For many years, vegetarian bodybuilders and athletes have incorporated soy into their diets, believing that it is the perfect form of protein to repair and build muscle. Even we have advocated it on VB (there still be articles that we have to revamp on here actually).
Among the more popular beliefs regarding soy is that it is a rich source of protein and even helps in the prevention of degenerative diseases such as osteoporosis.
Soy and soy products are heavily consumed in most Asian countries, so it can be bothersome enough to see people (especially vegetarians) consume them in significant amounts.
A primary ingredient in vegetarian meat substitutes such as tofu, soy can also be found in a wide array of common food products: milk, cereals, peanut butter, chocolate, and even nutritional supplements.
Contrary to popular belief, soy isn’t truly a health food. In fact, soy can be harmful to the body because it contains dangerous anti-nutrients and toxins. Scientific studies reveal that high levels of soy consumption can actually be unhealthy.
When you look deeper into the chemical composition of soy, you will see that it can inhibit the body from absorbing essential minerals and even cause hormonal upsets.
Most of the proteins found in soy are actually compromised due to the extensive processing required to eliminate phytoestrogens, goitrogens, phytic acid, and other anti-nutrients from soybeans.
Furthermore, heavily processed soy can be unpalatable, so manufacturers of soy products typically use artificial flavoring and MSG to improve its taste. As a result, even more toxins can be found in the final product.
Nonetheless, there are soy products that offer some nutritional value when incorporated into our diets. A few examples of these commercially prepared food items are fermented soy products like soy sauce, miso, natto, and tempeh.
It is good practice to check labels and take extra care and effort when looking for the best sources of fermented soy. Some of them may have been sourced from genetically modified (GMO) soybeans or have undergone heavy processing that can create further toxins.
No matter what, you should never use unfermented soy. Surprisingly, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not even awarded a “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) designation to unfermented soy, so it should be avoided at all costs.
Below, you will find 10 good reasons to avoid soy products. They are listed in no particular order of importance, and it is prudent to give equal attention to each.
1. Soy inhibits the body from absorbing essential minerals and nutrients.
High phytic acid levels in soy reduces the assimilation of vital minerals that include calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, and zinc. Calcium is essential for optimum bone health. Osteoporosis and other bone-related issues can arise from a deficiency in calcium levels.
A healthy level of iron is vital for the production of hemoglobin and transport of oxygen to every cell of the human body.
Zinc stimulates the activity of approximately 300 different enzymes in the body and is vital in maintaining a healthy immune system.
Phytic acid, which is found in high levels in soy, is classified as an anti-nutrient because it inhibits the absorption of these vital minerals essential for maintaining optimum health.
2. Because of the intense methods involved in the processing of soybeans, many toxins are present in final soy products.
As mentioned earlier, significant levels of phytic acid are found in soybeans and they need to be inactivated. This can be done through intense industrial processing, which involves washing soybeans in acid using aluminum tanks.
The procedure can cause harmful chemicals to leach into the end products. The beans are then treated in an alkaline solution, which could result in the formation of lysinoalanine, a toxic compound that can reduce the bioavailability of proteins and lead to severely impaired digestibility.
On top of that, the spray-drying process that follows tends to encourage the formation of carcinogenic nitrates.
3. You will not get good protein from manufactured soy products.
We won’t refute claims that soybean is among the few foods that contain all nine essential amino acids, making it an excellent source of protein. This is 100 percent absolutely true.
The body cannot produce essential amino acids, therefore it has to source these from certain foods. Examples of these foods are meat and eggs, but if you’re looking for a complete plant-based protein, soybean is a perfect choice.
The problem, however, is that we only have access to manufactured soy. Soybeans undergo an intensive manufacturing process that triggers chemical changes in essential amino acids.
Furthermore, the fragile proteins are denatured and possibly destroyed during high temperature processing.
To sum it up, good protein that contains all nine essential amino acids in an absorbable state can only be derived from soy that has not been subject to intensive processing. That said, there are some good quality soy isolate protein powders that are minimally processed and worth taking.
4. It is likely that MSG can be found in most soy products.
Despite measures to reduce soy’s natural bean-like flavor, it still comes with a strong and nasty aftertaste after all that heavy processing. Manufacturers often tackle this issue with the use of artificial flavorings and Monosodium L-glutamate (MSG).
MSG has the inherent ability to enhance taste sensitivity so artificial flavorings will overpower the unpleasant beany aftertaste of soybeans.
The sad part is that MSG has been proven to be toxic, with a number of scientific studies linking it to brain lesions, obesity, diabetes, adrenal gland malfunction, and a host of other health problems.
5. Soy contains phytoestrogens that can cause breast cancer.
Among the most disturbing ill effects of soy on health has to do with its phytoestrogens. Specifically, a phytoestrogen called genistein found in soybeans can mimic the effects of the female estrogen hormone*.
