There is so much conflicting information regarding soy products out there. Is soy healthy or unhealthy? Should you eat it or should you avoid it? What I’ve learned after lots of researching is that soy can be good for you or bad for you depending on what types of products you eat and how much. Soy products are all over the place now! Industrialization has led to separating soy into two parts: soybean oil and soy protein (also called soy protein isolate). These products are in almost all processed foods nowadays, which is one reason why I try to stay away from processed foods as much as possible. Here are the issues with soy:
- Soy contains anti-nutrients: phytates (can block absorption of minerals), enzyme inhibitors (can make soybeans difficult to digest), and goitrogens (can block the production of thyroid hormone). It is important to note that these anti-nutrients are significantly reduced in the fermentation process of natural soybeans (examples of these soy products are described below).
- Soy can cause thyroid imbalance due to goitrogens.
- Because of the phytoestrogen (isoflavones) in soy, there have been increased reports of hormone imbalances in those eating lots of processed food, fake meat, and other soy products. (*Note: dairy and meat also contain estrogen contributing to hormone imbalances)
- Soy allergies are increasing each year. This may be because of the increase in processed soy products and the difficulty digesting them.
- Soy is one of the main products being genetically modified.
- Processed soy products require acid washing in aluminum tanks and the aluminum then leaches into the final soy product.
- Processed soy products can contain MSG and other yucky chemicals.
- Fermented soy products increase healthy bacteria (i.e., probiotics) in the gut.
- Fermented soy products help to maintain a healthy immune system.
- Fermented soy products are anticarcinogenic.
So, where should you go from here?
- Get food intolerance testing or eliminate all soy from your diet for 2-4 weeks and see if you feel a difference. If you feel a lot better, you most likely have an intolerance to soy and should eliminate soy from your diet entirely. If you feel the same, then use the following guidelines for eating soy products.
- To make sure you are not eating any GMOs, only eat organic soy products.
- Eat soy products in small amounts daily or in moderate amounts 1-2 times a week sticking with fermented soy products (i.e., tempeh, natto, miso, nama shoyu, and tamari). Traditionally, these soy products were consumed in small quantities (about 2 teaspoons per day) in Asia.
- Tofu and soy milk were both traditionally fermented, but they are not in this form in our typical grocery and health food stores today. Therefore, tofu, soy milk, and edamame should be consumed only occasionally. If you choose to drink soy milk occasionally, make sure it is made from organic soybeans, such as Edensoy.
- Soy products you should never eat: any processed soy products such as fake meats (e.g., soy burgers), soy yogurt, soy cream cheese, soy ice cream, etc. Instead, when you’re having a craving for one of these products, see if there is a coconut, seed, or nut product that you can eat in place of these products such as almond ice cream or coconut yogurt.
What do I do? I always have miso and tamari in my home to eat whenever I please. I eat tempeh or natto 2-3x/month and tofu 1-2x/month. I only eat edamame if I go out for sushi, and I don’t buy soy milk but instead buy coconut, almond, or hemp milk weekly.
No need to worry anymore about if you should or should not eat soy. Follow the steps above, and you can be worry-free!