Soy has taken a fairly bad beating in the past few years but does it deserve all the abuse? Some think soy is good...others avoid it like the plague. So what is really up with soy?
Soy is also a complete protein which means that in contains all nine of the essential amino acids.
You need the full spectrum of amino acids in order to function optimally. Your body does not have the ability to produce amino acids and therefore the only place to get them is through your diet.
Animal proteins are the best source of complete proteins, which is why vegetarians can be deficient in certain amino acids, but soy is a great protein substitute as it fills this amino acid void.
Some studies also support that the consumption of soy rather than animal proteins may reduce LDL cholesterol and your triglycerides, while maintaining a good HDL cholesterol level (this doesn't mean it necessarily lowers your risk of heart disease however).
That being said others studies do not support this claim so I suppose it is anyones guess?
One, it is cheap. Two, it has some properties that are not found in other crops (more shortly).
Mainly soy is used to produce soybean oil. An industrial seed oil that is an extremely common in the kitchen these days. Side note...all industrial seed oils should be avoided in your diet.
After the processing (extraction of the fat) of soybean oil you are left with a "meal" that is very rich in protein. A large portion of that is fed to livestock while the rest can be used to make soy protein powders.
Soy products are everywhere. Soy milk, soy protein, tofu, energy bars, you name it. It has become difficult, although by no means impossible, to avoid soy if you choose to do so. But should you?
- 9 grams of fat (1 saturated, 2 polyunsaturated, 2 monounsaturated)
- 10 grams of carbs (6 grams of fiber)
- A whopping 17 grams of protein
If your argument for consuming soy based products because it is better for the environment then consuming animal products you might want to think again! I am not bashing vegetarians, or saying that meat consumption is "good" for the planet, I am just saying...
Now soy contains active compounds referred to as isoflavones. These isoflavones act as phyto-estrogens (you may have heard of this before?) which can disrupt your normal estrogen hormonal condition.
In men this could lead to testosterone hormone imbalances, low sperm count, and even an increased risk for cancers.
With that being said the data is a little inconclusive on the effects of soy and their testosterone/estrogen hormonal levels. Some studies back up the claim that soy consumption can lower testosterone levels while others do not support it quite so strongly.
Obviously having high estrogen levels is bad for men but it is also an undesirable result in women. It can increase one estrogen levels, cause fertility issues, and similarly increase their cancer risk.
Some studies have shown that women supplementing with soy protein can increase their breast epithelial cells which increase their cancer risk. Similar to males however the case for this argument is not necessarily a strong one.
Due to the fact that soy is a legume is also contains high levels of anti-nutrients (phytic acid and lectins). This is unfortunate because it means that all the high micronutrient content in soybeans may be void due to the high levels oh phytates present in this little legume.
In fact anti-nutrient levels are so high it may even increase one's need to supplement to fill the "micronutrient gap".
Finally, soy may also interfere with thyroid function?
The isoflavones that are present in soy are thought to disrupt the proper function of the thyroid.
In one study, when subjects ingested high levels of soybeans there thyroid function was suppressed. But again the evidence is rather weak as other studies do not back up this claim.
A bunch of studies show that soy has many harmful physiological response associated with it's consumption. But other studies do not necessarily back up some of the findings.
So what the hell is someone to do?
Again turn to the pros and cons.
Soy does have some beneficial properties like a good source of protein and high micronutrient levels. But it also contains high levels of anti-nutrients, isoflavones (potential to cause all these issues), and is not good for the environment.
There are other places to source your protein. Hemp, chia, quinoa if you are a vegetarian, and of course animal products if you are not.
Need your micronutrients? Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and supplement with high quality pharmaceutical grade supplements.
When something is on the fence I personally tend to avoid it. Therefore I personally do not consume soy but if a little slips in here and there I do not sweat it.
Live Your Best Life!