We stopped selling Annmarie’s soap because we were unable to confirm that the soy was from a non-GMO source! Now what about eating it?
Soy, as I’m sure you know, is a hotly contested food…
There are as many staunch supporters of eating soy as there are adversaries – which leads me to believe there are three factors at play here – first, there is some true health benefit (small or large to be decided), second, there is some risk of eating it for some people, and thirdly, there is some marketing savvy involved that has confused just about everyone about its benefits and risks.
Today, I’m going to breakdown my understanding of soy from the years of exploration on the topic that I’ve done. Hopefully at the end, by the time I give my own personal rules for soy, you’ll have a pretty deep understanding of the topic.
Let’s get started…
The studies contradict themselves!
What a surprise…
Soy can help prevent cancer, but it can also cause it.
Soy is good protein, soy is bad protein.
There are plenty of these to go around, so when the science seems to come to a standstill on an issue like this, I go to other sources.
Because there must be other evidence outside of our Western analytical techniques that can help determine if something is healthy or not.
So this in-depth look will not list countless studies that support my claims or refute them. This is more a common sense look at how you can determine if you should add soy into your diet or take it away.
History tells us that…
Soy foods have been eaten for thousands of years in Asian countries like China, Japan and others. One of these areas include the island of Okinawa – its people are considered some of the longest lived in the world.
So their health protocol includes soy and they have very low incidence of cancer or other western disease. So regardless of what someone thinks, soy – in the form that they eat it – can’t be the only contributing factor to health issues like cancer and other diseases (at least if you’re Asian… I’ll explain later.)
So when it comes to soy, history tells us we can’t completely write it off as unhealthy.
The Japanese don’t eat soy dogs, tofu burgers or soy protein isolate.
If you explore the history of soy eating cultures, they also don’t eat processed soy (or any processed foods for that matter.)
The soy products that they do eat are tempeh, miso, tamari, and nama shoyu (all fermented) as well as edemame – steamed soy beans. They do not eat soy chicken nuggets, drink processed soy milk, devour massive amounts of tofu, take isolated soy proteins, or any other soy abomination that the food industry can dream up for vegetarians.
When it comes to soy, there’s no way possible that we can categorize it broadly and say all soy is bad or all soy is good, since there are thousands of different soy products that I wouldn’t even consider food.
So let’s lay the groundwork that any soy that is processed beyond traditional ways is not a food and should not be consumed (or heavily avoided.)
But if the Asians can eat soy does that mean I can?
If you’re Asian, chances are yes, your body has adapted to thousands of years of eating a food like this.
If you’re not Asian, the question has more depth to it.
A few years ago, I was sitting it Dr. Williams’ living room and we were discussing the genetic components of health. I wanted to know if it was possible that eating certain foods can “change” our DNA and allow our bodies to adapt to certain foods over time.
He said absolutely “yes.” In fact, he pointed me to some study of animal husbandry where animals can be bred to look differently in just a few generations by the food that they’re feed. Also, once they’re bred in a new way, they also have slightly different food requirements.
Basically, their genetics have changed just enough that they appear different and have different fuel requirements.
If this it true, then it makes sense that after thousands of years of eating soy, the Japanese have adapted in a way that it has a positive impact on their health.
But what if you’re from Ireland, the U.S. or Sudan?
Does that mean you can eat as much soy as you like – or even moderate amounts – and expect the same results?
I don’t know the answer for you specifically, but here’s how you can find out.
Allergies and hormone imbalance…
The two biggest negative arguments about soy are:
1. Soy causes hormone imbalance by being too estrogenic (meaning adds more estrogen to the body.)
2. Soy is a very common allergen.
So here’s how you know for sure if you’re being affected by it (if you choose to eat it.)
For hormone imbalance you can test your hormones. There are very accurate hormone tests that a natural practitioner can give to you that will tell you if your hormones are out of whack or not. The reason I don’t mention specific ones is because there are a bunch of accurate ones that practitioners can administer and use effectively. I don’t want to send you off looking for something you can’t find locally when another test may work just as well.
