Soybeans are made into a number of food products, such as miso and tofu in Asia, but in the West, it’s increasingly become an ingredient in all kinds of foods, like veggie burgers. Food manufacturers add a soy product, textured vegetable protein, to many processed foods. Is soy good, bad, or indifferent? Here’s the truth about soy: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Soy consumption is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, enough that the FDA decided that soy food manufacturers could make health claims for them. ” [T]he agency has concluded that soy protein included in a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of CHD by lowering blood cholesterol levels.”
The FDA pronounced their judgment in 1999, but unfortunately the intervening years have not been kind to the data on soy, which turn out to have little effect on blood lipids and cholesterol.
Cholesterol itself doesn’t cause heart disease anyway, so the FDA’s reasoning in this case is spurious.
The good about soy isn’t really all that good.
Soy contains phytoestrogens, which are molecules that mimic the action of estrogen. They’re a class of compounds known as endocrine disruptors, which affect the sex hormone systems of both men and women, and are of increasing concern in the environment. Endocrine disruptors are also found in food packaging, personal care products, store receipts, and plastics, and should be avoided.
If we should avoid environmental endocrine disruptors, it seems a really bad idea to be ingesting them in large quantities.
Soy contains large amounts of endocrine-disrupting phytoestrogens. See table below.
The amount of estrogens in soy makes the use of hormones in meat into a non-issue.
Some studies have found the effects on male hormones such as testosterone to be minor, others have found a larger effect. The larger point, however, is that because phytoestrogens bind and activate the estrogen receptor, they don’t need to change male hormones to have a feminizing effect.
Phytoestrogens in soy can disrupt the endocrine system in fetuses and infants, leading to lifelong reproductive problems in both men and women, and can alter the developing brain.(Source.) Consumption of tofu is associated with decreased cognitive function in adults.
Soy simulates the growth of estrogen-dependent breast tumors in a dose-dependent manner, so soy products may cause cancer.
Men who consumed large amounts of soy had lower sperm counts. “In the multivariate-adjusted analyses, men in the highest category of soy food intake had 41 million sperm/ml less than men who did not consume soy foods.”
Soy suppresses thyroid function and is a goitrogen. As someone who’s had hypothyroidism, I can say that you really, really don’t want that to happen.
The really ugly part of soy is that Big Food puts it in everything, and as we saw above, the FDA approves of it, and so large numbers of people are consuming large amounts of soy. Could that be responsible for the general feminizing of men that so many have noted?
They even put it in baby food. Baby food, Mandrake.
Textured vegetable protein (TVP) is a waste product of soy oil extraction, so of course they decided to put into food. The food company Archer Daniels Midland invented TVP in the 1960s, and if there’s one thing you don’t want to eat, it’s a food invented by a food manufacturer, especially only a few decades ago. Hydrolyzed vegetable protein is another product often made from soy and found in many processed foods.
Unbeknownst to most consumers, in addition to well recognized soy products such as soy milk, tofu and tempeh, soy is found in upwards of 60% of processed foods. Textured soy protein (50–70% soy protein) is a meat substitute found in hotdogs, hamburgers, sausages and other meat products while soy protein isolate (90% soy protein) is used to enrich energy bars, sports drinks, infant formula, cereals, granola bars, imitation dairy products, ice cream, cheese and even doughnuts. In addition, textured soy protein is used to fortify numerous products in the school breakfast and lunch programs as well as other federal assistance programs. Soy is a popular food additive because it is a cholesterol-free, vegetable protein rich in complex carbohydrates and unsaturated fats, high in fiber, and free of lactose. It also contains upwards of 100 or more phytoestrogens. [Source.]
The Deep Soy State may be metaphorical, but it’s a very good metaphor, with food companies and the government colluding to get it into all kinds of foods.
Soy and the phytoestrogens in them are widespread ingredients in processed foods, so avoiding soy is both a simple and sometimes difficult task: don’t eat processed foods. Eat whole, unprocessed or minimally processed foods like meat, dairy, eggs, fish, vegetables, and nuts.
I’ve got some more bad news too: beer contains phytoestrogens. It comes from hops, which contain a potent phytoestrogen, and which may be responsible for reported menstrual problems in female hop workers. “Hops have been shown to contain one of the most potent in vitro estrogenic substance known from the plant kingdom, (±)-8-prenylnaringenin.” (Source.) The new style craft beers contain more hops than ever, so they are probably best avoided.
Soybean oil does not contain phytoestrogens, but you shouldn’t consume it anyway. It’s toxic waste as far as I’m concerned, and can cause cancer and heart disease.
The good news is that if you make a concerted effort to avoid soy and other estrogenic substances, any hormonal or sexual health problems such as infertility or erectile dysfunction should return to normal in fairly short order, perhaps weeks to months, depending on initial severity.
So cast off your chains, you have nothing to lose but your man boobs.