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Soy: Another Controversial Food

Soy is another food that is surrounded by controversy as to whether it is beneficial or harmful to your health. It is widely marketed as a "health food" and vegetarian substitute for meat and its derivatives can be found in a number of supplements such as lecithin and protein powders. On the other hand, there has been a lot of concern lately in the scientific community because of research into the negative effects of certain compounds found in soy and soy products.

The key to understanding the implications of eating soy products is to not simply classify soy as either good or bad for you but to look at how it is prepared and how much of it you consume.

Traditionally, soy was prepared by fermentation, creating tempeh or miso. However, in the western world, we eat most of our soy in a non-fermented, highly processed form such as soy milk, tofu dogs, veggie burgers, and soy protein powder.

Eating soy daily in a non-fermented, processed form creates a number of health concerns. Like grains, unfermented soy beans naturally contain high amounts of phytic acid, which binds minerals like calcium, magnesium, and zinc in the gastrointestinal tract and prevents their absorption. Ironically, the large amount of phytic acid in calcium-fortified soy milk inhibits absorption of the added calcium, rendering it useless. The detrimental effects of phytic acid can be avoided by eating fermented soy products because the fermentation process destroys the phytic acid.

Soy also inhibits the actions of proteases, which are important enzymes for digesting proteins, and it contains large amounts of the phytoestrogens genistein and equol, which are potent inhibitors of thyroid peroxidase, the thyroid follicle enzyme that makes the T4 and T3 hormones.

The key to healthy soy consumption is to avoid any form of soy that is processed, eat soy in moderation, and try to choose only fermented forms of soy such as tempeh, miso, tamari, and natto.

Recommended Reading

Breaking the Vicious Cycle: Intestinal Health Through Diet

Dangerous Grains

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