Originating in East Asia, Soybeans are legumes that have become extremely popular and are being produced in an abundance in the United States. Soy is used in a variety of different foods. Poisonous when raw, they must be cooked before you consume them. They can be eaten whole, fermented and even used as a substitute for most dairy products. But is Soy healthy?
Soy and Your Health – Is Soy Healthy?
Almost as ubiquitous as the food itself are the claims of just how harmful they can be to your health. Partially due to the fact that over 90% of the soy produced in the United States are genetically modified. These GMO soybeans have many adverse affects on our health, but they are not solely responsible for the bad reputation that soy has when it comes to our health.
Before jumping into the qualities that make soybeans harmful to our health, first lets take a look at the nutrients found in them.
Nutrients in Soy
Soybeans contain large amounts of Manganese, Copper, Potassium, Selenium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Iron, Calcium, Vitamin B6, Folate, Riboflavin, Thiamin and Vitamin K. 100 grams of Soybeans contains about 9 grams of fat, 10 grams of carbohydrates, 6 grams of fiber and a whopping 17 grams of protein. While this seems quite impressive, they also contain a high amount of Phytates, a substance that makes these nutrients much harder for our body to absorb.
Isoflavones found in soy are the primary reason so many health conscious people avoid soy products all together. They act as Endocrine disruptors which throws our hormones off balance.
Estrogen is a hormone found in both females and males, playing a vital role in the sexual development and reproductive cycle of women. Although found in smaller amounts in men, they still impact their health in a huge way.
Soy and Estrogen
Within our cells nuclei are estrogen receptors, capable of prompting changes in our gene expression. These estrogen receptors are not too picky about what substances activate them. Many substances that are similar to estrogen can disrupt our body’s natural balance.
Soy contains very large amounts of a biological compound called Isoflavones, which act as Phytoestrogens. Therefore this plant compound can activate our cells estrogen receptors and disrupt our hormonal balance. This affects us in one of two ways, it either blocks the actual estrogen from binding to our cells or it can lead to an increase in estrogen activity because our receptors are activated. Either way it is extremely harmful to our body and interferes with our hormonal balance.
Soy and Thyroid Health
The isoflavones found in soy act as goitrogens, which are substances that can interfere with our thyroid function. Inhibiting the function of an essential thyroid hormone enzyme, thyroid peroxidase.
Consuming too much soy can lead to hypothyroidism symptoms, these include constipation, sleepiness, enlargement of the thyroid itself and malaise.
It is no big surprise that a substance that interferes with our hormonal balance can cause issues with the function of our thyroid gland. Our thyroid is responsible for balancing our hormonal function and is essential for our growth and development. It is an extremely important piece of the body and maintaining healthy thyroid function is vitally important.
The Argument for Fermented Soy
By fermenting soy it degrades a portion of the phytic acid found in it. However it does not get rid of the isoflavones which are a major detriment to our health.
Fermented soy products such as Miso, Natto and Tempeh are popular in Asia but they are not the center of a meal, they are used as a condiment. So the argument that as a whole Asian populations are much healthier and live longer cannot be attributed to the fact that eat fermented soy products. There are many factors in the typical Eastern diet that contribute to health and longevity, fermented soy products are not a boon to health, but consumed in such small quantities they are hardly a detriment.
Fermented soy products are certainly the healthiest choice among the soy family. High in Vitamin K2, fermented soy contributes to cardiovascular health as well as bone health. Many people do not get enough Vitamin K2 in their diet and without this and Vitamin D3 (another Vitamin so many are deficient in) the “bone strengthening” calcium cannot do its job. Regardless of the amount of calcium you ingest each day, without these 2 Vitamins to accompany it, it is doing more harm than good.
Calcium builds up in our tissue when it is improperly absorbed. Leading to calcification and causing a host of harmful health side effects.
The Bottom Line on Soy
The major concern with soy products is the fact that they are consumed in such a huge quantity. Because they are such a major part of the diet they pose serious health risks and severely disrupt our hormonal balance. Eating in small amounts infrequently there is no significant evidence that it will compromise your health.
This being said, most people who consume an enormous amount of soy do not even know it. It is found in so many processed foods in the form of soybean oil and refined soy proteins. Even found in baby formula, which can severely inhibit the healthy growth and development of a child.
Avoid soy products wherever possible, but know that it is not the end of the world to eat some edamame soybeans now and again, everything in moderation.