Soy has been consumed for centuries in Asia. It is known in China as one of the five sacred grains, along with barley, millet, rice, and wheat.
Soy was largely unheard of in America in the early 20th century, but the emergence of vegetarianism and an advertising boom propelled it to “health food” status in the 1990s. Some even call it a near-perfect food.
According to a 2008 consumer attitude survey by the United Soybean Board, 85 percent of those polled view soy products as “healthy,” a significant increase from 59 percent in 1997.
Dr. Joseph Mercola believes that soy is a health food ONLY if it is organic and properly fermented. Unfortunately, the majority of the soy and the soy products you find at your local market are nothing like fermented soy products like natto, miso, and tempeh that Asians consume for their health benefits.
A brilliant marketing strategy has duped millions into believing that soy should be consumed regularly. But make no mistake about it: unfermented soy products have no place in your diet. Dr. Mercola gives you 10 reasons why:
1. Soy consumption has been associated with brain damage and breast cancer.
Soy contains phytoestrogens — micronutrients that mimic estrogen — which may increase your risk of dementia. A study conducted on 719 elderly Indonesians found that high tofu consumption resulted in a higher risk of memory loss.
The soy/breast cancer link is a controversial topic. Some claim that soy estrogen has cancer-fighting properties. On the other hand, breast cells contain estrogen receptors that enable them to “recognize” and use estrogen. Common types of breast cancer, though, essentially feed off the hormone.
2. Most of the soy grown in America is genetically modified (GM). This may provoke severe and potentially fatal food allergies.
Researchers discovered that levels of a known soy allergen were up to seven times higher in cooked GM soy compared to cooked non-GM soy. Another study discovered a unique, unexpected protein in GM soy that’s likely to trigger allergies.
Farmers use nearly double the amount of herbicide on GM soy compared to non-GM soy. The higher levels of residue could cause reactions.
Slow protein digestion in humans allows more time for allergic reactions, possibly to many food proteins.
3. Soy contains “anti-nutrients.”
Soy foods contain anti-nutritional factors such as saponins, soyatoxin, and protease inhibitors. Some of these interfere with the enzymes you need to digest protein and potentially trigger allergies. A small amount of anti-nutrients would not likely cause a problem, but the amount of soy that many Americans now consume is extremely high.
4. Soy contains hemagglutinin.
Hemagglutinin is a clot-promoting substance that causes your red blood cells to clump together and inhibits oxygen take-up and growth. Soybeans contain growth-depressant substances, which may be reduced in processing but are not completely eliminated.
5. Soy contains goitrogens.
Goitrogens are anti-nutrient substances that depress thyroid function. They can induce hypothyroidism and goiter in normal people. In hypothyroidism patients, goitrogens can further depress thyroidal function and cause goiter.
6. Soy contains phytates (phytic acid).
Soy has one of the highest phytic acid levels of any grain or legume studied. Phytates are anti-nutrients that bind to metal ions and block the absorption of certain minerals, including calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc in the intestinal tract. These minerals are co-factors for optimal biochemistry in your body.
7. Soy may cause infertility.
Genistein, a soy phytoestrogen, has been found to create a premature reaction in the sperm. It causes the sperm to peak before it can fertilize an egg. Drinking two glasses of soymilk daily for a month provides enough phytoestrogens to alter the menstrual cycle. An animal study has also linked GM soy to sterility.
8. Soy may cause kidney stones.
Soybeans and soy-based foods contain anti-nutrients called oxalates. This can bind with calcium in your kidney to form kidney stones, particularly in people who have a family history of the condition.
9. Soy contains toxic levels of aluminum and manganese.
Soybeans are processed by acid washing in aluminum tanks. High levels of aluminum are leached into the final soy product. Soy formula yields up to 80 times more manganese than is present in human breast milk.
10. Soy infant formula is harmful for babies.
Nearly 20 percent of infant Americans are now fed estrogen-loaded soy formula, which can irreversibly harm a baby’s sexual development and reproductive health. Dr. Mercola warns that infants fed soy formula ingest an estimated five birth control pills’ worth of estrogen every day.
Studies suggest that a diet high in soybeans during pregnancy and breastfeeding may have a subtle but long-term impact on the development of children.