

looks like you've had a lot of love on this post, and rightfully so – soy is a bit of a problematic issue for sure. but i'm gonna have to disagree with you: "The form of the soy the Asians are consuming is fermented…" "the asians" is a gross generalisation. chinese tofu is not the same as japanese is not the same as filipino, and every country where people regularly consume soy has multiple forms thereof. japanese silken tofu, for example, used in the vast majority of everyday japanese meals, is not fermented. one can only find fermented tofu in the philippines, for example, in the chinese market, whereas standard firm tofu – not unlike what one finds in the u.s. or england, is standard fare in wet markets and grocery stores all over the country. also, @ruthie streiter, been vegan for 15 years and have to say that i firmly disagree that "being vegan is both dangerous for health and not beneficial to the earth." plenty of research has confirmed that a vegan's eco footprint is on average 1/10 of a meat eater's…and i feel great 😉

Ruthie Streiter Nov 14, 2012 8:14am

This post presents a very important topic, thank you! For those who commented: Read The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice and Sustainability by Lierre Keith. I have no doubt that you will agree that being vegan is both dangerous for health and not beneficial to the earth. Keith also includes a huge chapter on soy (much of that info in agreement with this post).

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Hayley Hobson

Hayley Hobson is an author, speaker, business coach, yogi, Pilates and holistic nutritional expert based in Boulder, CO. Hayley creates lifestyle transformations by coaching her clients to strengthen, nourish and evolve through the cycles and shifts in life. Combining cutting edge understanding in all three disciplines due to years of anatomical study and dietary theory, Hayley’s approach leverages their blended benefits and results. Her unique and intelligent style promotes strengthening while softening–empowering her client’s to heal not only their physical bodies, but their hearts and minds as well. Hayley studied at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, continues her studies with David Wolfe, raw food expert and is an essential oil expert in her own right.  Her insights and articles can also be found on her blog, Mindbodygreen and Islaorganics. She has also been featured in Pilates Style magazine, Natural Health magazine and Triathlete Magazine.  She has fun running and playing in the mountains with her husband, former world-ranked triathlete, Wes Hobson and their two beautiful daughters, Makenna and Madeline. To learn more about her nutritional courses, events she’s hosting and custom programs go to her website or follow her on Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest.