Is Soy the Health Food Its Made Out to Be

by Garreth Myers

It’s marketed as a health food. The Japanese have been eating it for centuries. It’s one of the country’s main crops – Soy is everywhere. Once touted as the health food du jour, soy could be found in everything from dairy-free products to sauces and snacks. Little kids guzzled down soy milk, moms-to-be treated themselves to soy lattes, and gym bunnies topped up their protein intake with tofu and tempeh. Then suddenly, there were murmurs. Gossip among the medical fraternity turned towards the evils of soy. Studies were conducted on the effects of long-term consumption of this unassuming green bean. The results seemed frightening. It showed that large amounts of soy consumed could lead to infertility, early puberty, and even developmental problems in children and fetuses. All was suddenly not well in the world. The knowledge that corporations could market cyanide as a health food if it were to make them rich did not help, and in a typical knee-jerk reaction, Americans began to shun soy and soy products. Let’s have a look at what soy really has to offer.

The health benefits of soy are linked to the presence of isoflavones. These are plant compounds that can mimic the hormone estrogen in the body. Eating soy and soy products can help improve cholesterol levels and may even reduce the risk of certain types of cancers. But what about the side effects of soy? Studies conducted on mice showed that when consuming too much soy, the estrogenic compounds may cease to be beneficial and become a curse instead. Scientists believe that these results could be applied to humans as well and that too much estrogen can disrupt the development of a young child or even an unborn baby. Other studies indicated that too much genistein (the isoflavone found in soy) might also result in reduced fertility and cell death in embryos.

To combat the argument that soy has been eaten in Asian countries for centuries and with no ill effect, let’s dig a little deeper. The Chinese started to include soy into their diet nearly 2,500 years ago. However, they recognized the toxicity of this plant and ate soy only after the toxins were neutralized though the process of fermentation. Very rarely is the soy that we eat nowadays fermented before eating. Over processing of soy can also lead to an increase in toxicity and harmful effects on your health such as:

  • The phytic acid in soy results in the reduction of calcium absorption in the body
  • Reduced assimilation of minerals such as iron, copper and magnesium.
  • Problems with growth in children
  • Soy works as an anti-thyroid agent and may cause thyroid cancer and hypothyroidism
  • Too much processed soy may cause breast cancer due to the presence of potent carcinogens
  • Food products containing soy have high levels of aluminum thereby increasing the toxic levels in the body
  • Trypsin inhibitors found in soy can lead to pancreatic problems and hamper digestion
  • Hemagglutinin in soy causes red blood cells to clot and clump and affects the supply of oxygen to various parts of the body
  • Synthetically produced soy increases the body’s requirement of vitamin D as well as contributes towards a vitamin B12 deficiency
So, while soy may not be the health food it was made out to be, it needn’t be demonized either. Growing soy, processing soy and selling soy products is a huge business, which is why the ‘health food’ card was used to rake in the bucks. Subsequent studies highlighted the risks posed from soy consumption and set off the alarm bells. Studies in recent years have however highlighted many of the beneficial effects of soy, while making known the risks posed mostly from over consumption and methods of processing. So your enthusiasm to derive any benefits from soy consumption should be tempered with healthy skepticism and caution.

Warning: The reader of this article should exercise all precautionary measures while following instructions on the home remedies from this article. Avoid using any of these products if you are allergic to it. The responsibility lies with the reader and not with the site or the writer.
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