Is soy safe? We've been led to believe that soy is a great health food - it's touted as being a great source of protein and calcium and low on calories. If someone is avoiding dairy, they might turn to soy milk, soy cheese, or soy-based meat alternatives and tofu to ease the transition. However, soy, or the most commonly consumed form of processed soy, is not healthy.
I’m so passionate about this subject that they built me a giant soybean to take apart on Dr. Oz! If you want to watch me and Dr. Oz discuss the soy situation - click here. You can also read about it here!
For some of the women, the amount of processed soy they’ve been eating has shown itself to be very harmful to their hormonal balance. Women with estrogen-dominant conditions such as PCOS, fibroids, ovarian cysts, infertility, and low libido are particularly sensitive to the effects of processed soy.
The soy you can eat
Let's be clear - whole, organic, fermented soy is very good for you in small amounts - that’s miso, natto, tempeh, and soy sauce. Women living in Asian cultures who appear to have improved health and longevity only consume, on average, 2 teaspoons of fermented soy per day. It’s usually in the form of a condiment or a side dish - never the main meal. Fermented soy is really good for cancer-prevention and hormonal symptom reduction, but go easy on it.
What is “processed” soy?
Processed soy is actually something called soy protein isolate. This improves the texture of foods, increases moisture and it ups the protein level, which is what many people are looking for in these products. But to get this effect, they must strip away everything that makes soy good - the omega-3s, the fiber and the healthy carbohydrates. This soy protein isolate is added to foods in huge amounts.
How is it harmful?
Soy products contain high levels of phytoestrogens that actually mimic the body’s natural estrogen hormones. If your body is already struggling to break down what you have - and this is showing itself in estrogen-dominant conditions like the above - then processed soy will only add to the problem.
If a soy-based product is also GMO, then research shows this can be endocrine disruptive and can interfere with the fertility of both women and men. A 2009 Brazilian study exposed female rats to soy for 15 months and these rats showed significant changes in their uterine health and reproductive cycle. Second, they can inhibit thyroid function due to their high levels of goitrogens and the isoflavone genistein, which can be antagonistic to thyroid hormone.
Stepping away from bad soy
If you’ve felt reliant on soy for protein as someone who is vegan/vegetarian/lactose intolerant, be that in soy milk, soy ice cream, soy yogurt, soy cheese, soy protein powders et al, don’t worry as I’ve already outlined all the best sources of protein for you in this post. You can learn more about other fantastic sacha inchi, hemp and pea proteins.
If soy has been your dairy substitute, I want you to read up here on how you are right to give up dairy, but consider the alternative calcium sources I recommend instead.
Syncing good soy with your cycle
In the Flo Living protocol, you will see there’s little mention of soy products at all - that’s partly because we do not recommend a heavy reliance on any kind of processed foods and it’s also because just a small amount of fermented soy is enough.
During your menstrual phase is the time to indulge in miso, tamari, and black soybeans, as your body will best benefit from the nutrients and phytoestrogens.
The hidden source of soy you’ve never heard about
Supplements! Some popular brands of supplements contain soy in the form of soybean oil. Be sure to check the labelling on any supplements you buy. The good, reputable companies should provide clear dairy, gluten, and soy-free labelling on their products. It’s the last place you might think to find this, but consider how much you will be taking in if you take several supplements per day, every day. It adds up!
Many, many processed foods also contain soy. You’ll need to look out for these words and phrases as well as any other use of the word “soy” - texturized vegetable protein, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, soy lecithin, soy protein concentrate, and, as mentioned above, soy protein isolate.
How soy harms your family
For men and children, processed soy is even more harmful. As I’ve discussed in my previous post about low libido, the phytoestrogens build up very quickly in men and have a strong, rapid impact.
You should never, ever give your baby or child soy milk or any processed soy products. We are seeing that more and more young girls are experiencing early onset puberty - breast development, pubic hair development - some as young as 5 or 6 years old. Our dependence on processed soy might be one of the causes. The Breast Cancer Fund funded a study by Sandra Steingraber titled ‘The Falling Age of Puberty in U.S. Girls,’ that showed that 50% of white girls begin to develop breasts before they are ten, and 14% before they are eight. African American girls start even earlier than that. A documentary released last year, Little Big Girls, explores how we can best deal with this phenomenon.