Monday, October 17, 2011

East vs. West ...a soy showdown

With all the diet and health documentaries out there promoting a 100% plant-based diet, I think it's time we have a talk - at least about soy. I'm not a vegan or vegetarian, but if you have chosen that path (or eat "veggie-style" sometimes) there's are some things about soy-based meat-substitutes and soy foods in general that you need to know. That veggie-burger is not as healthy as you think it is.

Everyone talks about how the Japanese or Asian diet is healthier, but the soy of the East is much different than the soy of the West. Were it eaten as it usually is in Japan, soy could be considered a health food. In Japan, soy is nearly always consumed in fermented form (such as miso, tamari/soy sauce (make sure it's really fermented), tempeh, and natto) and in small amounts, usually as a condiment in the amount of 1-2 teaspoons a day. In the U.S. it's almost always highly processed and non-fermented (regular tofu, soy milk, soy cheese, edamame...) and we are more prone to eat it as the main part of a dish as a replacement for animal foods.

Why is fermented (eastern soy) better?:
Fermentation is a way our ancestors preserved food safely. Traditional fermentation methods make certain foods easier to digest so our bodies can assimilate more of the nutrients along with making all those nutrients, amino acids, antioxidants, etc. more available to us. Fermentation also removes a soybean's natural anti-nutrient factor, trypsin inhibitor, which when not fermented blocks enzymes from being used to help you digest carbohydrates and proteins. Fermented soy is okay in moderation, as it is consumed in Asian countries usually.

Why to avoid non-fermented soy:

1. Soy has very high phytate levels that are resistant to normal phytate-reducing practices like long, slow cooking, soaking, and sprouting. However, longer periods of fermentation can greatly reduce higher levels of these chemicals, but not eliminate them completely. Side note: what exactly is a phytate? its the principal storage form of phosphorus in many plant tissues. Phytate is not digestible to humans or non ruminant animals. Also, it chelates (they stick to important minerals that our bodies would usually absorb (like zinc, iron, calcium, and magnesium) thus making them unusable to us.

2. Plants often have naturally occurring anti-nutrients (natural toxins). Like I mentioned above, they block the use of our enzymes in digestion. This can create gastric distress and cause amino acid deficiencies.

3. Soy contains a very high amount of endocrine (hormone) disrupting isoflavones that can potentially act like estrogen in our bodies - male or female. Eating soy can prevent ovulation and eating as little as four tablespoons a day can result in hypothyroidism with symptoms including lethargy, constipation, weight gain, and fatigue. No thank you!

Here's a quick list of soy dangers from the Soy Alert! project from The Weston A. Price Foundation...
  • Soy foods increase the body's requirement for vitamin D. Toxic synthetic vitamin D2 is added to soy milk.
  • Vitamin B12 analogs in soy are not absorbed and actually increase the body's need for B12.
  • Fragile proteins are over-denatured during high temperature processing to make soy protein isolate and textured vegetable protein (TVP). Read your labels, these are common ingredients in our food!
  • Processing of soy protein results in the formation of toxic lysinoalanine and highly carcinogenic nitrosamines (what are nitrosamines? - chemical compounds that can be cancer-causing. They are usually used in making cosmetics, pesticides, and most rubber products.
  • Free glutamic acid or MSG, a potent neurotoxin, is formed during soy food processing and additional amounts are added to many soy foods to mask soy's unpleasant taste.
  • Soy foods contain high levels of aluminum, which is toxic to the nervous system and kidneys.
Now imagine the effects on infants when fed soy-based formulas. Babies fed soy are given the estrogenic equivalent of at least four birth control pills a day! This disrupts the infants hormone levels which are crucial to normal development before and during adolescence.

In summary, we need to think twice before changing our diets away from healthy animal products to soy-based meat substitutes. I feel for the vegans and vegetarians out there that have chosen to fill their diets with tofu and soy proteins. I think it's time to look into that "healthy lifestyle" a bit further.

For a little more info:
For a lot more info: The Whole Soy Story by Kaayla T. Daniels

Put down that tofu hot-dog,