I know people who can’t get enough soy but I also know others who avoid it completely as they’re afraid of potential health risks. There’s so much conflicting information out there it’s hard to know what to believe? But, take a deep breath and relax, as soy like all foods has pros and cons associated with it.
Hidden sources of soy
Soy is everywhere. Even if you’re not consciously choosing to eat soy, if you eat processed foods, you will be consuming some form of soy. Be wary of the following hidden soy ingredients:
- Soy lecithin
- Soy protein concentrate or isolate
- Soy isoflavone concentrates
- Textured or hydrolysed vegetable protein
- Soy oil (common vegetable oil)
Which soy products?
Stick to traditional forms of ORGANIC soy which use the whole soybean. These sources can be fermented or non-fermented. Fermented soy is seen as the healthiest option as it enhances digestion and promotes healthy gut bacteria.
Fermented organic soy products
- Miso – fermented soybean and grain (rice or barley) paste makes a yummy soup broth.
- Tempeh – fermented soybeans packed tightly together to form a block and sold marinated or plain.
- Tamari – fermented soya sauce is a great alternative to conventional soya sauce.
- Soybean sprouts – easy to do yourself and are a highly nutritious addition to salads or stir fries.
Non-fermented organic soy products
- Soy milk – when purchasing aim for minimal ingredients (no sweeteners, flavouring, or additives of any description) and make sure it is made from ‘whole soybeans’. You could even make your own.
- Tofu – soybean curd available in silken or firm types are great alternatives to fish, meat and eggs.
Avoiding the nasties
To avoid nasties (toxic metals & chemicals) and the potential harmful effects of soy, stay clear of any genetically modified (GM) soy which is likely to be used in most non-organic products. Aim to buy organic soy products only as, they are ultimately the only reliable and health promoting source.
Soy an original ‘super-food’
Soy is one of the best food sources of phyto-estrogens. Phyto-estrogens can balance oestrogen levels in the body. So if you suffer from a condition where oestrogen is dominant (heavy menstrual bleeding) phyto-estrogens can block oestrogen and reduce symptoms. Whereas, if you struggle with low levels of oestrogen, like in menopause, phyto-estrogens are able to enhance oestrogen levels and reduce harmful risk factors and debilitating symptoms associated with menopause.
Benefits of soy
When soy is consumed in moderation (1-2 serves per day) as part of a balanced, wholefood diet it has these potential health benefits:
- Reduces risk of hormone related cancers – prostate and breast
- Hormone balancing – alleviating heavy menstrual bleeding and menopausal symptoms
- Decreased risk of cardiovascular disease
- Osteoporosis prevention and treatment
Most of the negative press around soy is related to GM and highly processed soy products along with excessive daily intake.
Some potential drawbacks
Here are some considerations when consuming soy:
- If you’re allergic or sensitive to dairy products you could also be with soy. Soy and dairy are both know in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine as ‘damp’ foods which can enhance the production of phlegm.
- A substance called ‘goitrogens’ are found in soy. They suppress thyroid function by interfering with the body’s ability to use iodine. Also found in broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and kale. Are destroyed by lightly cooking.
- As soy can interfere with thyroid function metabolism can become sluggish adding to fluid retention and weight gain.
- Soy along with other legumes and grains contains phytic acid which binds to minerals (calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron) potentially causing nutrient deficiencies. Soak and sprout to remove phytic acid.
- Soy formulas are not recommended for infants as may promote soy allergies.
Points to remember
- Eat ORGANIC soy products only and avoid all GM
- Eat soy in moderation as part of a balanced, wholefood diet
- Enjoy 1-2 serves of traditional soy a day
- Check food labels for unwanted and often nasty soy by-products
Where to from here?
If you still have concerns about soy, consult your naturopath or clinical nutritionist for guidance. We can do allergy testing to ascertain if you’re body is coping with soy and point you in the right direction for the best foods (soy or not) for your particular constitution and health status.
Ultimately, the better you know yourself the better equipped you will be to know what foods are right for you or not, including soy.
Don’t struggle alone. Call Belinda 0400 225 771 today to book a naturopathic consultation or secure your place in one of her 10 week gentle yoga/mindfulness programs.
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