What’s the go with Soy?


Do you have a mercurial friend that you only want to hang out with when they are in certain moods? Well, Soy is the food equivalent of this friend.  Soy has had its time in the sun and has been hailed as the nutritional equivalent of Michael Jordan but it transpires there are a number of caveats that we need to address.

Like most plants, soy contains phytates which are the plant’s natural pesticides and allow for the transport, relocation, and spread of the plant despite digestion of animals such as rodents and mammals (we included). There is some happy middle ground with soy in the sense of no processing is problematic as is too much processing.  It’s imperative to remove some of the harmful and pro-inflammatory phytates, this can be done with soaking and fermenting resulting in Tempah and miso, however, when the processing includes acid washing, neutralization solutions, large and leaching aluminium tanks, high-temperature heating, then layer on the addition of artificial flavourings, including MSG, it can begin to take on a Frankenstein food and not do us any favours.

What’s the risk?


Well aside from the pro-inflammatory phytates, which I come to in a moment, soy also contains flavones which are plant hormones and which can mimic estrogen.  Some research has shown that isolated isoflavones, (phytoestrogens), contribute to the growth of tumours in the breast, endometrium, and uterus.

But the devil can often be in the detail, in the wholefood version and not isolated flavones there is less risk and even some protective mechanisms at play.

Thyroid Function

Hypothyroidism is a condition whereby the thyroid is under-functioning.  The thyroid is a gland responsible for energy regulation and metabolism located in the neck.  The isoflavones in soy inhibit thyroid peroxidase, which produces T3 and T4, which can make a bad situation worse for those with diagnosed hypothyroidism or even cause hypothyroidism to begin with.  All you need to know is that if you have or suspect (get a blood test with your GP) you have an underactive thyroid then give soya wide birth.

Absorption of minerals

Due to soy being high in phytates it’s fair to assume that your ability to naturally absorb the minerals found in food will be impaired.  Minerals such as calcium, zinc,  magnesium, and iron will be affected.  Fermentation is known to substantially reduce phytate levels, (although not 100%) and is the much-preferred option.

Bottom line

Whole and fermented forms of soy are preferable and can be a part of a whole foods diet but I wouldn’t be throwing all forms of soy into my basket.

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