SOY: HEALTH FOOD OR JUNK FOOD?

In our July newsletter, Guest columnist Sally-Ann Creed takes issue with the marketing of soy as a health food. Her article, printed below, has sparked a robust debate. We also publish a response from Pritam Khalsa of Earth Products.  Feel free to add your comments

SOY IS NOT A HEALTH FOOD

By Sally-Ann Creed

LIKE MANY people, you may think foods made from the soy bean are synonymous with a healthy way of eating, and an alternative form of protein. If you are vegan or vegetarian, you may automatically assume that soy is the “healthier” option, and a perfect substitute for animal protein. It’s worth looking at the research to determine whether this is accurate information or not.

If you look at the nutritional profile of good-quality (what I like to call “clean”) animal protein, you are looking at a perfect food source, which contains a vast array of minerals and vitamins, iron, essential fatty acids. When animals are farmed organically and close to nature — allowed to range freely, and raised without the use of chemicals, drugs and growth hormones — they provide us with nourishing, high-quality “complete” protein.

Regular and excessive soy consumption, on the other hand, is shown in research to result in severe nutrient depletion, and even an increased need for the very nutrients you are trying to get from this protein source.

One of these nutrients that is vitally important to good health is vitamin B12. Technically, soy contains a little B12, but the vitamin B12 analogues in soy are not absorbed by the body, thereby actually increasing the body’s requirement for this indispensable vitamin.

Another important nutrient that soy increases the body’s need for is vitamin D3 — a vitamin (and pro-hormone) not found in the plant world at all, but only from sunshine, fish and eggs. Vitamin D has been extensively researched, with an overwhelming amount of literature extolling its benefits, and is an absolute necessity for good health.

When it comes to safety and nourishment, bear in mind that soy needs to be processed to make it palatable and edible. Consequently soya in the form of tofu or non-fermented soy becomes nothing more than “processed food”, just like all other processed food, and dare I say, junk food.

Anything processed in the health-seeker’s mind is to be viewed with a jaundiced eye, due to the tampering with nature. Refining and processing always come with a price to human health.

Processing soya is shown in research to cause toxic lysinoalanine and carcinogenic nitrosamines formation, as well as free glutamic acid (monosodium glutamate or MSG) which is an extremely powerful neurotoxin. Processed soy often has extra MSG added for palatability.

Soy is almost universally grown from genetically modified crops — enough said. But for argument’s sake, taking the GMO factor out of the way (so let’s suppose that this was “organic soya”), research shows that the following facts would still remain:

• Soy has extremely high levels of phytic acid, reducing our ability to absorb calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc. All the usual methods of cooking, sprouting and soaking are not able to destroy the phytic acid which may cause growth problems in children.

• The phytoestrogens found in soy are hormone-disrupters, a potential cause of both infertility and breast cancer in women.

• Soy contains trypsin inhibitors which interfere with protein digestion, and are potentially responsible for pancreatic disorders and stunted growth in children. Trypsin is one of the digestive enzymes you need to prevent some cancers, as the trypsin breaks open the protein coating of the cancer cell. It doesn’t make sense to “inhibit” this essential enzyme for any reason.

• Soy foods contain high levels of aluminium — a heavy metal linked to toxicity of the nervous system and kidneys, and found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.

• Soy inhibits thyroid function which may lead to under-active thyroid, and may cause thyroid cancer. Infant soy formula has been strongly linked in research to autoimmune thyroid disease. Goitrogens present inhibit thyroid function further.

• Soybeans contain haemagglutinin, a clot-promoting substance which causes red blood cells to clump together (clot).

Genetically modified foods (GMOs), and especially soy, are usually sprayed with the dangerous insecticide, Roundup. Unlike the Asian culture, where people eat small amounts of whole, fermented, non-GMO soybean products, western food processors separate the soybean into two big selling commodities — protein and oil — neither of which should be taken into the body in this way.

A good book to read, if you are considering whether to eat soy or not, is The Whole Soy Story by Kaayla T Daniel, a US nutritionist. You can find her material on soy on the Weston Price website (www.westonaprice.org).

Daniel points to thousands of studies linking soy to malnutrition, digestive distress, immune-system breakdown, thyroid dysfunction, cognitive decline, reproductive disorders and infertility, even cancer and heart disease.

Another excellent book is The Hidden Dangers of Soy, by Dianne Greg.

She says many people think soy milk is healthy, especially when they are lactose intolerant and it’s billed as an alternative (which of course it’s not).

She points out that this unnatural product cannot be processed efficiently by the body, and may cause cramping, nausea, and serious health problems, and is more allergenic than cow’s milk.