First step is to take an initial test as your baseline. (If you don’t eat soy, you may want to test then start eating it to see how it affects you.) Your initial test will either show normal levels, high or low.
Second step is to stop eating soy for a while.
Third step, after you’ve removed the soy from your diet for 2-3 months, is to test again to see if those numbers changed.
There are a few permutations here that will give you a clue on what is going on, but basically if your hormones move toward optimal, then soy may not be a good thing for you. If they move away from optimal, then soy might actually be helping you out.
Fourth step is to test regularly to make sure you’re always monitoring your health appropriately and not guessing about what’s going on in your body.
As for allergies, the approach is quite similar. If you don’t want to go through all the testing, you can just remove soy from your diet for 2 weeks and see if you feel any better. If so, soy may be the culprit.
If you want a more accurate type of test, you can work with a natural practitioner who is well versed on the topic allergies so that you can monitor what is going on with your body.
Soy must be non-GMO if you eat it.
One of the reasons soy may be causing so many problems in the U.S. and not in Japan is because anywhere between 60-99% of it is genetically modified. (I’ve heard that percentage range, and I can’t seem to confirm which number it truly is.)
GMO foods – including soy – have been shown to cause inflammation in the digestive tract lining of animals and likely would do the same in yours. Any inflammation of the gut can lead to mild to severe allergies.
This is a non-proven link, but there’s enough evidence to at least put them around the same block at the time of the crime.
Non-GMO soy (it would have to be labeled “organic”) is harder to come across, but is the only kind I’ll eat if I do happen to eat a little. If it is labeled this way, there are regulations that a company has to adhere to in order to ensure their food is not contaminated below allowable levels.
Do you really need soy for plant protein?
This is debatable.
There are many plant foods (and animal foods if you eat them) that can provide you with protein that do not carry the side effects of eating soy to get your protein requirements.
So unless it truly causes you no issues, you can use foods like beans, greens, grains, rice, and many others to get proteins. If you’re a meat eater, you can eat local, organically raised eggs and meats.
Basically, your protein protocol shouldn’t rely on any one protein food, so it makes sense not to overeat soy just to meet this requirement – particularly when a wide range of foods can give you some high quality protein.
Why is soy so abundant anyway? (Marketing considerations…)
What does a business do when they have extra of something?
They try to unload it.
In agriculture, soy is part of a regular crop rotation technique. Soy is planted to fix nitrogen into the soil. Soy is also a food that can be marketed as healthy. So with a little clever and selective marketing, factory farm owners made sure you knew about the positive benefits of soy – not to necessarily make you healthier, but to make sure there was less surplus and more profit.
(This is the other reason why I stay away from many of the studies on soy… I just don’t trust all of them.)
If you look in the bread aisle in your supermarket, chances are 1 out of 2 loaves that you pick up will have some type of soy product in them. This has not always been the case. In fact, just 5 years ago, it would be difficult to find any at all. What’s happened is that food companies have found an inexpensive filler (and protein) to add to their manufactured products.
So the soy isn’t there to keep you healthy, it’s there because it has been put there because companies need to make a profit.
My rules on soy…
Of course, there are a lot of considerations here. What it comes down to are my simple rules on soy:
1. If you have hormone issues and you eat soy, be sure to test and find out if it is causing an issue.
2. If you have allergies and eat soy, be sure to test and see if your symptoms improve.
3. If you ever eat soy, eat organic.
4. Eat traditional, fermented soy products like tempeh and miso as a first choice.
I eat soy once in a while, but don’t go overboard to get it and I think this is the best protocol based on everything that I’ve read and researched.
I know some people swear by it and others vilify it, but I feel like there’s a gray area that is acceptable to explore and will still allow you to reach awesome levels of health.
Enough from me, now it’s your turn…
Your question of the day: What are your thoughts on soy?