The other day I was at the grocery store right next to the dairy case, looking through all the milk alternative selections. While trying to decide which type of almond milk I was going to bring home to my little men. I overheard a conversation that literally made me cringe. A couple standing next to me were picking out milk.
The woman turned to the man and said, “Maybe we should try soy milk and see how the kids like it.” The man turned to her, gave her a look and said, “No, I don’t want my boys growing boobs.” My first thought was, “He would probably fill a C cup himself”, but quickly I dismissed my rude thoughts (I’m a nice person, I promise!) and just felt sad that he really didn’t know any better.
In the age of information that we are living in, there is so much misinformation. How do we know what is real and how do we know what is someone just pushing their own agenda?
Whether it be the dairy council or companies selling soy, there seems to be articles everywhere that say soy is good for you and then ones that say it is poison. Is there a middle ground? Yes, yes there is. Most truths lie somewhere in the middle. After studying this topic for the last 10 years, I will break it down for you.
Myth #1 | Soy gives you boobs
I only wish this were true. The only time I exceed my B cup is when I’m breastfeeding. It is true that soy contains a plant based estrogen known as a “phytoestrogen”. However, dairy and eggs contain “oestrogen” found in higher quantities than phytoestrogens are in soy milk. Actual oestrogens are animals based and our bodies accept it as our own. It has been linked to early puberty and hormonal cancers such as testicular, breast and prostate cancer (source). Phytoestrogens are in lower levels and flush out of your system quickly and are generally 1/100 or 1/1,000th potency of oestrogens found in milk (source).
In parts of Asia where they have a diet high in phytoestrogens they have lower risk of obesity, hip fractures, breast cancer and heart disease. Whereas, you look at our culture and our foods are mostly comprised of animal products and we have young girls going through puberty as early as 9 and 12 year old girls exceeding the limits of their training bra (are those even a thing anymore?).
Another fun fact is that soy isn’t the only plant to contain phytoestrogens. Among plants containing phytoestrogens there are flaxseed, pistachios, sunflower seeds, chestnuts, almonds, walnuts, cashews, winter squash, green beans, collard greens, broccoli, cabbage, mung-beans, pomegranate seeds, alfalfa, asparagus, bok choy, carrots, wheat, rye, oats, barley, multigrain breads/bagels, brown rice, green peppers, potatoes, prunes, peaches, raspberries, strawberries, zucchini, and cranberries.
Myth #2 | All soy is safe OR all soy is unsafe
You either hear people saying soy is so amazing and shouting out the health benefits from the roof tops, or you hear that it is unsafe and should be avoided at all costs. Is there a gray area here? Absolutely.
There are two types of soy, fermented (yay!) and unfermented (boo!).
Fermented soy is good for you, the fermenting process strips the plant of its anti-nutrient defense mechanism that keeps your body from absorbing the nutrition. It unlocks all the lovely benefits of soy like preventing heart disease, certain types of cancers and reduces menopausal symptoms.
Unfermented soy is overly processed and has stripped the plants of it’s nutrients (which happens to all processed food, so try to avoid anything in a box, can, etc.). Non-fermented soy contains phytic acid that obstructs the absorption of minerals like copper, iron, calcium and zinc in the intestinal tract.
So your best bet is to avoid processed soy like fake meats, unfermented tofu (check the packaging to find out if it fermented or unfermented), soy milks, etc. Beneficial soy products are fermented tofu, natto, tempeh, fermented soy milk and fermented soy sauce. (source)
Myth #3 | Vegans or Vegetarians only eat soy
If you’re reading this and you’re not quite on the plant based diet band wagon and are now wondering, “Well what can I eat?” or “Where do I get my protein?” I’m here for you. I’ll be honest at the beginning of my Quest to Vegandom, I ate plenty of fake meats and processed food to curb my meat cravings and have some normalcy. Rest easy, you won’t die. Avoiding unfermented soy is best, but if you’re stressed and needing something quick then eating it occasionally won’t kill you. Plus it doesn’t contain the saturated fats, cholesterol and hormones that meat, dairy and eggs do. Other great sources of protein are nuts, beans, spinach, kale, whole grains (for a list of proteins and their quantity go here). Trust me, when I first went vegan, I ate maybe 3 different vegetables and was the world’s pickiest eater. Yet we are amazing specimens that are able to change our tastes after only a couple weeks. Our bodies are that advanced. So give yourself time and soon enough you’ll be like me, eating whole wheat pasta with tons of cooked spinach and think it’s mouthgasmic. Your heart will thank you too.
Myth #4 | By eating meat you’re avoiding soy
A lot of meat eaters tell me they can’t do a vegan/vegetarian diet because they can’t have soy or are allergic to soy. However, by eating dairy, meat and eggs you’re indirectly feeding yourself soy. About 85 percent of the USA’s soybean crop is processed into meal and vegetable oil, and virtually all of that meal is used in animal feed. Some two percent of the soybean meal is further processed into soy flours and proteins for food use (source). By eating animal products, you are ingesting soy because it’s in the animal’s system in massive quantities. A study done in the UK on pigs fed GMO soy feed showed that pigs had fertility issues and digestive issues as well, which is scary since humans consume tons of pork and bacon but also because our stomach and digestive tract is very similar to a pig’s digestive system. Unless you’re only eating grass fed meat, you’re not avoiding soy. (source)
So now you know the basics of soy. Go forth and spread the good word, friends!
Do you eat or avoid soy? I’d love to hear your thoughts below!