Thursday, May 01, 2008

Soy - Is it a Healthful or Harmful Food?

Since there is much confusion in what the media is presenting about soy, I thought this information would set the record straight very nicely - which I think you'll agree.

The soybean plant is native to China, having been cultivated there for thousand of years. The Ancient Chinese regarded it as one of their most important crops and valued it as one of the five sacred grains necessary for life. Though soybeans were later introduced to countries as Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Korea, and Vietnam, it was not known to the United States until the 18th century. However, the nutritional benefits were not promoted until the 20th century here in the U.S.

Here are some facts about soybeans:
* An excellent source of protein and molybdenum, and are regarded as equal to animal foods in protein quality.
* They are a good source of iron, calcium, phosphorous, fiber, and vitamins B1, B2, B6, E, and folic acid.
* They contain 38% protein, and compared to other legumes, are higher in essential fatty acids with a total fat content of 18 %, and a carbohydrate content of 31%.
* Soybeans are alkaline with a rating of -3.4 (great alkaline food).
* One acre of soybeans can produce 20 times the amount of protein as the amount of protein an acre used for raising beef provides.

According to the Encyclopedia of Healing Foods, soy "is one of the world's most important foods" because they are:
* A primary source of lecithin which has been shown to lower cholesterol levels and improve liver and gallbladder function.
* Soy fiber is useful in cases of constipation, diarrhea, high cholesterol levels, and diabetes. *
* Soy contains isoflavones which are anticancer compounds, and especially protective against breast and prostate cancers. Two isoflavones in soy act as phytoestrogens and reduce the effect of estrogen, as well as cause death to cancer cells and inhibit angiogenesis, the formation of new blood vessels needed to fuel cancer cells. The anticancer effects of soy intake in premenopausal women appear to be more valuable in preventing the onset of cancer.
* Though soybeans contain protease inhibitors (protein digesting enzymes), the activity is destroyed through either sprouting or cooking.
* For women, the consumption of soy foods is the most economical, and possibly most beneficial, way to increase the intake of phytoestrogens to relieve the symptoms of PMS.

It's interesting to understand, though, that the value of soybeans lies in its traditional Asian whole food sources. Asians only eat soybeans in one of five ways and usually only in a fermented form: tofu (soy cheese), tempeh (fermented soybean cakes), soy sauce, miso, and edamame (young green soybeans, non-fermented). In these ways, there are great nutritional benefits of soybeans if eaten at the maximum of 4-5 times per week.

So how do Americans eat soybeans? We seem to have taken a perfectly healthy food (as usual) and processed it in every form imaginable to mankind: protein powders, soy hot dogs, soy deli slices, soy burger patties, soy cheeses, soy milk, soy ice cream, soy yogurt, soy everything - but worst of all, soy formula (read on)! Some of these can be much "healthier" food choices than whatever else the grocery store has to offer, however, many of us view all these items as "healthy", because we have seen the listed benefits of soy. But we have to remember that processed foods are processed foods, and most of these mentioned foods are over processed and thus, over lacking in nutrition.

In these American processed food forms, soy can be harmful (here are only a few ways):
* Infants exclusively fed soy formula get the estrogen equivalent of about five birth control pills a day (the Asians would not think of feeding their babies soy formula). Nursing your baby at all costs is so much more advantageous - it's how God meant for babies to be fed!
* Male infants, who are fed soy formula, can undergo a "testosterone surge" during the first few months of life (levels as high as a male adult).
* High levels of phytic acid in soy reduce the assimilation of important minerals such as calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc.
* Large amounts of concentrated soy powder can disturb the body's hormonal balance, triggering or worsening thyroid problems.
* Soy phytoestrogens can disrupt endocrine function and have the potential to cause infertility and to promote breast cancer in adult women.
* Processing of soy protein can result in the formation of toxic lysinoalanine and highly carcinogenic nitrosamines.¹

So here are some suggestions for beneficial uses of soy:
* Soy is a healthy food in one of the five Asian ways: tofu, tempeh, soy sauce, miso, or edamame, and is very beneficial in these forms eaten up to 4 or 5 times per week. If you're not familiar with some of these, ask someone at a health food market to show you these products. Also, check out Creatively Complete Dinners, http://erleentilton.com/store.htm, for great tasty, healthy, yet simple recipes for using some of these foods on occasion.
* Regular health food store soy powders are some of the worst when it comes to real nutrition. However, Reliv Classic - a superb nutritional supplement - is something that I eat and fully endorse as a beneficial daily health supplement. For information about it, please contact me at contact@erleentilton.com.
* Legumes are great sources of protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. But don't restrict your legume intake to just soybeans. There are black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, red beans, chickpeas, lentils, peas, and much more which are also healthy legumes, so use a variety of legumes in your menus to maintain balance.
* If using meat substitutes, READ LABELS, and be very selective. If a label has a list of more than about 10 or 12 items, it's usually not worth putting into your body. Yes, some alternatives (soy dogs vs. pork hotdogs) are better food choices, but that does not mean they are necessarily "healthy foods" by any means.
* Limit your intake of processed soy products. For example, pouring soy milk on a bowl of cereal once or twice a week may be fine, while drinking it several times daily is not a healthy choice.
* Same for soy cheeses, soy desserts, soy deli slices, etc. - read labels, be selective, and limit them.

Because we do live in a fast pace world and some convenience foods are often necessary choices for lifestyle and social reasons, evaluate this information on soy as well as all other types of food alternatives for your needs, and most of all, your ultimate health.

For great dinner menus using a variety of whole legumes in the right whole food form, get the Creatively Complete Dinners cookbook. It's got so many healthy, tasty, yet simple recipes. the order information: http://erleentilton.com/store.htm

For your best health,
Erleen Tilton

¹ http://www.soyonlineservice.co.nz

1 comment:

Emily P. said...

Hi, Erleen. I was reading your blog about the uses of soy. I have a question: My daughter has been diagnosed with a genetic disorder that is relatively unresearched, but whose treatment is simply to not eat galatose. We have been feeding her soy formula and now soy milk almost exclusively since birth. Any recommendations as to what we could do to avoid any side effects in the future from an excess of soy?
Thanks