Is Soy Bad For You, or Good? The Shocking Truth

Young Woman Eating EdamameSoy is definitely one of the most controversial foods in the world.

Depending on who you ask, it is either a wonderful superfood or a hormone disrupting poison.

As with most things in nutrition, there are good arguments on both sides.

What is Soy and How is it Used?

Soybeans are legumes that originated in East Asia, but are now being produced on a large scale in the United States.

Soy is used to make many different foods. Soybeans can be eaten whole, with the immature types being called edamame. Soybeans must be cooked, as they are poisonous when raw.

Soy is used in tofu, soy milk and various dairy and meat substitutes. It is also used in fermented foods like miso, natto and tempeh, which are commonly consumed in some Asian countries.

Over 90% of soy produced in the U.S. is genetically modified and the crops are sprayed with the herbicide Roundup, which may be associated with adverse effects on health (1).

Interestingly, whole soybeans are rarely consumed in Western countries. The majority of soy in the diet comes from the refined products that are processed from the soybeans.

Most of the soy crop in the U.S. is used to produce soybean oil, which is extracted using the chemical solvent hexane. Soybean oil supplied about 7% of calories in the U.S. diet in the year 1999 (2).

What remains of the soybean after the fat has been extracted is called soybean meal, which is about 50% protein. The majority of soybean meal is used to feed livestock, but it can also go through further processing to produce isolated soy protein.

Because it’s cheap and has certain functional properties, soybean oil and soy protein have found their way into all sorts of processed foods, so most people in the U.S. are consuming significant amounts of soy without even knowing about it.

Soy protein is also the major ingredient in soy-based infant formulas.

Bottom Line: Most soy in the U.S. is used to make soybean oil. The waste product is then used to feed livestock or processed to produce soy protein. Whole soybeans are rarely consumed.

Nutrients in Soybeans

Whole soybeans contain a range of important nutrients.

100 grams (about 3.5 ounces) of mature, boiled, whole soybeans contain large amounts of Manganese, Selenium, Copper, Potassium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Iron, Calcium, Vitamin B6, Folate, Riboflavin (B2), Thiamin (B1) and Vitamin K.

Soy

This portion of soybeans also contains 173 calories, with 9 grams of fat, 10 grams of carbs (6 of which are fiber) and 17 grams of protein (4).

The respectable amount of nutrients needs to be taken with a grain of salt, because soybeans are also very high in phytates, substances that bind minerals and reduce their absorption.

Soybeans are a pretty good source of protein. They’re not as good as meat or eggs, but better than most other plant proteins. However, processing soy at a high temperature can denature some of the proteins and reduce their quality.

The fatty acids in soybeans are mostly Omega-6 polyunsaturated fats. This can be problematic because too many Omega-6s in the diet can lead to inflammation and all sorts of health issues (5, 6).

For this reason, it is very important to avoid soybean oil (and other vegetable oils high in Omega-6) and processed foods that contain it.

Be aware that the nutrient composition of soy depends dramatically on the type of soy food. Whole soybeans can be nutritious, while refined soy-derived products like soy protein and soybean oil aren’t nutritious at all.

Bottom Line: Whole soybeans are rich in micronutrients, but they also contain phytates which block absorption of minerals. Soybeans are very rich in Omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, which can cause problems.

Soy May Have Some Health Benefits

Soybean Seedling

It wouldn’t be right to talk about all the bad stuff without mentioning the good. The truth is that there is some evidence of health benefits in certain people.

Soy has been well researched for its cholesterol lowering effects and several studies show that soy protein can reduce Total and LDL cholesterol, although others find no effect (7, 8, 9, 10).

It’s important to keep in mind that even IF soy reduces cholesterol (which studies don’t agree on), there is no guarantee that this will lead to a decrease in heart disease.

Observational studies show a mixed bag of results. Some studies show a reduced risk of heart disease, others do not (11, 12).

There are also some observational studies showing that soy can reduce the risk of prostate cancer in old age, which is the most common cancer in men (13, 14).

Bottom Line: There is some evidence that soy can lower cholesterol levels, although studies show conflicting results. Men who consume soy are at a lower risk of developing prostate cancer in old age.

Soy Contains Isoflavones That Function as Endocrine Disruptors

Fingers Holding Fresh Soybeans

Estrogens are steroid hormones mostly found in females, where they play a major role in regulating sexual development and reproductive cycles.

Estrogens are also found in men, although in smaller amounts.

The way estrogens (and other steroid hormones) work, is that they travel into the nuclei of cells and activate the estrogen receptor.

When that happens, there are changes in gene expression, leading to some kind of physiologic effect.

The problem with the estrogen receptor is that it isn’t very selective in the substances that can activate it. Some substances in the environment that look like estrogen can activate it too.

