Soy became somewhat of a fad starting in the late ’70s. With the alarming rise in the numbers of people manifesting wheat sensitivities, soy was a versatile, prolific, and inexpensive substitute.
The promoters of soy as a staple missed a few important facts about soy, however, that are now becoming apparent in the development of soy sensitivities.
What they missed was that in the countries in which soy is a regular part of the diet, it comes in the form of fermented soy, not the forms of soy that are presented to us in North America. Additionally, the amounts we eat (specifically and generally) are much greater than in other cultures.
The Fermentation Difference
The fermentation process for soy serves to break down the enzymes that not only negatively affect absorption of its considerable nutrients but can actually be potentially harmful to our bodies in significant amounts.
Tofu, edamame, soy milk, and the soy (including that in infant formula) and soy oils used in processed foods are not fermented; below are some reasons why you may want to rethink these forms of soy in favor of the fermented kind.
1. Genetic Modification
Over ninety percent of the soy produced in the U.S. is genetically modified (GM). These GM crops are sprayed with chemical herbicides and pesticides that they’ve been developed to resist. These chemicals (such as glyphosate) have been found to be toxic to humans.
2. Increased Risk of Breast Cancer
Soy contains high levels of phytoestrogens, chemicals found in plants that are similar to mammalian estrogen.
Since eating soy increases the amount of estrogen in the body, there is concern that large amounts can promote breast cancer.
A condition of estrogen dominance–in which there exists an overabundance of estrogen in the body consistently over time–can lead to a host of health issues including mood swings, insomnia, weight gain, infertility, and osteoporosis–for both women and men.
3. Phytoestrogens Can be Harmful
The result of regular increased levels of estrogen in males can contribute to lowered production of testosterone.
The imbalance of these hormones has been associated with erectile dysfunction, decreased libido, and gynecomastia, a condition of swollen breast tissue in men.
There is also evidence that high (unfermented) soy intake is directly related to low sperm count.
4. Preventing Nutrient Absorption
Phytic acid in soy inhibits the ability of the body to absorb minerals like iron, magnesium, calcium, copper, and zinc from the foods you eat (not just the soy).
This form of phosphorus arrests the activities of digestive enzymes like pepsin and trypsin. That is why soy affects some people by causing gas and bloating.
Many processed foods that contain soy include aluminum, a metal toxic to humans that affects kidney function.
Soy is a goitrogenic food that has consequences for thyroid function; it prevents the absorption of iodine, a necessary mineral for cellular metabolism and activation of the thyroid.
Problems with thyroid function have become increasingly prevalent in North America as the result of our diets and sedentary tendencies. The hormones produced by the thyroid control how your body uses food for energy.
Soy can be the healthy nutrient source it was purported to be–it’s the form it takes that makes the difference. Opt for the organic fermented kind.