Soy: The Bitter Truth

When soy products first came out, they seemed to have a halo surrounding the healthy benefits of their low-fat, high protein beans.

Since then, numerous reports have come out linking soy to cancer in both women and men. Some studies even showed an increase in estrogen in men who eat soy products on a regular basis. And yet, soy occupies a large majority of farmland across the U.S. just behind wheat and corn. There are even plans in place to make soy production even bigger. But with so much controversy, so much conflicting information, how do we know who to believe?

Well, lets start by breaking down soy and examining it’s functions and uses.

Processing:

Unless you can literally see the small, circular pea-like bean, its been proccessed. That includes tofu, soy milk, soy protien, soy oil, etc. How has it been processed? In a similar manner as with vegetable oils, soy is de-hulled and de-fatted using hexane (also used to make gasoline) extraction. Then, the protein that is left is stripped of its fiber and left to dry. This process is documented here. “Soy processing isn’t a very comforting picture with acid washing and neutralization solutions, large and leaching aluminum tanks, and high temperature heating (rarely a good thing in the food world).” Processing soy has also shown to reduce the previous “health benefits” that could have been within.

Additives:

Once processed, the dried, mealy substance that is left over is hardly ever the finished product. In most cases, additives such as MSG are put into the substance to trick our tastebuds into thinking it’s food. MSG may taste good, but soy meal definitely does not. Remember, you want to try and eat foods that exist in nature, not foods that were created in a lab to make you think they come from nature.

Nutrition:

Soy beans are high in protein, low in fat, low in carbs, and very high in phytic acid. Phytic acid is an anti-nutrient that is known to inhibit your body from absorbing nutrients such as calcium, copper, zinc, magnesium, and iron. The Weston A. Price Foundation writes, “high levels of phytic acid in soy reduce assimilation of calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc. Phytic acid in soy is not neutralized by ordinary preparation methods such as soaking, sprouting and long, slow cooking. High phytate diets have caused growth problems in children.” Just to reiterate this: don’t eat things that are going to harm your vitamin and mineral intake! Those are the things that keep your body functioning. Without them, your body will crash and you will eventually get sick.

Usage:

Surprisingly, soy, like corn, is found in almost everything in the American diet today. Things such as chocolate, bread, pasta, almost all processed foods like Clif Bars, Twinkies, livestock feed for grain fed livestock, etc, etc, etc. The list goes on and on and on. Even if you think you have completely cut soy out of your diet, chances are, its slipping in there somewhere. What’s the reason behind soy secretly slipping into your food? Because it, along with wheat and corn, is cheaper and more profitable to grow than fruits and veggies because it is subsidized by the government.

The Verdict:

Whole beans and fermented soy products such as tempeh are preferred over highly  processed soy by-products like soy milk, tofu and soy oil. However, it is a bean, which means it will still have some carbohydrates and very limited vitamins and minerals. Tempeh and edamame are also very rarely ever put out in any dining hall setting. They are just too foreign. I would say, don’t go out of your way to find these things, but do go out of your way to avoid processed soy by-products (tofu, soy milk, soy oil, etc.).

Homemade Tempeh


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About The Author

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Max is a passionate pursuer of integrative health. He has been drafted by a professional baseball team, worked in publishing scientific laboratories and spoken to groups of students on health and well-being. He is currently a biology major and philosophy minor at Denison University. Max spends his time reading, weightlifting, traveling and learning. Email Max at mungar810@gmail.com.

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