This is where the whole soy thing gets interesting…

Soy contains large amounts of biologically active compounds called isoflavones, which function as phytoestrogens… that is, plant-based compounds that can activate estrogen receptors in the human body (15).

These isoflavones are classified as endocrine disruptors, chemicals that interfere with the normal function of hormones in the body. The key isoflavones in soy are genistein, daidzein and glycitein.

This can cause reduced estrogen activity due to the isoflavones blocking the actual, more potent estrogen from binding, or it can lead to an increased estrogen activity due to the isoflavones activating the receptors (16).

Bottom Line: The isoflavones found in soy can activate and/or inhibit estrogen receptors in the body, which can disrupt the body’s normal function.

Soy Isoflavones May Affect The Risk of Breast Cancer

Woman Holding Pink Ribbon

Due to the estrogenic activity, these isoflavones are often used as a natural alternative to estrogenic drugs to relieve symptoms of menopause.

In fact, isoflavones can reduce symptoms when women are going through menopause, as well as reduce the risk of bone loss in elderly women, just like estrogen replacement therapy (17, 18).

However, this use is controversial and many believe that the risks outweigh any potential benefit.

Animal studies show that soy isoflavones can cause breast cancer (19, 20, 21). There are also human studies showing that soy isoflavones can stimulate the proliferation and activity of cells in the breasts.

In one study, 48 women were split into two groups. One group ate their normal diet, the other supplemented with 60 grams of soy protein.

After only 14 days, the soy protein group had significant increases in proliferation (increase in number) of the epithelial cells in the breasts, which are the cells that are most likely to turn cancerous (22).

In another study, 7 of 24 women (29.2%) had an increased number of breast epithelial cells when they supplemented with soy protein (23).

These changes may indicate an increased risk of breast cancer, which is the most common cancer in women. However, many observational studies show that women who consume soy actually have a reduced risk of breast cancer (24, 25).

It is a good idea not to make decisions based on observational studies… which tend to be unreliable. The biological changes in the breasts and the studies where soy causes breast cancer in rodents are a major cause for concern.

There are also some small human studies where soy caused mild disruptions of the menstrual cycle, leading to delayed menses and prolonged menstruation (26, 27).

Bottom Line: Soy isoflavones can increase the multiplication of cells in the breasts. However, observational studies show a reduced risk of breast cancer. Soy may lead to mild disruptions of the normal menstrual cycle.

Soy, Testosterone and Male Reproductive Health

Fresh Soybeans

Even though men have some amount of estrogen, having significantly elevated levels is not normal.

Therefore, it seems logical that increased estrogen activity from soy isoflavones could have some effects on men.

In rats, exposure to soy isoflavones in the womb can lead to adverse effects on sexual development in males (28, 29).

In one human study, 99 men attending an infertility clinic were studied. The men that had eaten the most soy for the past 3 months had the lowest sperm count (30).

Of course, this study is just a statistical correlation and does not prove that it was the soy that lead to decreases in sperm count.

Another study found that 40 milligrams per day of soy isoflavones for 4 months had no effect on hormones or semen quality (31).

Many believe that soy can reduce testosterone levels, but the effect appears to be weak and inconsistent. Some studies show a small reduction, while others find no effect (32, 33).

Bottom Line: Exposure to estrogen-like compounds in the womb can lead to adverse effects on males. Studies on the effects of soy on testosterone and sperm quality are inconclusive.

Soy May Interfere With The Function of The Thyroid

Edamame

The isoflavones in soy also function as goitrogens, which are substances that interfere with thyroid function.

They can inhibit function of the enzyme thyroid peroxidase, which is essential for production of thyroid hormones (34, 35).

One study in 37 Japanese adults revealed that 30 grams (about 1 oz) of soybeans for 3 months raised levels of Thyroid Stimulating hormone (TSH), a marker of impaired thyroid function.

Many subjects experienced symptoms of hypothyroidism, including malaise, constipation, sleepiness and thyroid enlargement. These symptoms went away after they stopped consuming the soybeans (36).

However, there are other studies showing that soy has either no effect or only a very mild effect on thyroid function in humans (37, 38, 39).

Bottom Line: Even though soy isoflavones have been shown to inhibit the function of a key enzyme in the thyroid, there is not enough evidence to conclude that they contribute to hypothyroidism in adults.

Soy-Based Baby Formula is a Bad Idea

Exposing infants to isoflavones by feeding them soy-based infant formula can have harmful effects.

Little Baby With Bottle

In one study, infant girls fed soy formula had significantly more breast tissue at 2 years of age than those who were fed breast milk or dairy-based formula (40).

Another study showed that girls fed soy formula were much more likely to go through puberty at a younger age (41).

