Soy Milk has a lot more to offer than fond childhood memories. Packed in every yellow bean are estrogen-like molecules, called isoflavones, which may help fight heart disease, osteoporosis, cancer, and other diseases. Based on just some of the latest findings, the Food and Drug Administration last year gave food makers permission to extol soy’s cholesterol-lowering prowess on package labels.
That’s great, if you happen to believe soy is a healthy choice for everyone. But with soy showing up in everything from breakfast cereal and pasta to energy bars and smoothies, some researchers now worry that too much of a good thing could be harmful.
Soy is a legume, and as such, has the same harmful components that other beans do. But there is more. Some other harmful properties of soybeans are:
- Soybeans contain phytoestrogens, which mimic the body’s natural estrogen hormones. For men, this can lead to a testosterone imbalance, infertility, low sperm count, and increased risk of cancers. For women, it can cause estrogen dominance, which has been linked to infertility, menstrual troubles and cancer…
- These phytoestrogens are so strong that a baby consuming only soy formula is consuming the equivalent hormones of 4 birth control pills a day!
- The high levels of phytic acid in soy inhibit the body’s ability to absorb important minerals, including zinc, calcium, copper, iron and magnesium (which many people are dangerously deficient in already).
- Soy also contains protease inhibitors, which can block the enzymes that are necessary for the digestion of certain proteins.
- The goitrogens in soy are potent anti-thyroid compounds that can lead to endocrine disruption and thyroid disorders. Infants on soy formula have a much higher risk of autoimmune thyroid disease. (note: cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage have these properties as well, though they are lessened greatly by cooking. Cooking does not remove these compounds from soy based foods!)
- Soy is often promoted as an alternative food for celiac and gluten intolerant people,but its lectins can be harmful to the intestines and prevent healing even when gluten is removed.
- Many studies have found even more harmful properties of soy: This link has a summary of many studies done about the harmful effects of it.
- Consumption of soy foods increases the body’s need for Vitamin D, Vitamin B-12, calcium and magnesium.
Soy’s Not All Bad
But if some studies point to dangers from soy, others suggest important benefits. For instance, isoflavones may prevent the growth of estrogen-dependent breast cancer cells, according to findings published in the March 2000 issue of the journal Cancer Research. That’s because isoflavones appear to encourage the body to break down estrogen more quickly — before it can stimulate cancer cells to grow. Instead of lingering in the blood, bits and pieces of estrogen molecules wind up in the urine.
Isoflavones can also slow prostate cancer cells from growing, according to a study published in the June 2000 issue of the International Journal of Oncology. Other studies hint that eating soy may help prevent heart disease, endometriosis, and even osteoporosis in women, Gillespie says. However, if you think you may have any of these conditions, see your doctor before making any substantive changes to your diet.
Soy’s biggest impact is on cholesterol levels, according to a mound of studies. One published in the December 1998 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutritionfound that men who ate a low-fat diet and relied on soy as their main protein source for five weeks saw their “bad” (LDL) cholesterol levels decrease by as much as 14% and their “good” (HDL) levels increase by as much as 8%. Men who ate a low-fat diet but instead relied on meat as protein also saw their cholesterol levels significantly improve, though not as much as the soy-eaters.