Soy is like the building block to a hardcore vegan’s food pyramid. It sits squarely at the top of a hierarchy of fruits and vegetables in a parallel universe of foodies who exist without the notion of consuming meat ever entering the brain. And for years now it’s held this prime real estate without ever being questioned about its integrity…until now.
Soy for all its wonderful phytonutrients and high protein content has many asking is it all it’s cracked up to be. The answer may be no. Soy dangers lurking in soy’s many incarnations like soy protein powders, soy formulas, or plain old soy lecithin may be more harmful than helpful.
What is the green bean hiding? Why should men consider avoiding soy protein like the plague? And why might women have yet another item to add to their cancer risk watch list? Here’s a look at the hidden dangers of soy.
What is Soy?
Soy is derived from the soybean plant largely cultivated in east Asia. Presently the top producers of soy are the US and Brazil however. The business of soy is big just about everywhere in the world.
The plant itself is a hairy pod that sprouts huge beans typically classified as oilseeds. Why? About 60% of the composition of the soybean is protein and oil (40% protein and 20% oil). The other percentages consist of isoflavones and some dodgy characters like phytoestrogen that we will come back to later.
Its many incarnations include tofu, soy protein powders, yogurts, soy milk and the ever ubiquitous soy lecithin, an additive that appears in more products than we can count. Soy is also a staple in vegan and vegetarian dishes. Because it has such a high protein content, soy has been a common replacement for animal protein in meatless dishes and daily dietary needs.
For instance 100 grams of soy can yield roughly 36 grams of protein at 375 calories. Compare that to nuts which only yield 21 grams of protein for 576 calories. Clearly soy offers more bang for the buck.
Infant Baby Soy Formula Dangers: Yay or Nay
For people, especially infants, who are lactose intolerant, soy milk has provided a great alternative to regular milk. Hence there is no end to the deluge of infant baby soy formulas that saturate the market.
Herein lies the rub. 90% of soy produced in the US is genetically modified. That means it isn’t riddled with pesticides but in fact is sprayed with herbicides. These herbicides act as carcinogens in the body. No infant should be exposed to carcinogens that can eventually lead to various forms of cancer. Further, genetically modified soy is teeming with all manner of chemical agents that when tested on animal subjects raised the alarm bells for purists and researchers alike.
For this very reason, many countries refuse to import genetically modified soy products from the US. Raw, organic soy is usually what is in demand. But even raw soy cannot be consumed as it is. It possesses a toxic metal base that must be treated with a “wet” heat before being made ready for consumption.
Secondly most soy has what are called anti nutrients, which do exactly as they sound, affect the body in an adverse manner. To offset the presence of anti nutrients in soy, some manufacturers ferment it before distributing. But products like infant baby soy formula, soy milk and tofu are rarely fermented.
What Soy Dangers Do These Products Pose to Your Baby?
Goitrogens block thyroid function, iodine metabolism and can even lead to hyperthyroidism and thyroid cancer. In infants soy formula can even lead to autoimmune thyroid disease.
High levels of aluminum and manganese in soy can be toxic to the nervous system, kidneys and the baby’s tender metabolic system.
Phytoestrogens can have up to 20,000 times the effect on a baby that they can on an adult. Remember that a baby’s delicate system is infinitely more fragile than an adult’s. Phytoestrogens therein could be disastrous in a growing baby, inhibiting growth, brain, cell and endocrine function.
What Can You Do to Remedy This?
Breast feed. Breast milk is the doctor recommended and is the best source of nutrition for your baby that exists. Unlike soy milk that may wreak havoc on a growing baby’s endocrine and thyroid systems, breast milk is fortified with essential nutrients and proteins a baby needs to function.
Try lactose free milk. Products like Lactaid that remove the lactose from the product still retain the essential vitamins and minerals that endow milk with its beneficial properties. A baby will still reap the best milk has to offer
What Dangers Does Soy Pose to Men?
