Today’s post is in response to a question posted on my Facebook page:
Green girl, I have been asked by meat eaters where I get my protein with soy getting such a bad rap. Can you shed some light on what soy products are supposed to be harmful?
Soy is absolutely a healthy food…sometimes. Let me explain.
Soy is one of the complete plant proteins (quinoa, hemp seed, & chia seed are also complete proteins) and it provides calcium, folic acid, iron, and fiber. Fermented soy products (tempeh, miso, natto, tamari, even some brands of tofu) are generally seen as the most healthful since the fermentation process adds nutrients & aids in digestion. This is the good.
So what’s the soy problem? The problem is politics and the way soy is grown & processed in modern agriculture.
1. Soy became too popular and millions of dollars from the meat and dairy industry were poured into fake science and smear campaigns. Hear something unhealthy about soy? Chances are the study was funded by the meat or dairy industry to get you to put that soy milk down. You always have to dig deep to find the source of funding for any research you hear about no matter what the topic. Just because a Harvard scientist published the study doesn’t mean the dairy industry didn’t pay for his research.
Here is an example of one such headline: Soy Reduces Sperm Count! Did you hear that one on the news? This was a study paid for by the dairy industry. Here are the intimate facts: soy actually increases ejaculate fluid, but the sperm count remains the same. There is just more semen so the sperm is less concentrated. But what we hear on the news is that a given measurement of semen from a soy consumer contains less sperm than that of a non-soy consumer. By reporting this small fact without providing all the information, madness ensues. Suddenly soy is going to make men sterile, feminine or even down right curvy. In Asia, men have been eating soy for many generations. The men don’t have boobs and they can still have babies. Enough said.
2. Soy is killing the Amazon. We used to hear that cattle grazing was destroying the Amazon. Then it was the soy bean. Except that just isn’t true. Studies have shown that cattle ranching is responsible for 70 – 80 percent of Amazon deforestation. Soy farming is a fraction of the remaining percentage. If you ask me, any Amazon deforestation is too much but don’t blame your tofu. The soy grown in the Amazon is for feeding livestock. I guess the burger is to blame after all.
3. Conventionally grown soy is dirty, dirty, dirty. The soybean is one of the most heavily sprayed crops, receiving both large quantities of various pesticides and herbicides. Conventional soy is also a GMO crop (genetically modified). When you choose soy it is so important to always choose organic.
4. Soy allergies are very common. This is true for most genetically modified crops. If you have a soy allergy, then steer clear. Soy intolerance is common as well. (An allergy is an immune system response. Intolerance is usually noted in the digestive system, by an upset stomach or gas.) People with a soy intolerance might find that they are only affected by processed soy such as soy milk or tofu. Minimally processed and fermented soy products such as tempeh and miso are more often easily digested without any problems. You just need to experiment to find what works for you.
5. There has been some evidence that soy can interfere with thyroid medicine and possibly the thyroid itself if you already have a thyroid problem. Don’t panic here. Studies show that people need to eat a lot of soy (about a package of tofu a day) before their thyroid starts responding. A healthy vegan diet is actually known to regulate your thyroid. If you are on thyroid medicine, do not consume soy near the time you take the meds. Disclaimer: I’m no doctor, I’m just sharing what I’ve read in the peer reviewed scientific journals. Talk to your doctor if you have a thyroid condition and love your soy (but understand that your Doctor probably never took a nutrition course). Better yet, find a dietician that is familiar with the vegan diet.