There is also evidence that soy formula during infancy can lead to a lengthening of the menstrual cycle and increased pain during menses in adulthood (42).

Soy is also very high in manganese, MUCH higher than breast milk, which may lead to neurological problems and ADHD (43, 44). Soy infant formula is also high in aluminum, which can cause all sorts of problems (45, 46).

There is no question about it… breast milk is by far the best nourishment for babies. For women who can not breastfeed, milk-based formula is a much better option than soy-based formula, which should only be used as a last resort.

Bottom Line: There is significant evidence that soy-based infant formula can cause harm, both via its isoflavone content and its unnaturally high content of manganese and aluminum.

Fermented Soy May be Safe in Small Amounts

Natto

It is true that many Asian populations have consumed soy without apparent problems.

In fact, these populations tend to be much healthier than Westerners, although they’ve started to suffer many of the same diseases now that the Western diet has invaded those countries.

The thing is… these populations usually consume fermented soy products like natto, miso and tempeh.

Fermenting soy degrades some of the phytic acid, although it doesn’t get rid of the isoflavones (47).

Asian populations use these fermented soy products primarily as condiments, NOT as the foundation of meals. For this reason, their total intake of soy isoflavones is relatively low (48).

Natto may be especially healthy, as it also contains a significant amount of Vitamin K2, which is important for cardiovascular and bone health and many people aren’t getting enough of (49, 50).

The dose makes the poison… and phytoestrogens are probably fine if you don’t eat that much. If you’re going to consume soy, choose fermented soy products and use small amounts.

Take Home Message

Reviewing the evidence on soy is incredibly confusing. For every study showing harm, there is another one showing beneficial effects.

However, I’d like to point out that in every study I looked at that showed beneficial effect, the study was either sponsored by the soy industry, or the authors had some kind of financial ties to the soy industry.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that their studies are invalid, but it’s something to keep in mind.

At the end of the day, it is important for women who are pregnant, plan on becoming pregnant, or are breastfeeding, to avoid soy and other sources of endocrine disrupting compounds.

Avoiding soy infant formula is very important as well. It should only be used as a last resort.

However, the evidence is too weak and inconsistent to conclude that moderate amounts of soy cause harm in adults.

I personally choose to avoid soy… even though the evidence is inconclusive, the fact that it is a relatively new food in the diet that contains endocrine disrupting compounds is reason enough for me.

59 Comments

  1. ” the fact that it is a relatively new food in the diet that contains endocrine disrupting compounds is reason enough for me.”

    The Chinese invented “soy sauce” in the 2nd century. The Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Taiwanese, Filipinos, amongst others, having been using soy products for nearly 2000 years. Tofu has been around even longer. (new product?)

    Real, unadulterated soy is probably good for you–the Asians are some of the healthiest people on the plant. The real problem are the GMO soybeans.

    If you can find organic, or products made in Asia, you’re probably okay. As an example, look for soy sauces with fermented soy rather than hydrolized soy protein.

    • You’re right that it’s been around in Asia for a long time, but it’s new in the Western diet.

      I don’t think the Asians were consuming such large amounts of soy as many Americans are, without even knowing it, given that it has found its way into all sorts of processed foods. I’m pretty sure they weren’t feeding it to their babies either.

      There are many reasons why Asian populations are (were?) healthier than Westerners. The fact that they don’t eat as much processed food is probably a big factor, I don’t think it has anything to do with the soy.

      But like I said, fermented soy products in small amounts are probably fine.

      • The asians are healthier for a lot more reasons than not eating genetically modified soy beans. Start with saturated fats and refined sugar, red meat, active lifestyle.

        • Asians use fermented, organic soy, which is a completely different product.

          • Emmanuel says:

            Chinese people eat a lot of tofu which, to the best of my knowledge, is not fermented. It is merely made from the coagulation of soy milk.

            Personally, I have lived in China for two years and was shocked by the amount of whole soy products that they eat and by how healthy older people are there, especially women. Chinese women tend to suffer much less from menopausal symptoms than Western women.

            Not to mention the issue of osteoporosis. I grew up in Sicily. My idea of an old lady is that of a woman with a humped back, all shaky and needing a walking stick. China was the first place where I’d regularly see 70yo ladies in the park stretching and doing sport!!

            As for the issue of estrogens. I am unaware of a massive gynecomastia epidemic among Chinese men, or of low fertility issues. Quite the opposite… China is the most populous country in the world. Soy estrogens are supposed to have 1/1000 of the potency of human estrogens (or something like that, you might wanna double check). We are talking about vegetable hormones after all.

            On the other hand, hardly anyone is concerned about the levels of hormones contained in cow’s milk. Which is ironic, when we think of the original scope that nature intended for it. I have a feeling that’ s because people are far less likely to question something they have consumed for such a long time (I am referring to us, Westerners).

