For the past twenty years, I’ve been extremely health conscious. I’ve been trying to cultivate an optimal vegan diet, pouring over labels, reading words I could not pronounce, in an attempt to make sure I was getting an adequate amount of protein and other essential nutrients into my diet. I took the time to plan all of my meals and added products, including soy to many of them. Soy protein isolate? Hmmm….did that mean they isolated the protein from the soy and made it more concentrated? Hydrolyzed soy protein? Didn’t sound so great. But in 1999 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved labeling that I’d find on nearly every soy product I purchased. They actually stated, “Diets low in saturated fat and cholesteral that include 25 grams of soy protein a day may reduce the risk of heart disease.” Awesome. I was doing something right; soy products weren’t only safe, they were beneficial!
But then several years ago, I started to notice adverse reactions when I ate soy. I’d get severe stomach pains. I’d get extremely bloated. Oh, and I had stopped menstruating. And then I got very sick. I was totally nauseated. It was extremely difficult to eat. But when I did, I craved my comfort food: soy cheese on toast. I was ultimately diagnosed with ghiardea so it never occurred to me to question my wonderful miracle food.
When I recovered from my illness, my body was still rejecting soy. As I began my path towards holistic health, my doctor informed me that I was intolerant to soy and should not be eating it at all. Ugh. What was I going to do? How was I going to fulfill my protein requirements? Does this sound familiar?
What does your vegan or vegetarian diet look like? Does it include lots of grain and protein-filled vegetables? Or, are you too relying on soy for your major protein source? You may be getting an inordinate amount of soy in your diet without even trying. It’s hard not to these days. Soy has slipped into our culture perhaps without meaning to. Once the FDA made their claim in 1999, the soy fad began. Consumers like me began to believe that we should be consuming massive amounts of soy each day for health reasons. I now believe we were wrong. As I continued to study nutrition, I’d find more and more risks associated with this product. Digestive problems. I already had them. Endocrine disruption. Had that too. Soy contains phyotoesterogens, which means eating soy can lead to fertility issues, thyroid problems, issues with sex drive and even potentially contribute to certain cancers. Soy is high in phyates, which means it can rob your body of valuable minerals like calcium, magnesium, zinc and iron. As I kept reading I found more and more studies rebutting almost ever positive claims I’d read on soy.
So what about the studies that show that Asians, particularly the Japanese, have lowered levels of breast and prostate cancers than in the United States? Don’t their traditional diets still include soy? They do, but here are the main differences: 1) Asian diets contain about 9 grams of soy a day compared to our American diets which contain about 20 grams of soy a day; and 2) the form of the soy the Asians are consuming is fermented soy. Fermented soy provides our bodies with the good bacteria it needs to fight off pesky diseases, infections, viruses, and so forth.
So, it seems like soy may not be terrible for us if consumed in a minimal amount. The problem these days is that barely anyone is getting a minimal amount. Look at the ingredients of the foods you’re eating. I’m willing to bet you’ll see some type of soy product in there. It’s scary how much soy has seeped into our consumables in a very similar way that high fructose corn syrup now plagues nearly everything we touch. Soy has become the natural binder that most food companies and producers are using.