Update on Soy
Studies Link It With Health Problems
by Paulette Millis
We have been hearing more and more about “the joy of soy” over the past decade. Is it really possible that one food could alleviate hot flashes, reduce cholesterol, and fight cancer? New research is showing the error of our ways. In her book The Whole Soy Story (New Trends Publishing), author and nutrition expert Kaayla T. Daniel, PhD, CCN, points out the many studies now linking the ingestion of soy to dysfunction of the thyroid gland—a serious issue for many—digestive difficulties, weakened immune systems due to allergies or intolerance to soy, reproductive disorders and infertility, malnutrition, and even cancer and heart disease.
We have been led by soy product marketers to believe that Asians eat a lot of soy and are therefore healthier. However, soy consumption for these cultures is actually only 9.3 grams to 36 grams per day according to the FDA. By comparison, we may easily consume one cup of tofu, which is 252 grams, and one cup of soy milk, which is 240 grams, in a single day. Add to that the soy in many foods such as veggie burgers, soy ice creams, soy nuts, soy protein supplements, chili made with textured vegetable protein (TVP), tofu cheesecake, soy energy bars, and the soy in processed foods, and our daily total rises considerably. As well, it is unlikely the Asians feast on these newfangled soy products.
Daniel reports that soy is now in nearly 60 percent of the foods sold in supermarkets and health food stores. It is found, for example, in fast food burgers, some pizzas, many lunch meats, most breads, muffins, doughnuts, lemonade mixes, hot chocolate, some baby foods, and thousands more products. Infants on soy formula receive large amounts when their body weight and amount of feedings is considered.
The very structure of the soy protein is changed when a machine called an “extruder” uses extreme heat and pressure on defatted soy flour to make textured soy protein.
Daniel states that soy protein isolate (SPI) is made from defatted soybean meal, mixed with a caustic alkaline solution to remove the fibre, and then washed in an acid solution to precipitate out the protein. These curds are then dipped into another alkaline solution and then spray-dried at high temperatures. This isolate is then spun into protein fibres. The “beany” taste, “off flavours”, and some of the flatulence-producing components are thus removed, improving digestibility, at the expense of vitamin, mineral,
and protein quality. Nitrosamine and other carcinogen levels are increased as well.
It is appalling that these substances (SPIs) were originally declared to be safe for use as sealers for cardboard packages only in 1979 by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB).
Soy is a bland-tasting food, and the addition of many different sweeteners, flavourings, colours, and questionable additives such as monosodium glutamate are another concern in relation to the consumption of soy.
Concerns with soy are many. It is goitrogenic, which simply means it suppresses the function of the thyroid by inhibiting the uptake of one of the most important minerals needed for growth and metabolism, iodine. In my private practice, I find many people are suffering from symptoms of low thyroid function, such as often feeling cold, constipation, depression, dry skin, weight gain, and feeling tired and/or fatigued, even though blood tests show normal levels of thyroid hormone. It is often possible to restore some or all of the functioning through a natural nutrition program, supplements, and lifestyle change, and by avoiding soy products and other goitrogens. Anyone on thyroid medication would do well to eliminate soy from the diet, or at the most, use it rarely.
Daniels explains scientists studying the use of soy protein in animals have discovered that protease inhibitors in soy may cause poor growth, malnutrition, digestive difficulties, and other concerns by inhibiting the absorption and assimilation of protein. Soy contains phytates, a natural acid that may block mineral absorption, resulting in deficiencies of zinc, iron, and calcium. Soy is also high in oxalates, a concern for those prone to forming kidney stones. As well, the lectins and saponins have caused leaky gut, and gastrointestinal and immune problems.
Soy is low in methionine, a sulfur-containing amino acid. Animal feeds are supplemented with methionine as well as vitamins and minerals, due to the removal of these nutrients through the processing. Soy foods contain high levels of aluminum, according to the Weston Price website, which are toxic to the nervous system and the kidneys.
Soy is now one of the top eight food allergens, causing immediate reactions in many, such as coughing, sneezing, runny nose, hives, diarrhea, and more serious concerns in some such as difficulty swallowing and anaphylactic shock. Reasons for this rise are the increase in infant soy formulas, the increase of soy in so many of our foods, and possibly the genetically-modified soybeans, as GMOs often have more allergenicity.
Soy lowers testosterone levels, which was “discovered” recently by scientists. (Daniels tells us that Buddhist monasteries have traditionally used tofu to decrease libido.) Soy estrogens may occupy the receptor sites for testosterone, causing impaired development, particularly in young boys in need of testosterone to program the body for puberty. Increased estrogens in soy and the environment are wreaking havoc with the natural process of puberty for girls as well, and many are entering puberty much earlier than normal, some by the age of eight.
The levels of soy estrogens that may have a beneficial effect on hormonally-related diseases have been proven to jeopardize the thyroid. For hormonal issues, there are other ways to find balance, such as exercise, herbs, and stress-relieving practices.
Using soy formula for infants brings up additional concerns, most notably the danger of suppressing thyroid function. Many young people are now experiencing symptoms of low thyroid function and are being prescribed synthetic thyroid hormones. Also, soy formula has higher levels of aluminum, fluoride, and manganese than breast milk or dairy formulas, and these three metals may adversely affect brain development, according to Daniel’s research. If you are unable to breast feed your child, try organic goat’s milk.
