On the one hand this bean is being touted to have many wonderful properties and on the other, it is cited to cause many problems. In this article I will explore the benefits and problems of this legume.
Soy is a wonderful source of protein for vegetarians, vegans and meat eaters alike. The proverbial meat for vegetarians...as the marketing blerbs go. It is true that in terms of protein, it is a particularly good source because if prepared well the inhibiting enzyme Trypsin is disabled. Traditional way to prepare soybeans is via fermentation. It is also a wonderful source of isoflavones which amongst all their benefits have a dark side.
Soy history is quite interesting in it's self a halmark of misunderstanding and industry grasping for profits. Soy was one of those green crops that farmer's plant to bring up nutrients from deep in the soil to the surface. It is then hoed back into the soil to nourish the top layers where the food crops grow. It is very good at that. It was never used for food as it's beans are coated in a protective mix of phytates, protease inhibitors, lectins and saponins. These prevent the seed from being damaged and in doing so prevent good digestion. Unlike other legumes these comounds cannot be removed via simple processes such as washing or even soaking. Sprouting and slow cooking are also not effective either.
Another part of soy beans troubles comes from the western approach to it's preparation. It is highly processed into protein isolates, milks, baby formulas, veggie sausages and mock burgers. All this processing denatures the protein and removes the digestion enhancing cofactors.
Soy and it's deriviatives are added to way too many products we consume daily. In the East, where it comes from, soy may be consumed in a meal maybe once or twice a week. it is part of a larger varied diet containing many vegetables and grass fed animal products. In the west it is a commodity which is fed to animals (grain fed) so you are getting soy compounds in anything from milk, eggs to your meat cuts. Milks and milk products. Then it is ground to a flour so it is present in breads and pastries to sauces, salad dressings and so on. Then it is chemically processed so it is in protein powders and body building products, it is also present in mock sausages, burger patties, alternative milks, soy ice creams, even yogurts. Basically we are inundated with soy everywhere we turn. But, it's good for us so what's the problem? Well, yes to a point. Again not in it's denatured form and not in these quantities. It's Yin Yang thing again, when we have something even good for us to an excess it becomes bad.
Soy is one of the first and most genetically modified foods and this is my second point. If it isn't organic (and certified) it is highly likely to be of the GMO variety containing not only genetic changes but also greatly increased pesticide and herbicide levels.*
Finally Soy's isoflavones mimic our natural phytoestrogens. These have a habit of binding to cell's iron receptors causing iron malabsorption. This is generally not a problem in the east due to the sparse level of consumption but when soy is in so many food products we consume daily and at multiple meals it's iron inhibition, in the order of 50% can easily lead to chronic anemia.** This binding to receptors doesn't stop at iron but also to calcium, magnesium and copper causing issues like osteoporosis, immune deficiency and many other health concerns.
Points to remember:
Only buy Organic Soy products (ones certified by BFA),
Buy it traditionally processed via fermentation. This means tempeh, tamari, miso, tofu etc.
Give highly processed protein powders and mock meats a miss.
Give soy containing products (check ingredient lists) a miss.
Check what your animals product's animals ate if you can.
And finally, only have it occasionally as part of a varied, balanced diet.
Should you have concerns about your energy levels, anemia, digestion or other concerns please raise them with me at your shiatsu session. I am happy to answer any questions.
* Are GMO's safe. A discussion with Professor Gilles-Eric Seralini Professor of molecular biology at the University of Caen in France. http://abc.net.au/radionational/programs/latenightlive/are-gmos-safe3f/3858030 http://www.the ecologist.org/blogs_and_comments/commentators/other_comments/686959/revealed_the_glyphosate_research_the_gm_soy_lobby_doesnt_want_you_to_read.html
Revealed: the glyphosate research the GM soy
** The inhibitory effect of soy products on nonheme iron absorption in man. Cook JD, Morck TA, Lynch SR http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7198374