Sitting at the sushi restaurant with my wife, I was staring at bottle of soy sauce while nomming on salmon and began to get lost in thought, thinking about all the ways these beans have wormed their way into our society. I can think of few questions I want to hear less than "Soy products and soy protein are good right? Less saturated fat?"
People are often surprised when they learn about the negative health effects of soy. The first thing they usually point out is that Asian cultures have eaten soy for thousands of years, apparently with great health benefits. There are a few factors to consider here, which brings us to point #1 of why you will no longer eat soy.
1. The Reality of Asian Soy Consumption
My wife's parents are both first generation Chinese-Americans and have helped me with this article by answering a few questions. First things first, yes it is true that Asian cultures do consume soy, but primarily in its fermented forms: miso, tempeh, soy sauce and tamari. The fermentation process drastically decreases the protease inhibitors and phytates in soy, almost to the point of elimination. (Discussed in a previous protein blog post)
Tofu is the only non-fermented form of soy that is historically common in Asian cultures. On top of this, They only eat soy products in small amounts, more as a condiment or sauce than a main dish. A bowl of miso soup is very different from a tofu-based entree where tofu is taking the place of meat (just typing that made me angry). The average Asian diet includes about 9-36 grams of soy per day. Now compare that to a cup of tofu or soy milk, about 240-252 grams per SERVING. That appears to be a substantial difference in daily soy intake, wouldn't you say?
2. Soybeans Are Processed With Hexane
Hexane is a synthetic, petroleum based solvent that soybeans are immersed in to create soy protein isolate. Hexane provides manufacturers with a cheap way of separating the oil from the protein in the soybeans. The CDC has labeled hexane as a neurotoxin and the EPA has labeled it as a hazardous air pollutant. This basically means that most of the soybeans used in the fake meats, the protein bars, and the soy protein powders have all had a hexane bath. It also poses short and long term health hazards to those who come into close contact with it.
As if these reasons aren't enough to avoid hexane, it also causes sever digestive problems and has been known to cause copious amounts of flatulence (farts, just to be clear). So if you have been munching on Clif bars and wondering why you have to keep the windows rolled down, now you know why.
3. High Estrogen Compounds In Soy
Study after countless study has shown the link between soy intake and increased levels of estrogen in both men and women. As weightlifters, this should be of great concern to all of us. We need to be eating foods and doing activities that increase our testosterone and HGH. Eating or drinking soy will negate these effects and can actually reverse them.
In 1992, the Swiss Health Service estimated that women consuming the equivalent of two cups of soy milk per day provides the estrogenic equivalent of one birth control pill. That means women eating cereal with soy milk and drinking a soy latte each day are effectively getting the same estrogen effect as if they were taking a birth control pill.
A study at the Harvard Public School of Health in 2008 found that men who consumed the equivalent of one cup of soy milk per day had a 50% lower sperm count than men who didn’t eat soy.
This effect is even more dramatic in infants fed soy formula. Babies fed soy-based formula have 13,000 to 22,000 times more estrogen compounds in their blood than babies fed milk-based formula. Infants exclusively fed soy formula receive the estrogenic equivalent (based on body weight) of at least five birth control pills per day.
These are just a few of the many reasons why you need to eliminate soy from your diet. You don't have to be a 9 to 5 tree-hugging hippie to eat a lot of soy, just flip around the food labels and see the ingredients, it's absolutely everywhere. Be like me and cook all of your own food and eat animal proteins and soon, you will become strong like bull.
Olguin MC and others. Intestinal alterations and reduction of growth in prepuberal rats fed with soybean [Article in Spanish]. Medicina (B Aires) 1999;59:747-752. Rats fed soy-based chow had reduced growth and an increase in gastrointestinal problems compared to controls.
IEH assessment on Phytoestrogens in the Human Diet, Final Report to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, UK, November 1997. This exhaustive report on phytoestrogens, prepared by the British government, failed to find much evidence of benefit and warned against potential adverse effects.
Fukutake M and others. Quantification of genistein and genistin in soybeans and soybean products. Food Chem Toxicol 1996;34:457-461. Average Isoflavones consumption in Japan was found to be about 10 mg per day.