These phytoestrogens disrupt endocrine function and have the potential to cause infertility and promote breast cancer in adult women.
*Granted, a man would have to eat a truckload of this stuff for it to negatively affect him… but still it’s worth mentioning.
6. Goitrogens are also present in soy and these can cause thyroid issues.
Soy contains goitrogens, which are basically potent anti-thyroid agents that can inhibit iodine uptake and block your synthesis of thyroid hormones.
These can cause depressed thyroid functions, which can lead to hypothyroidism or thyroid cancer. Proper thyroid functions are critical in regulating metabolism and cellular growth.
7. The FDA has not yet issued a GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) rating for soy.
With all the soy and soy-based products you see in the market, it is puzzling that the U.S. Food & Drug Administration hasn’t even granted most soy products a GRAS status.
The only two soybean products that have received a GRAS rating so far are protein isolate and soybean oil, but that’s only under the category of “substances migrating to food from paper and paperboard products.”
For over a century now, soy has been widely used in making cardboard boxes but was never widely used on food products. It wasn’t until the 1950s when so-called “health benefits” of soy products were introduced to the public via brisk marketing strategies by its manufacturers.
The fact remains, however, that soy has only been diagnosed as safe for cardboard boxes and not as consumable food products.
8. Practices employed in the propagation of soybeans are harmful to marine life.
Soybean is cultivated as a mono-crop, a farming practice that basically entails propagating a single species in a specified land area. Such a method goes against the law of nature and can be harmful to the environment, mainly because it destroys otherwise nutrient-rich topsoil.
For topsoil to remain rich and fertile, there should exist what we call “perennial polycultures.” These are incredibly biodiverse environments where symbiotic relationships among animals, plants, and microorganisms take place.
A perfect example of this is a forest where the earth’s topsoil is constantly regenerated by mutually beneficial processes among its inhabitants.
In contrast, soybean farming can deplete topsoil and chemical fertilizers have to be introduced. On top of that, herbicides and pesticides are heavily used, and all these can have a negative impact on the environment.
In the U.S., runoffs from fertilizers and chemicals used in farming make their way through interconnected waterways and into bodies of water that were once rich in marine life.
A stark example of this is 12,000 square miles of dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. A dead zone is an area where no marine life can exist or survive. Fish, corals, dolphins, and other live organisms may either have been poisoned or forced to migrate.
9. Most of available soy is genetically modified (GMO).
Ninety-nine percent of all available soy is generated from genetically modified soybeans. Ever wondered why there’s this current demand for food products bearing the label “GMO-free” or “contains only non-GMO ingredients”?
That’s because genetic modification is a highly dangerous practice. It’s breaking down nature’s genetic barriers by permitting the transfer of genes from viruses, bacteria, plants, and even animals, with unforeseen and often harmful consequences.
In the case of genetically modified soybeans, they have become quite resistant to herbicides and toxic chemicals, which have been linked to a wide range of health issues ranging from allergies, infertility, low birth weight, birth defects, and even higher offspring deaths, among others.
Genetic modification is a precarious way of trying to control nature and forcing things to behave the way we want.
Rather than pay a hefty price and destroy our planet, man should be working harmoniously with nature through mutually beneficial relationships that will reap long-term gains.
10. The belief that Asians reap a wide array of health benefits from high soy consumption remains a myth.
Soy is popularly used in Asian cuisines, and that’s probably the reason behind the belief that people in this side of the world live longer lives due to the health benefits of soy.
But the truth is, soy is used in very small amounts in most Asian dishes, primarily as a condiment and never as a staple.
It was the Chinese who first discovered fermented soybean as a potential food source during the Chou Dynasty (1134-246 B.C.).
The fermentation process itself removes most of soy’s toxic anti-nutrients, and therefore it should be noted that only fermented soy products may be considered as health foods.
The most common soy-based foods used in Asian cultures include miso, natto, tempeh, and soy sauce. They are said to offer health benefits because they contain vitamin K2.
Vitamin K2 has demonstrated positive effects in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis, and this is probably the source of the myth that soy products may support strong bone formation.
While it is true that fermentation diminishes the anti-nutrient properties of soy, most soy products are subject to heavy processing.
As a result, commercially available soy products, such as soy sauce, are loaded with preservatives and other additives that can be harmful to one’s health.
Unless you are absolutely sure that the soy products you consume have been sourced from non-GMO soybeans, it is best to steer clear of fermented soy products.
Besides, intensive manufacturing procedures and exposure to high heat shaves off much of the protein from soybeans, rendering most soy products lacking in nutrients or even toxic.
Soy industry bigwigs have put in a great deal of money to fund intensive marketing campaigns that have created the biggest misconception that soy is a rich source of essential protein.