The soybean itself is inedible and contains toxins meant to ward off insects — and was initially used in Asia to protect the soil.

Greg asks if “the industrial processes of making soymilk: washing the beans in alkaline or boiling them in a petroleum-based solvent; bleaching, deodorising, and pumping them full of additives; heat-blasting and crushing them into flakes; and then mixing them with water to make ‘milk’,” sound healthy.

You decide.

If you were to ask me, I’d say even if you were lactose intolerant, you would still be better off with cow’s milk than soy milk, because it’s still much easier to digest than soy milk; or you could use rice or almond milk.

John McArthur, writing for the Weston Price Foundation on its website, says “tofu shrinks the brain”. That’s quite a statement, but his article goes on to give compelling evidence, and references which make it hard to dispute.

Then there’s all the other hype around soy.

Makers of soy-based drinks, cheeses and butters which aren’t fermented are now proclaiming the “benefits” of having Vitamin D added to them. Sadly, the vitamin D added will be vitamin D2, not the valuable D3 form. In the 1920s, scientists created a synthetic form of vitamin D by exposing plant foods to ultraviolet light which produces Vitamin D2.

Fish consumption and exposure to sunlight deliver the much-needed vitamin D3 to your body — in the way the body actually wants it. By the 1930s researchers began to notice that D2 was less potent than D3 and it became very clear that D3 was far superior.

The body also retains D3 for longer and in much higher concentrations than D2.

Is there anything “good” to say about soy?

Actually yes: fermented soy is good for you. Examples of this kind of soy would be tempeh, miso, soy sauce (made traditionally, not with MSG) and natto. All of these are fermented and rather good for you. This is the kind of soy eaten (in modest amounts) by our Far East neighbours.

So if you want to eat soy, I suggest eating it in one of the fermented forms, and frugally. I also recommend you Google “soy dangers” or equivalent wording to do your own research.

• Sally-Ann Creed is a Cape Town-based nutritional therapist and author of “Let Food Be Your Medicine”.

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Dear Sally Ann,

I laud your information on soya. It is also well explained in http://www.bewellbuzz.com/podcast/dangers-of-soy/. Worth going through right ’til the end of this 45-minutes podcast, as it sheds some hopeful light, also!

We are caught in a  complex paradigm shift: GM soya OR non GM/ organic soya. The polarisation could not be bigger. Genetically modified soya isolates are anti foods harmful to our health. They mess up your hormones, cause early fertility in girls and feminisation in boys and men. The GM ingredients remain active in our and our children’s digestive system causing immune derailments. HEALTHY soya is non GM and organic where possible (‘organic’ is a good indicator of non-GM!).

The bigger context around soya is informed by another great paradigm clash – between omnivorous and vegetarians! The omnivorous diet is the last bastion and a holy cow the meat eater will defend. A ‘conscious’ meat eater will likely accept a ‘free range’ endorsement of meat, sight unseen. Because if indeed you went to background check you might still find that your free range meat is murder and pollutes the environment unjustifiably. Even fishing green fish depletes the ocean long term and as an ostrich eater you are, in some ways, responsible for scores of ostriches with avian flu being put down because you create the demand that leads to the supply. Possibly the only person who may be justified in eating meat, is the one who hunts and guts it, and that is such a minority that the earth’s eco system can easily cope with that.

For an investigation on ethics and health, the movie FORKS OVER KNIVES is useful. It speaks of The China Study, Dr Colin Campbell’s study on meat boosting cancer cells. Or try IF SLAUGHTERHOUSES HAD GLASS WALLS, EVERYONE WOULD BE A VEGETARIAN by Sir Paul McCartney, and finally EARTHLINGS, an intense movie on what you never see. It is traumatic to watch and yet nothing convinces quite like the unedited truth.

Despite my concern for the environment I do not write this letter as a criticism of eating meat. It is not right to confuse vegans’ and vegetarians’ choices and vilify and demonise all soya. Tofu needs to be included in the healthful choices. The traditional moderate consumption in Japan going back thousands of years of, say, three meals of tofu a week, with sea vegetables and fermented soya foods (miso and soya sauce) has fantastic merit for all ages! It is the culinary accompaniment of sea vegetables and fermented soya products that makes tofu very useful! We also have tempeh, a brilliant fermented soya food, rich in protein and B12, and gluten-free TOFU BURGERS (with a high percentage of soya fibre which is known to prevent cancer of the colon).

In the hope of painting the larger picture for us all, yours sincerely

Pritam Khalsa

EARTH PRODUCTS