Part 1: Soy
I used to be a vegetarian, I lived on soy- fake burgers, hot dogs, tofu, tofurkey, fake cheese, you name it, I pretended to like it. It took me awhile to come to the understing that the path to health will never be found through consuming processed foods. I commend the conscious choice to be meat free, there’s a whole bevy of great reasons why a person wouldn’t want to eat meat. But I plead for health and sanities sake, processed food is processed food whether it’s soy or bologna.
Many people are still under the impression that soy is a health food. While there are traditional ways to prepare soy so that’s it’s nutrients are unlocked, these methods aren’t commonly utilized today. Miso, tempeh,edamame (whole soy bean) and tamari = real food. Tofurkey, boca burgers and riblets = processed fake food.
Modern day soy production is nasty. Imagine an edamame bean, the whole food form of soy, and then picture a brick of tofu. Now what did that little bean have to go through to become a squidgy white blob of blandness? It went through the ringer to put it lightly. In order for the soy bean to transform into that smooth creamy milk alternative, or those zesty too good to be true fake sausages, it undergoes a drastic transformation. Acid washing, left to sit in aluminium tanks and high temperature treatments result in a pretty bland, lifeless substance. Often meat alternatives are loaded with flavour enhancers and MSG to make up for the extreme processing they’ve undergone.
It really isn’t the plants fault, we know that any food when its processed to death is going to lose its benefits. Soy in it’s whole food, organic form (which is becoming incredibly rare) is a health food. The danger lies when we try and exploit any food to make it as cheap and accessible as possible.
Soy is an ancient food and while we witness many cultures who’ve thrived on soy, they used traditional methods of preparation and GMO’s didn’t exist. Nowadays nearly all soy is genetically modified and that’s no exaggeration. It’s also one of the most heavily pesticide sprayed crops.
Today soy is recommended for women during menopause, claiming reduced hot flashes and prevention of osteoporosis. These statements are false and rooted in the benefits of industry. As little as 30 grams or two tablespoons of soy daily causes a significant increase in thyroid stimulating hormone (1). Women who took soy vs. placebo had the same levels of reduction in hot flashes and soy actually inhibits calcium absorption.
There’s an interesting story about parrots and soy. Male tropical birds develop vibrant colourful feathers usually around two years old. When bird breeders Richard and Valerie James of New Zealand switched to soy feed they noticed the male birds were colouring up much faster. Industry cited this as a benefit of feeding the birds soy, some were showing colours as early as 11 weeks old. Over time though, the birds started to become infertile, suffering bone deformities, immune deficiencies and aggressive behaviour.
Isn’t it interesting that the incidence of thyroid disorders grows alongside our over consumption of soy products. Estimations are that 1 in 8 women will develop a thyroid problem in their lifetime. Some studies even show that 50% of those diagnosed with depression actually have a thyroid disorder (2).
The use of soy in infant formulas is frightening. Seriously this is going to freak you out so be prepared. The average infant fed exclusively soy based formula receives the estrogenic equivalent to at least five birth control pills per day. (3) Could their be a correlation between increased incidence of learning disorders and infants being fed soy formula? All signs point to yes. Little girls are hitting puberty a whole lot earlier, some showing signs of maturation as early as three years old (4).
The further we go down the soy rabbit hole, the freakier things get. The final frontier of the disadvantages of soy is its irreversible environmental impact. Not only is it heavily sprayed and genetically modified, rainforests are destroyed to grow soy crops. The expansion of the soy industry has less to do with tofu than animal feed. Today most animals are largely fed soy and 4 million hectares of forest are destroyed annually to make way for the booming industry (5).
Being conscious about where our meat comes from and what it’s fed is not only important for our own health, but the planets as well.
3.Irvine, C. et al., “The Potential Adverse Effects of Soybean Phytoestrogens in Infant Feeding”, New Zealand Medical Journal May 24, 1995, p. 318.
Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 where we explore the other pseudo health foods that could be harming you!