Creative Commons License photo credit: sashafatcat
Traditional forms of soy such as natto, tempeh, miso and soy sauce have been consumed for centuries. The really important key to why these foods are healthy is because they are naturally fermented foods. As such they aid in preventing and reducing diseases such as heart disease and different types of cancer.

For example miso is a fermented probiotic form of soyabean rich in isoflavones believed to be cancer chemopreventatives. Unsurprisingly, a number of years ago, the World Health Organization announced the Japanese to be the longest lived of any people on earth. At this point you could be forgiven for wondering why the title of this article is Why Soy is Not a Health Food.

The Balanced Picture
The fact is nonfermented soy found in many processed foods in the west including soymilk and tofu are not the same products as their traditional fermented counterparts. Similar to unsprouted grains unfermented soy contains phytic acid. This anti-nutrient substance binds to nutrients in the digestive system and inhibits their absorption.

In comparison fermented soy, like sprouted grain, has no phytic acid effect and because it is fermented contains probiotics. These good bacteria serve to increase the quantity, availability, digestibility and assimilation of vital nutrients.

So soy in the form of traditional fermented soy is really good for you. Large amounts of soy in the processed unfermented form you’re most likely eating quite simply is not.

Although the American Heart Association (AHA) originally supported the FDA health claim regarding soy the AHA expert committee’s subsequent examination of the evidence lead the AHA to conclude that soy protein does not reliably lower cholesterol and does not prevent heart disease – read about this here .

Worse, both soy protein isolate and soy protein concentrate have been found to contain glutamate. One of the potent excitotoxins I wrote about recently (source: Blaylock, R., The Taste That Kills, 1996). But what if you don’t eat tofu, soy snacks or drink soymilk?

Unfortunately you are likely consuming soy whether you’re buying soy products or not. That is if you eat processed food. You see processed foods contain soybean oil and lecithin. Dr. Joseph Hibbeln at the National Institutes of Health estimates that soybeans, usually in the form of oil, account for an astonishing 10 percent of our total calories in the United States (source: CNN)

What Can You Do About It?
The most obvious solution is to avoid processed food. Instead buy and prepare your own whole foods. You can also inform yourself about the many different names unfermented processed soy masquerades under in ingredients lists. There is a report called Where The Soys Are which you might find helpful. As always be sure to read your labels!

My aim when I decided to write this article was to present a balanced view of soy. I wanted to alert you to the very real differences between healthy traditional fermented soy and processed unfermented soy and soy products in processed foods. They are far from one and the same thing.

As always here at Balanced Existence I highly urge you to take control of your own health. That means doing your own reading so that you can make informed decisions for yourself. You might like to start by reading the Western A Price Foundation submission to the FDA regarding soy and the American Heart Association findings already linked to above.

Soy and iron absorption

Calcium bioavailability in fortified soy milk

Soy and increased risk of bladder cancer

Soy isoflavones during pregnancy increase breast cancer risk in female offspring

Soy linked to peanut allergy and increased risk of asthma

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