For years it has been touted for its inherent health benefits, but is soy healthy? Soy is credited with being a high-protein, cholesterol-free, vitamin and nutrient rich legume – all of which is true. Perhaps that is why it’s used in oils, as fillers and as the base for many vegetarian diets, including those of farmed animals such as egg-producing chickens, poultry and cattle.
Your Frenemy – Soy
But like many agricultural products in the U.S., the demand for soy is so great that it requires a cost-effective means of being mass produced. Therefore, like corn and wheat, almost all of the soy grown in the U.S. is genetically modified (GMO / GE) to resist everything from insect infestation to pesticides. And if you have read any of my previous articles on Transfer of Health, you know that GMO / GE foods pose very serious health risks to us, and are eroding our entire food system.
Perhaps of equal importance is the fact that soy, even in its most unadulterated state, poses its own set of health risks to us. Specifically, components of soy disrupt normal hormone functions in humans. Let’s look at some of the hormone functions that are impacted.
Our thyroids are critically important to normal and healthy function in that it produces the hormones that regulate all of the systems in our bodies. Besides regulating our metabolism, the thyroid manages our heart rate, stabilizes our body temperature and balances our blood pressure. The slightest imbalance in our thyroid hormones can be devastating. Soy has the ability to mimic hormone functions in our bodies, which can disrupt the way our bodies would normally function, making it especially worrisome for thyroid function. As such, soy may also interfere with some thyroid treatments.
Soy, especially when consumed in large quantities, also mimics estrogen production and can alter the normal function of female menstruation, fertility, healthy pregnancy and menopause. Interestingly, there may be some symptomatic benefit to using soy-based supplements as part of a menopausal hormone replacement regimen. However, the link to other estrogen-related health issues, including breast cancer, is worth serious consideration before taking soy supplements.
Other Serious Health Issues
The genetic modification of soy combined with the vast quantities of it in our food system make it something we should be careful about consuming. GMO / GE foods have strong links to cancer and other serious and potentially life-threatening illnesses Think about all the foods that contain soy in some form: meat products, cereals, bread, crackers, soups, candy, tofu and, of course, soy and teriyaki sauce. Soy is often used as a cheap filler, emulsifier or preservative in processed and pre-packaged foods. Additionally, many people (myself included) have an allergy to soy, whether they’re aware of it or not.
Balance in Everything, Everything in Balance
Do the health benefits of soy outweigh the potential risks of eating it? Only you and your qualified health and nutrition professional can and should make that decision. However, you may want to reduce the amount of soy you consume to bring your diet into greater balance. Be a good Ingredient Reader: check the ingredients of everything before you make a decision about buying it or not. If soy is one of the first five ingredients listed, look for a healthier alternative. I have clients who have reduced the amount of soy in their diets to the point where they feel much healthier, and who have been able to restore healthy hormone balance in their bodies. Their diets, and lives, are more balanced and yours can be too.
Catherine Mason is a writer, former educator, and someone who has multiple food allergies. As Tribe Leader & Chief Wellness Coach at www.mydietribe.com, she helps people identify, assimilate and maintain sustainable health and wellness practices in their everyday lives, with a focus on physical, emotional, spiritual, mental and financial wellness. Catherine may be contacted at email@example.com, and you can follow her on Facebook and Twitter (@mydietribe).
What soy products do you eat most often and why? Have you given up soy and what were the results? Or, is soy something you can’t live without? If so, why?