Category Archive: Physical

Jan 02 2012

To Soy or Not to Soy?

Or … Sometimes the More You Find Out, the Less You Really Know

For years I have been under the impression that switching to soy products was a good thing to do for your health. Soy milk instead of cow’s milk. Tofu instead of meat. Edamame instead of peas. Actually I didn’t realize that edamame, tofu and miso were made of soy beans until the day before yesterday, but that doesn’t change the fact that I thought these foods were for the super-healthy and health-conscious.

Then the other day, I was talking soy beans with a super-knowledgeable, food-informed young friend. Or rather, she was talking and I was listening. My friend and her family have been paying attention to healthy eating matters and practicing healthy eating for many years. Food is her "thing." She is paying attention. Here’s what she said:

In their raw state, soy beans are toxic to humans.

Hold the phone! Even I know this is a HUGE clue right there. If it’s not good for you raw, why would it be good for you cooked? According to Wikipedia:

For human consumption, soybeans must be cooked with "wet" heat to destroy the trypsin inhibitors (serine protease inhibitors). Raw soybeans, including the immature green form, are toxic to humans, swine, chickens, and in fact, all monogastric animals.

My friend also said:

While soy products are a great source of protein, they may have other impacts on your body beyond nutrition because of a plant compound in soy beans that mimics estrogen.

In areas where soy products, especially soy milk, are in widespread use, the population’s hormones are being affected, including girls beginning to have their periods as young as nine years old.

Consuming large amounts of soy products increases infertility.

Wow! According to this article in the December 9, 2009 issue of Scientific American Magazine, it’s all true and more:

Could Eating Too Much Soy Be Bad for You?
New studies suggest that eating large amounts of soy’s estrogen-mimicking compounds might reduce fertility in women, trigger early puberty and disrupt development of fetuses and children
By Lindsey Konkel and Environmental Health News | November 3, 2009

This brief foray into soy beans has led me to these unsatisfactory conclusions:

  1. The internet is making us stupid. Well, it’s making me stupid anyway. It is THE source of information, and whoever has the best SEO wins, instead of whoever has the best facts and credibility. Google, can you please get to work on that?
  2. We need better, objective, conclusive scientific research. There are conclusive answers, they just seem to elude us for now. Maybe that’s where all those brilliant math and science students would be helpful. How many research studies did it take to reach universal agreement that radioactivity was bad for your health? Were there any studies which claimed otherwise?
  3. Do we need soy? Is it possible to feed all the people on this planet without soy?
  4. Lastly and most importantly: "Everything in moderation" emerges once again as the best advice. Consume soy in moderation. Of course, that doesn’t help all the babies drinking soy infant formula all day. Or the kids eating soy in their hamburger meat at school every day. Soy is probably in all kinds of products that we don’t even know about. How can you exercise moderation in your soy intake if you don’t even realize you’re consuming soy? Make it a point to pay attention to how much soy you’re actually consuming.

Now you know why I typically let this kind of stuff go in one ear and out the other. I am left suspicious of soy products but without any iron-clad proof. It’s like all the conspiracy theories of the world: Something about them rings true, but it all doesn’t add up in the end. So you file it away in your brain’s X-FILES area and hope to find an answer some day. "The Truth is Out There." "Trust No One."

And I thought being an EnviroSeeker was going to be easy.

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