Body Blog: How Much Soy is Too Much Soy?

These days the type of milk to put in your cereal or pair with your latte is confusing. I hear more and more people in line with me at the ‘Bucks ordering their lattes with soy. At the grocery store, I see those around me grabbing for soy “chicken” nuggets, soy “sausage,” soy ice-cream and soy based cheeses and coffee creamer. I’m surprised that soy hasn’t infiltrated our pre-games with soy-tinis or soy beer. Though I’m sure that’s next.
On one hand, it feels like a GREAT move for people; stepping away from non-organic dairy and meat, both of which are often pumped with hormones and antibiotics and really are just not good for you (or the animals and the environment). But is switching everything out for soy products the answer?
Soy is found in just about EVERYTHING these days. So much so that soy consumption in the U.S. has skyrocketed since the early 1990s. Sales climbed from $300 million in 1992 to over $4 billion in 2008. It’s cheap to produce (mainly because the government subsidizes its growth) and is in tons of packaged products. Seriously, check your food labels in your cabinet; I’m willing to bet Soy Lecithin or Soy Protein Isolate (SPI) is in a lot of things you wouldn’t even think would have soy in it!
But despite its insane growth over the last few years, there has been tons of contradictory research on the benefits, or lack there of, of consuming soy products. First scientists said consuming soy could help reduce the risk for breast cancer. Then they said it could cause it. Some studies show it can inhibit your thyroid and others say it can cause fertility issues or premature puberty. And for the record, it makes some friends of mine (who shall rename nameless) break out like a 7th grader and incredibly gassy (neither of which are particularly attractive). Yet others tout its many benefits, saying the Chinese use it as a main staple in their diet and they are as healthy, fit and fertile as Angelina Jolie.
So which is it?
Well, both. The thing is, our Asian friends are eating fermented soy: miso, tempeh, and natto. Fermented soy increases the digestibility of the nutrients to the body. However, the majority of soy we consume in America is un-fermented. The soy we primarily consume contains isoflavones, which can cause us to have negative hormonal responses. Un-fermented soy has also been shown to increase the body’s needs for Vitamins D and B12, both of which are important for preventing osteoporosis.
And on top of all that, one of the most common forms of soy, Soy Protein Isolate (which is found in all the processed products we consume on a regular basis, including many foods where we’d NEVER expect to find it), is toxic! Sweeeet.
The thing is, when you process food, minerals are stripped out, Phytonutrients – aka the disease-fighting medicines found in foods – are destroyed (as much as 90% of the phytonutrient content is lost during processing) and the natural physical properties of foods are artificially altered in a way that can make them both dangerous and unhealthy.
So what should we do?
Well, cutting soy out all together may be unrealistic, but cutting back on your consumption of processed soy isn’t. Try to avoid soy milk, soy protein, soy burgers, soy cheese, soy dressings, soy flour, etc. You know, the things that are obviously soy. That way, when you consume it in other less obvious places, it won’t be such a big deal. Or, just to be on the safe side (and for other amazing health benefits), avoid processed foods (soy or not) all together, or at least just eat them in moderation.
At least until the jury comes back on soy once and for all.
Oh, and while you’re at it, let’s cut back on salt, too. K?

One-Month Challenge: Chocolate Free, The End
One-Month Challenge: Chocolate Free, The End
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