For a few years now, fitness enthusiasts and researchers have been meeting at a crossroads of agreement on the subject of the dangers of soy and risks soy poses to men. Why? Take a look at the chemical composition of soy for starters. Remember when we referenced those crazy little isoflavones that have a room with a view in the soy chemical construct? One in particular is Glycitein, a phytoestrogen.
Phytoestrogens are estrogens derived from plants. While they don’t naturally occur in the human endocrine system they can act as regularly occurring estrogen in so much as they can produce physical effects from their consumption.
In other words, eating plants high in phytoestrogen can produce the same sort of effects as estrogen that already appears in the body. And phytoestrogens can interfere in the communication between cells. Consuming a lot of phytoestrogen can act oppositely in nature to estrogen even.
Fast forward to men. The male species is a complicated creature of higher bone density, muscle mass and overall musculature than that of his female counterpart. Testosterone is one his major building blocks, fueling muscle growth and dynamic performance. So let’s do the math. Does phytoestrogen found in soy block testosterone production? Does it lower sperm count?
While some studies will adamantly refute the risks to men when consuming soy protein powders and soy products in general, there are some irrefutable facts that should give any man pause. Let’s take a look at the larger picture. Phytoestrogen by its very nature can have an altering effect on intestinal cells, even blocking normal communication between receptors.
However, does that mean a mean a man grows male breasts or suffers infertility because he consumes soy protein powders? Not necessarily. But phytoestrogen is neither a phytonutrient nor a chemical naturally produced in the endocrine system, particularly by a man. If it isn’t a phytonutrient that is beneficial to the human body, nor is it something naturally produced in the human body; what helpful purpose does it serve?
In theory there should be no difference between a male’s response to soy protein versus his response to soy protein. But it isn’t really the case.
What Risks Does Soy Pose to Men?
Soy protein isolate is rendered through a delicate process of denaturing various proteins at high temperatures. Two dangerous byproducts are lysinoalanine and nitrosamines which are both toxic to the body.
Phytoestrogens can not only make physical changes to a man’s body, they can alter psychological moods. Low testosterone can lead to depression and unpredictable mood swings. Feelings of low self worth may predominate a man’s overall mood.
Hemagglutinin causes red blood cells to clump and reduces the absorption of oxygen into the tissues. Products like soy protein powders that promote muscle building actually may inhibit muscle growth for this very problem of blocking oxygen to the muscles.
Trypsin inhibitors interfere with protein digestion and may even lead to pancreatic cancer.
Clumping. Another risk from soy is clumping in the intestines. Soy products like tofu and soy protein powders are manufactured in such a way that it is hard to digest them completely. They often times can form little masses or clumps rather than be completely dissolved in protein shakes or digested in the digestive system.
What ensues is a painful clumping of soy in the intestines which can take several hours or even a few days to pass. The sensation itself can range from mildly painful to extremely painful. The masses in question can even damage the intestinal wall. The only remedy is to limit the consumption of soy protein formulas and to be vigilant as to making sure the powders are completely dissolved in your shakes before consuming.
What Alternatives Do Men Have to Get Their Protein Intake?
- Nuts are still an excellent source of protein. They are high in essential vitamins and minerals and can be eaten with any sort of meal or as a snack.
- Lentils are a brilliant source of fiber and protein. Variations like lentil soup make for great variety in the course of one’s day.
- Spreads like peanut butter, almond and cashew butter are great to add to sandwiches and smoothies, enriching both the flavor and protein content.
Should Women Be Wary of Soy?
Of all the studies that exist, the most alarming are those that investigate soy dangers to women. These studies have linked soy products and general soy consumption to digestive disorders, breast cancer, infertility, and cognitive decline. Where do we begin to take notice of the problem?
Let’s start with soy food products. Products like soy yogurt, meatless meals and soy drinks are primarily targeted to women. We see soy yogurts in ads for active women who’ve just finished an exhausting yoga routine or are on a lunch break during work. These ads purport that such products are a great source of bacteria that help in the digestive process and proteins that will refuel the body.