If you are vegetarian and use soy as a principal meat and dairy replacement, I suggest switching to legumes such as garbanzo beans (chickpeas), navy beans, kidney beans, lima beans, or any of the other dry beans, combined with a grain product.
For those of you using a synthetic thyroid drug such as Synthroid, or Eltroxin, eating soy, a thyroid-inhibiting food, puts extra stress on the thyroid. The 25 grams of soy protein suggested to lower cholesterol levels (FDA) are likely to harm the thyroid, thereby increasing one of the risk factors for heart disease.
To remove soy from your diet, which is important if you are severely allergic, eliminate the obvious such as veggie burgers, protein supplements, and soymilk. Read labels and watch for the following aliases, which may be hidden sources of soy: textured vegetable protein (TVP), textured plant protein, hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP), vegetable protein concentrate, vegetable oil or MSG (monosodium glutamate), lecithin, vegetable broth, bouillon, natural flavour, mono-diglyceride. Soy may be in your supplements, over-the-counter drugs, and prescription medicines as well. Daniels says to be aware of pills made with soy-oil bases and vitamin E derived from soy oil and soy components such as isoflavones.
The following list may help identify and define various forms of soy:
Edamame: fresh green soybeans that are high in fibre.
Hydrolyzed soy protein: made by chemically separating soy with an enzyme.
Hydrolyzed vegetable protein: vegetable protein broken down into amino acids by a chemical process called hydrochloric acid hydrolysis.
Lecithin: a liquid or powder made from extracted soy oil and used as an emulsifier or stabilizer.
Miso: a fermented soybean paste.
Natto: fermented, whole soybeans.
Okara: a high fibre soybean pulp; a byproduct of tofu and soymilk production.
Soymilk: the liquid from soybeans that have been soaked, ground, and strained.
Soy flour: made from roasted soybeans that are ground into a fine powder.
There are three kinds: natural (full fat), defatted, and lecithinated.
Soy nuts: whole, soaked, and
Soy oil: oil from soybeans.
Soy protein concentrate: made from defatted soybeans by removing the water and most of the non-protein components.
Soy protein isolate: a highly refined soy protein product made from defatted soy meal by removing most of the fats and carbohydrates.
Tempeh: fermented soybeans that are pressed into a patty or strip.
Texturized vegetable protein: made from soy protein concentrate and pressed into bits or chunks, and used as meat analogs.
Tofu: the “whey” or soymilk from soybeans that has been curdled with a coagulant like nigari.
Source: VegNews, Jan/Feb 2008
The truth is that soy does more harm than good. If you do choose to eat soy, purchase fermented organic soy products such as miso, tempeh, and natto, and consume small amounts. If you must use soy milk, make your own with organic soy beans from the recipe below. Organic soy beans and organic soy products will be free of GMOs.
For more information: www.thewolfeclinic.com; www.wholesoystory.com; www.emedicine.com/ped/topic2128.htm (re: infant soy allergies); “Why Soy
Can Damage Your Health” at www.mercola.com; The Whole Soy Story: The Dark Side of America’s Favorite Health Food by Kaayla Daniel (New Trends Publishing, 2004); www.westonaprice.org.
An inexpensive alternative to commercial Soymilk!
1 cup dry organic soy beans
2 tbsp liquid honey
2 tsp liquid lecithin
2 quarts pure water, or more if needed
Soak soybeans in refrigerator for 2 days, pouring off water and replacing with fresh water daily. This makes about 2-1/2 cups soaked soybeans. Liquefy 1/2 of soaked soybeans with 1 quart of water. Repeat for remaining beans. Strain each blender full of mixture through a clean dishcloth or double layer of cheesecloth. Pour all into a large stainless steel saucepan and heat to boiling, stirring often. Cool. Place one quart of milk into the blender and add 1 tbsp honey, and 1 tsp lecithin and blend well. Repeat with remaining milk. Place finished product in glass containers in the fridge. It will remain sweet for several days. Note: Keep some fresh in the fridge and freeze the remainder in glass containers. Yield: 2 quarts.
Variation: May add a vanilla bean while cooking to impart flavour.
—From Eat Away Illness, Paulette Millis
Awesome Cauliflower Salad
(For ideal health, use organic ingredients)
1 head of leaf or romaine lettuce, chopped fine
1 head of cauliflower, chopped fine
Optional: 1 lb firm organic tofu, cut fine, marinated in a bit of tamari, drained and sautéed until brown
1 chopped small red onion
1 can water chestnuts
Layer this in order so it doesn’t become soggy
1 tbsp liquid honey
2/3 cup soy parmesan (for dairy free) (or less if dairy parmesan is used)
1-1/4 cups of healthy mayonnaise (make your own or buy organic)
Spread over the top of salad and refrigerate 8 hours. Mix and serve. Serves 10 or more.
—From Cook Your Way to Health, Paulette Millis
The above information regarding nutritious food is not intended to replace any instruction from medical or health professionals.
Paulette Millis is a speaker, author, and nutritional consultant. To contract her for speaking engagements call (306) 244-8890 in Saskatoon, or email email@example.com. Website: www.healingwithnutrition.ca. Her books, Eat Away Illness and Cook Your Way to Health, are available at health food stores and at McNally Robinson Booksellers.