Soy was first utilized as a fertilizer in Asia until it was deemed safe for human consumption and even then, it was only ingested during times of intense food shortages. Today, soy is usually less than 5% of the Asian diet but it’s as much as 10% of the average American’s diet.
Soy protein isolate is a dry powder food ingredient that has been ‘isolated’ from the other elements of the soybean, making it 90 to 95 percent protein and nearly carbohydrate and fat-free. For this reason alone, bodybuilders, athletes and fitness enthusiast gravitate towards this potentially super powered food/supplement. Soy protein isolate can be found in protein bars, meal replacement shakes, bottled fruit drinks, soups and sauces, meat analogs, baked goods, breakfast cereals, and some dietary supplements.
Although there are some health benefits to eating soy, there are some ‘buyer beware’ precautions to consider when selecting the right type. Some supplement – weight gainer powders, bars, and shakes may contain a dangerous ingredient that can cause troubling side effects in women such as infertility, miscarriages, and birth defects and in men with a decrease in libido and erectile dysfunction. The two natural drugs found in soy are genistein and daidzein, that imitate estrogen so well that they have been known to cause a variety of negative side effects in people, namely:breast cancer, endometriosis, uterine fibroids are all due to an excess of estrogen.
Soy manufacturers have a tendency to use synonyms to trick the naive shopper into not recognizing certain ‘alternate words’ on the nutrition label. Words like: boullion, natural flavor, textured plant protein, mono-diglyceride, soya, soja, yuba, TSF (textured soy flour), TSP (textured soy protein), TVP (textured vegetable protein), lecithin, and MSG (monosodium glutamate) are all aliases that unfermented ‘soy’ can hide behind.
Both unfermented and fermented soy contains ‘hormonal imitators’ in the form of isoflavones which can not only disrupt sensitive hormone mechanisms in your body, but also act as goitrogens – substances that inhibit your thyroid function. When the thyroid is nonfunctional, a slew of health problems can result, such as: anxiety and mood swings, insomnia, trouble losing weight, infertility, digestive issues, and certain allergies to foods, just for starters. With these few symptoms in mind, it’s no surprise that soy can lead to thyroid, esophageal, and stomach cancer. In addition, unfermented soy is also loaded with phytic acid, or phytates that act as an ‘antinutrient’ – responsible for depleting the body of vital nutrients (and proteins) such as: calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, and zinc. Vegetarians if you’re eating a diet that has replaced meat with mostly unfermented soy such as veggie burgers containing GMO (genetically modified organisms) soy protein isolate, you are at risk for severe mineral deficiencies. It’s reported that roughly 80% of soy products are genetically modified and those are the ones to avoid – instead opt for non-genetically modified soy products (Non GMO or fermented).
According to the “Mix Wellness Solutions Blog,” – “Nine times out of ten a suppressed thyroid is linked to diets particularly rich in soy. Since soy is in just about every single processed food (go ahead, read those labels), and Americans are consuming this stuff at a record pace, it’s no wonder – anything that messes with your thyroid is bad news, period.”
Conversely, fermented soy products do provide some health benefits. The notion that soy products can help prevent osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, and dementia, and protect you from cancer of the prostate, lung, and liver is actually true, but only if the soy is fermented. The process of fermenting soy denatures the harmful substances previously referenced, (destroys the toxins) thus making it more acceptable for ingestion. Also, fermented soy products, are a rich source of vitamin K2, a vitamin that works in tandem with vitamin D to keep you healthy. Vitamin K regulates your body’s blood clotting ability and helps prevent cancer, osteoporosis, and heart disease. Vitamin D is vital for the functioning of every cell in your body.
There are secondary products out there that utilize the healthier fermented soy and a few of them are as follows: tempeh (soybean cake with a mushroom like taste), miso (most commonly used in miso soup), natto (cheese like flavor), and some naturally brewed (organic) soy sauces (used mostly for food flavoring). Please note for the tofu lovers out there, that it didn’t make the list because it’s referenced as an unfermented soy product. Tofu has been linked to an increase in Alzheimers and brain shrinkage in the elderly by a significant margin. If you’re lactose intolerant and have been replacing milk with soy, you may want to consider lactose free milk, hemp milk, coconut, or almond milk – as these are healthier alternatives. Lastly, infants are subject to the potential hazardous conditions referenced above if they ingest unfermented soy products so please use caution when reading the nutrition labels for soy and it’s counterparts.
Now in regards to consuming the ‘soy or no soy proteins’ mentioned in the title of this article, I’ll leave that decision up to you. If soy is your protein of choice, just be sure to use the fermented version so you don’t have adverse health defects down the road.