But au contraire. In fact the opposite is largely true. Soy products like yogurts, soy milk and tofu use synthetic Vitamin D to offset soy’s side effect of causing the body to need more Vitamin D. Manufacturers add synthetic Vitamin D2 to soymilk and sell it as a viable alternative to regular milk fortified with Vitamin D. The synthetic clone can be dangerously toxic to the body.
But that’s not the only vitamin the body suddenly craves in higher doses after consuming way too much soy. Soy consumption as a general replacement of animal proteins can lead to a vitamin B12 deficiency. While soy products may contain compounds that resemble the vitamin, none of these compounds can be readily absorbed into the body and used as essential nutrients.
Remember soy’s chemical makeup includes isoflavones that aren’t naturally produced in the body. When they are exposed to the digestive system, the digestive system doesn’t know what to do with them other than to repel them and purge them. But the digestive process itself can become so violent to the body that the very vitamins and minerals that aid in the process become depleted (i.e. vitamin B12, iron).
These isoflavones, phytoestrogens, can not only act as normal estrogen but can go so far as to block estrogen in the body. What does that mean for a woman? Drinking two glasses of soy milk a day for a month is enough exposure to disrupt her menstrual cycle. It is also enough to even produce changes in the human tissues.
But if that’s not alarming enough, consider why most soy is genetically modified. Unfermented soy, which is what we largely consume, is genetically modified to resist herbicides like roundup. The byproduct of that is a toxin that transfers into the gut during digestion and stays there for up to years even after stopping any consumption of soy.
And what about the C word? Cancer. While there has been no definitive study yet linking soy to breast cancer all the researchers agree that women should limit their consumption of soy products, particularly when they are pregnant. Why?
Here is a list of soy dangers to women that may lead to breast cancer:
Isoflavones in soy can react violently in the human digestive and endocrine system, blocking cell communication and natural human estrogen, causing infertility and possibly even leading to breast cancer
Phytates in soy can block the absorption of essential nutrients that help women to fight illness and build strong immune systems and bones. Iron and calcium deficiencies are two usual byproducts from this.
Textured vegetable protein is rendered through a process of denaturing soy proteins. What results are your various incarnations of soy meal replacements that may have hidden levels of toxic agents and are equally hard to digest. These products can cause clumping in the intestines and even disrupt bladder and bowel function.
And then there is the elephant in the room. Soy lecithin. It’s in the majority of products shopped to women. Soy lecithin dangers in and of itself include:
- Weight loss and/or weight gain
- Nausea and vomitting
- Skin Rashes
- Blurred vision
- Impaired brain function
- Lack of energy and stamina
Then there is the study Cornell University conducted on 28 women. After consumption of soy products, supplements and soy lecithin for 6 months, they were found to have increased growth of milk ducts in their breasts. While the FDA does not require soy lecithin to be monitored and approved like other agents, soy lecithin dangers are dangerously coming to the fore. The best advice in this case is to avoid processed foods that contain it altogether.
Should Women Be Wary of Soy?
Eat yogurts that are rich in digestive-aiding bacteria. If you are lactose intolerant, find yogurts that remove the lactose. You can even find lactose free 0% high protein foreign exports like greek yogurt, quark (a German cheese), or fromage blanc (French white cheese). These are all rich sources of proteins, vitamins and minerals that are great for the body.
Eat your nuts and vegetables. Almonds, cashews, brazil nuts, and lentils are all excellent sources of iron that women need to function on all cylinders.
Eat quinoa and brown rice. These are both excellent sources of plant protein and compliment almost any meal.
Is All Soy Bad?
The definitive answer is no. Not all soy is created equal. In fact, fermented soy unlike its evil stepsister unfermented soy, is rich in vitamins and minerals. It’s also free of the toxic chemicals found in manufactured processed soy food products like tofu, infant baby soy formulas and soy protein powders.
The challenge is to find fermented soy products in your local supermarket. Like organic food products, it will tend to be more costly. But just like organic food products, it will be better for your health in the long run. Why?
- Not genetically modified
- No herbicides or pesticides
- No food processed toxins
- Easy to digest
- Easier absorption of plant proteins
And when cooking, always remember to properly wash and clean your products. Your body will wholly thank you for it.