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Healthy Living | The Scoop on Soy

by Kenna Smoot on October 6, 2013

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.

Soy

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!

About Kenna Smoot

Meat Meets Vegan Blogger, Model, Mom & Startup Wife Kenna is a 10 year vegan veteran, mother to little vegan gentlemen, and wife of a successful startup entrepreneur. When she was 9 her grandfather moved into her family's home with stage 4 cancer and 6 months to live. After starting an organic diet he added 2 extra years to his life. Still, the pain from watching him suffer caused her to vow to do her part to protect her family from cancer. In her late teens she began researching nutrition and on her quest she found the benefits of a vegan diet; and has never looked back. She now has her own blog where she turns Pinterest's top recipes into vegan delights with instructions showing you how to do it. Check it out at www.meatmeetsvegan.com She is also a model in Los Angeles under the alias "Kenna Cade". Her modeling has landed her in Axe body spray commercials, featured in Mademoiselle magazine, the face of a Swedish beauty company, spokesmodel for countless skin care companies, luxury events and is now the image used for the heroine in a new comic book series coming out next year.

  • { 11 comments… read them below or add one }

    Birdy& Bambi October 7, 2013 at 1:15 am

    I love, love, love soy chocolate drinks.
    I’m not even a fully commited vegan, but am ust in love with good food and those drnks are clearly good food to me.

    Love from Germany- I hope everybody had an amazing weekend,
    http://lasagnolove.blogspot.de/2013/10/have-wonderful-weekend.html

    Bambi

    Reply

    Kortney Campbell October 7, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    Thanks so much, Bambi! We have a friend that just moved to Germany! I’m not sure how close she is to you ladies, but I sent her to your blog :)

    Reply

    Jenny Holiday October 7, 2013 at 11:52 am

    This was a great read. Thanks bunches.
    Xo

    Reply

    Kenna Smoot October 7, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    Thank you for reading, Jenny! XO

    Reply

    Yo Soy Liz October 7, 2013 at 3:26 pm

    The other day I was in line at the DMV for 30 minutes standing next to a woman who was going on and on about how diet has no effect on one’s cholesterol. It took every ounce of willpower I had not to call her out. Great post!

    Reply

    Kortney Campbell October 7, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    Oh man, that is the worst! Sometimes I wish I had less of a filter! haha

    Reply

    sammeh October 8, 2013 at 9:29 am

    I’m a little confused by the fermentation section. Fermented is good, don’t eat fermented tofu?

    Reply

    Kortney Campbell October 8, 2013 at 1:22 pm

    Sorry about that! It has been edited <3

    Reply

    luminousvegans October 8, 2013 at 9:47 am

    Oh dear, just the recap of the overheard convo makes me roll my eyes. Gah! When things like that happen, I always play out a scenario in my head where I’m telling the person a thing or two.

    I try not to consume an excessive amount of soy because my hormones are already out of whack as it is. But I’m not crazy-restricting about it. I love eating natto with rice for breakfast!

    Reply

    Andrea Cole October 9, 2013 at 10:11 pm

    What about the GMO aspect of soy or so you only use organic.

    Reply

    Kortney Campbell October 10, 2013 at 9:04 am

    We will be sharing a post in more detail on GMOs this coming week. However, my rule of thumb is that if a processed food does not specifically label their soy/oils/corn (and a few others) as non-GMO or organic, I won’t buy it. The good thing is, many of the big soy companies (e.g. Silk & Nasoya) are non GMO! I also just downloaded a pretty cool app called “ShopNoGMO” that tells you what companies are non-GMO :)

    Reply

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