Soybean – a type of legume from East Asia. Grown for the versatile bean, the plant is actually an oilseed rather than a bean or pulse.
Did you know that soy is one of the most widely used food stuffs in the world; you would be amazed at how many of the food products we consume on a day to day basis are actually packed full of some form of soy derivative. Bar the obvious soy sauces, tofus and edamame beans, almost everything you pick up on a supermarket shelf has some in it.
Why should we care?
Despite what Big Food would have you believe soy is not the superfood their clever Ad Men have convinced us it is.
Sure, 100g of mature, boiled, whole soybeans contains 174 calories, 9g of fat, 10g of carbs and 17g of protein as well as a helping of magnesium, iron, calcium, manganese, selenium, copper, potassium and phosphorus not to mention folate, riboflavin, thiamin and vitamin B6 and K. It also contains phytates; these are compounds which bind to the zinc, calcium, iron and magnesium in our body rendering them unavailable for our body to use – yes you read that right, soy actually cancels out a lot of the nutrients it provides, even in its most natural form.
Then there are lectins, these inhibit the leptin sensitivity in our brain causing you to think you’re hungry even when you body has more than enough calories; it goes with out saying that this can cause over-eating and weight gain which in turn come with their own problems.
Big Food companies use ingredients like soy protein isolate, textured soy, vegetable protein, soy flour and soybean oil as cheap replacements for other, more nutritious, and often more expensive ingredients. These can be used to increase a food’s protein content and improves its texture; but at what cost?
Many of these ingredients contain large amounts of isoflavones, plant-based oestrogen-like structures that alter the body’s hormone levels and reduce the amount of testosterone. This can have detrimental effects on our health; causing weight gain, the development of man boobs and reducing the libido of men all the while increasing the risk of breast cancer, disrupting the periods and it has even been linked to infertility in women.
But it isn’t just grown up food, some newborn formula has been found to contain large amounts of soy, which throws of a baby’s natural hormone ratios and leads to a number of problems as they grow.
According to a Swiss report, 100 mg isoflavones taken by adult women provide the estrogenic equivalent of a contraceptive pill. This means that 10 mg provides the estrogenic equivalent of a contraceptive pill to a baby of 6 kg. Thus, the average amount taken in by a child on soy-based formula provides the estrogenic equivalent of at least 4 birth control pills.
Would you really want that for your child?
So is all soy bad?
It’s not all bad though, not inherently. Many people argue that the Asian diet – which is often considered incredibly healthy – is proof enough that soy is actually good for you. But is it really? The typical Asian diet doesn’t actually contain that much soy and when it does it is normally a fermented derivative.
While raw soy is poisonous and non-fermented and processed soy has anti-nutrient properties (which play a part in causing depression, weight gain and fatigue) fermented soy like tempeh, miso, natto and tamari removes much of the lectin and phytate content as well as most anti-nutrient properties; in fact, these fermented forms of soy can actually aid brain function in small amounts.
Even when eaten whole in the form of organic and non-GMO tofu or edamame beans, soy beans do have their upsides. They are a whole protein and contain essential amino acids, including tryptophan and tyrosine, which are essential to creating serotonin and dopamine – though they should be limited to just one serving a day at most.
Then what’s the problem?
Western society dangerously overindulges in soy and more often than not this is because it is hidden in our food and very rarely is it eaten whole.
Soybean oil is used in place of the more pricey but much more nutritious olive oil in many packaged foods, this includes your “healthy” salad dressings, go to condiments and convenient spaghetti sauces.
That’s just food companies keeping costs down, so does it really matter? Yes it does. Soybean oil is high in Omega-6s, which promote inflammation and can impair brain function and while we do need Omega-6s the ratio of those to Omega-3s (like those found in olive oil) is greatly skewed by the amount of soybean oil and other additives we ingest. Just think, companies are hiding these ingredients in our food, labelling them as healthy and nutritious when really they have used less than ideal and much cheaper alternatives that are harming our health – and it’s perfectly legal!
But it’s not just the oil, the soy plant actually does the environment more harm than good; the crops drain the soil of nutrients and use more pesticides that most other harvestable plants.
Do you know what the most terrifying part of soy is though? It’s not the potential infertility or the obesity, nor is it the incredible number of chemicals on the non-organic crops. The scariest part is what they use to make all of these cheap and secret soy products.
To process the soy bean and extract the oil Big Food uses hexane, a petroleum bi-product. They use the most toxic of the alkanes to make the stuff that goes into your food – but don’t bother looking on the ingredient list, it’s not there. This highly toxic substance is used in processing the the soy and doesn’t physically go into the end product so legally it doesn’t need to be listed, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t end up in our bodies though.
Admittedly hexane isn’t just in our food, if you’ve ever filled your car up you’ve probably breathed in a little or got a touch on your skin, it’s not going to instantly kill you. Ingesting it though, that’s another story. Over time the intake of hexane can cause nausea, vertigo, breathing problems, and effect the body’s central nervous system, you can find yourself developing chronic headaches and it can cause fatigue.
You might think it’s not much of a big deal, after all you’d need to eat a lot of these products for there to be an effect right? Well, consider how much of what you eat contains some form of soy derivative – crisps, salad dressing, ketchup, BBQ sauce, mayonnaise, spaghetti sauce, chocolate bars, the list goes on. Each mouthful adds a little more of those harmful products into your body and it builds, and builds which can eventually lead to problems.
If someone told you to eat a spoonful of roofing adhesive – because that’s what else they use hexane to make – you’d probably think they were crazy, so why is it okay for these companies to put it into our food.
At the end of the day the choice is up to you, but it’s much easier make that choice with all of the information.
I could sit hear and preach eating clean and boycotting Big Food, but that is easier said than done. Just don’t think it will never happen to you.
If you cut out soy bi-products and limit yourself to minimal fermented soy you would be amazed at the difference, suddenly you realise there were so many little things that hurt, that ached, that you had never really paid attention to, you put them down to stress or a bad night’s sleep. It’s all linked.
Bad food harms, good food heals.
The Brain Fog Fix by Mike Dow PhD