“FDA Claims Daily Soy Protein Intake Improves Health.” “The Dark Side of Soy: Is It Really Healthy?” If these opposing headlines, and others like them, have made you confused about your diet, you’re not alone.

There have been studies showing that soy helps to prevent breast cancer. Other trials have shown that soy is linked to breast cancer. First we are told that soy help to improve your memory. Then we are told that it can cause your brain to shrink.

So what is the truth behind soy? Is it the ultimate health food or a dangerous toxin? As with most stories, the truth lies somewhere in between.

In reviewing the available studies and information it becomes clear that there are two key issues to be aware of before making your decision on whether to keep this food in your diet.

1. Genetically Modified Foods
The first thing to keep in mind is that the majority of soy that is grown in the US is genetically modified. If the soy product you are purchasing isn’t organically grown, chances are it is from a GM crop. This carries significant dangers of its own and studies done with these GM soy products need to be read with caution.

In October of 2005 the Russian Academy of Sciences revealed the results of a shocking study. Scientists studying the effects of genetically modified soy found that 55.6% of rats fed GM soy died within the three week trial. Only 9% of the rats who were fed non-GM soy died during this period.

It seems likely that many of the negative results seen in recent trials are due to the use of a genetically modified product and not due to the plant itself. We will address the other dangers of genetically modified foods in a future article.

2. Isolates
The second thing to keep in mind is that cultures that have traditionally eaten soy products for centuries have not been eating soy isolates. They have been consuming foods made from the whole legume. Extensive research has been done on the health benefits of consuming whole bean products such as tempeh, tofu and edame.

We have seen similar problems with the use of standardized herbs. Plants that have been used safely for hundreds of years are now being said to be dangerous. If you read the studies thoroughly you would find that the vast majority of cases involved the use of a standardized product. These contain an isolated and/or concentrated constituent.

Any time a single substance is removed from the whole plant, its effects become concentrated. It is no longer a “food” for your body, but a form of pharmaceutical. For more on this topic you can read “Whole Plant Medicine”.

So where does this leave us? Soy does contain certain elements, such as isoflavones, that affect our biochemistry. Because of this it is best practice moderation. Having soy milk for breakfast, a soy burger for lunch, soy cheese lasagna for dinner and soy ice cream for desert may be a bit much. But having one of these each day would be fine. Also, try to avoid isolated soy proteins and instead opt for whole bean products.

You should also look for products that contain only organically grown soy beans. This is the only way to be sure that they have not been grown form genetically modified seeds. It will also save you from taking in pesticide residues. This means reading all of your food labels as 2/3 of all manufactured foods contain some form of soy.

As always, the key is to keep yourself informed and empowered. From that point you can make a safe and healthy decision in any area of your life.

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