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I know this may come as a shock to some of you. Soy milk is probably the most popular non-dairy product sold in the U.S, not to mention all of the other soy products like soy burgers, soy ice cream, soy cheese, etc. I remember when it started becoming really popular here in the States — you saw, heard and read about all of the health benefits of soy and why you should switch to this non-dairy beverage. I actually remember how it was touted as a miracle food — drinking it would save you from heart disease and other illnesses. Unfortunately, this was all just a clever marketing ploy to sell us on the supposed health benefits of a dangerous food.

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Soy Isn't Healthy?

According to Dr. Mercola, soy food sales increased from a measly $300 million to close to $400 billion in the span of 14 years, between 1992 and 2006! As you can see, soy is big business (as should be expected since it is the second biggest crop grown and harvested in the US, after corn). What most people don't know is the dangerous side effects of consuming unfermented soy products. Notice that I specify unfermented soy. There is a maj0r difference between the two, which I will discuss in part 2 of this series.

In the book, The Whole Soy Story, Dr. Kaayla Daniel discusses the studies that have shown the dangers of soy. Some of the problems that have been linked to consumption of unfermented soy products are:

  • Thyroid disease and disorders
  • Kidney problems
  • Breast cancer
  • Food allergies
  • Fertility problems

Soy's Hidden Dangers

These are just a few of the problems that are now being discovered as linked to consumption of soy. There are several reasons for this. According to the Weston A. Price Foundation and Dr. Mercola, some of the main reasons that soy is not the magical health food that we have been brainwashed to believe are:

  1. Soy (a legume), like grains, contains very high levels of phytic acid (or phytates), which inhibits the body from properly absorbing important nutrients, like calcium, copper, iron, zinc, and magnesium. In addition, soy increases the body's need for vitamins D and B.
  2. Soy contains trypsin inhibitors that interfere with the digestion of protein and can cause unnecessary strain on the pancreas.
  3. Soy contains phytoestrogens (aka. isoflavones genistein and daidzein) and goitrogens, which mess up the body's endocrine function and can cause breast cancer, infertility and thyroid diseases like thyroid cancer and hypothyroidism. When soy is given to infants (usually in formula), it has been shown to cause autoimmune thyroid disease. It has also been shown that drinking two glasses of soy milk per day is enough to alter a woman's menstrual cycle.
  4. Most soy products on your grocer's shelves are genetically modified (GM), with 91% of all soy products grown in the US being GM organisms. Even organic soy products most likely contain some GM organisms due to cross contamination.
  5. The processing methods used for soybeans are toxic to humans because they are acid washed in aluminum tanks, which leaches huge amounts of aluminum into the beans, and those levels remain high all the way through processing and right into our products.

Common Soy Products To Avoid

One of the sad things about trying to avoid soy is that it is not as easy as one might think. If you are diligently going to avoid soy, then you have to be religious about reading labels and really knowing what exactly is in your food. Soy is added to all sorts of products where you would least expect it. So, it is much more difficult than just avoiding soy milk and veggie burgers.

Products to avoid (this is not a complete list):

  • Soy milk
  • Veggie burgers (if you are vegetarian, make sure you read the labels if you want to avoid soy)
  • Soy cheese
  • Edamame* (see note)
  • Most tofu (more about tofu in Part 2)
  • Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) – found in a lot of processed and packaged foods like:
    • natural and artificial flavorings
    • canned broths and bouillons
  • Soy proteins (labeled as “soy concentrate” or “soy isolate”)
  • Soy lecithin
  • Textured Soy Flour (TSF)
  • Textured Soy Protein (TSP)
  • Hydrolyzed Plant Protein (HPP)
  • Hydrolyzed Soy Protein (HSP)
  • Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (HVP)
  • Soybean, soja, soya, soyabeans
  • Mono-diglyceride
  • Yuba
  • MSG

Common products that contain soy – read your labels (this is not a complete list)::

  • Baby formula
  • Beverage mixes, such as hot chocolate, powdered coffees, etc.
  • Cereals and crackers
  • Canned foods such as chili, pasta, stews, soups, etc.
  • Canned meats such as tuna, chicken, etc.
  • Cooking sprays
  • Bottled dressings, gravy, sauces, marinades, dips, sandwich spreads, etc.
  • Processed deli meats
  • Packages spice mixes
  • Fake bacon bits
  • Snack foods such as candy, energy bars, popcorn, chips, crackers, cookies, etc.

If you are eating a real food diet, it is doubtful that you eat much, if any, of these products. But, I know that the occasional processed food will hop into even the most diligent eater's buggy, so just be aware of this and always read your labels!

Now, it is important to understand that not all soy products are bad for you. In Part 2 of this series (coming next week), I will discuss the health benefits of fermented soy products and why, if you are going to eat soy, these are the only items you should eat.

*note – Edamame is eaten in Japan as an appetizer, a green vegetable or as part of another dish. Recently, it has become quite popular in the US – and like everything else that is marketed as a “miracle food”, Americans have gone crazy for this bean. They are now eating FAR more than is safe and grocery stores have started stocking it in vast amounts. A little, every once in awhile, may be fine, unless you have a soy allergy, but the consumption should be very moderate, if at all. Usually a serving that you get in a Japanese restaurant is fine (Kaayla Daniel).


Dr. Mercola – The Whole Soy Story and The Truth About Soy – Fermented Soy is Only Soy Food Fit for Human Consumption

WikiPedia – Fermented Soy Products

The Weston A. Price Foundation – Soy Alert!

Fermented Soy Foods

Soy – One of the Nine Most Common Food Allergens

Soy Allergy

Kaayla Daniel – What's Edamame? And Other Questions About Green Vegetable Soybeans

EPA Ag101 – Major Crops Grown in the United States

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