            The only legitimate concern I have with soy is the high concentration of phytates… but, from my personal observation, I can’t see the harm of these on the Chinese population. Clearly something in their overall diet is counteracting or making up for this.

      • Thanks for a great article, Kris Gunnars. It’s thorough, well written and unbiased. Just what I needed when I wanted to research the soy. I’m a vegetarian right now, but I think I need to get off the vegan/soy wagon.

    • ^Unfortunately, not anymore Buzz. *Asians used to be*, now the Japanese and Chinese are becoming very diabetic in Eastern nations… I wish that wasn’t the case, but I’ve researched it enough, being that I research insulin mechanics in my university’s endocrinology lab with some of the best.

      I doubt it’s correlated to soy use, but point being, they aren’t healthy as of now, and making their way, statistically in obesity and metabolic syndrome, towards the US and Mexico.

      • The Chinese, Japanese, French, Italians, Mexicans, and many other societies have all started to see alarming rates of obesity and diabetes in the last 20 years or so.

        Why? Because they have gone from eating their traditional ways to eating like much of the English speaking world. Let’s face it, the U.S., Canada, Australia, and UK are seeing some of the highest rates of obesity and diabetes in the world. Processed food, genetically modified food, and snacking are three areas that were unheard of 50 years ago.

        I was around 50 years ago and remember that there were very few obese people. Diabetes was a rarity, if you wanted to lose weight you cut out bread and potatoes (starches). Portions were smaller and TV dinners were just beginning to become popular (and they had less preservatives than they do now.) Microwave ovens hadn’t been put on the market. Most people bought real food with a few “packaged” items. Today, it’s the opposite.

        We were taught to eat three meals a day and only kids might get an afternoon snack after school. After all, they were growing. (BTW, that snack included a glass of whole milk. Skim was for “dieters.”)

        If people in the English speaking world (of which I live in), would go back to eating the way they did in the early 1960′s and before, we wouldn’t have the health issues we have today.

        • You are correct about the eating habits of 50 years ago. I was there, too. The only difference in my experience was something called “lunch” which happened twice per day. It was traditional in my area to stop all the farmwork at about 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. and come in for a cup of coffee, sandwich and cookie.

          If field work was in progress, the “lunch” would be picnic style in the field. Noon meal at 12:30 and supper around 7 p.m. But life was filled w/ physical, hard work w/ lots of energy being burned off. As kids, we played outside all day and also participated in work.

          I really can’t remember much what mom bought for groceries….milk, cheese, flour, sugar, some fruit. Eggs, meat, and vegetables were raised at home. Aside from the walk down memory lane, (thanks, by the way) it seems we were very healthy in general and the adults lived long lives without tons of meds.

          P.S. I’m on no meds either and don’t plan to go there!!

          • I grew up in a city so the fourth meal wasn’t needed.

            One of the problems today is all you hear about is “science” related to obesity but rarely is change in lifestyle discussed.

            You also mentioned kids were outside playing. We were always outside unless it was raining. Today, I never see kids outside playing. They’re either at “planned” activities or on video games. We also walked to school every day, A mile roundtrip, My mother didn’t drive so if I wanted to go to my friend’s houses I had to walk or ride my bike. And some lived a mile away.

            Portions were smaller. As an example, in the 1960′s, if an adult went to McDonalds and ordered a burger, fries and a coke, there was only one size. Today, that same size meal is the kiddie meal.

            We sat down to eat. We didn’t eat in the car. We weren’t as rushed. We didn’t count calories or fat grams or carbs. If you wanted to lose weight you skipped the bread and potatoes. Or had smaller portions.

            Food was enjoyed not feared. The food industry and the pharmaceutical industry didn’t have the power they have today. It was easier to get real food.

            Stress and anxiety are rampant in much of society today and that has to be a factor. So many people eat not just to fuel but to deal with life.

            I’m now taking a course in mindful eating–which is basically teaching me how to eat like I did when I was a kid. Listening to body signals in regards to when and how much to eat and not calories or carb grams. Focusing on my food only when eating and not trying to multitask.. Slowing down and enjoying what I eat rather than just gulping it down so I can get on to something else.

            I still watch my carbs because I’m Type 2, but changing the way I eat is having a bigger effect on my weight than just focusing on lowering carbs.

          • I’m 72, I was there – as well. During the war we ate whatever we could – not much. Never had ‘ready meals’ or processed food. Bit of tinned stuff from time to time (Baked Beans!). When I was 25, I emigrated to South Africa. We grew most of our own food and lived on beef, pork and chicken.

            We left SA in 1973 and just hated what the UK had become, so we emigrated to Belgium.

            We still live on beef, pork, chicken, fish, whey and soya protein isolate. I’m 1.96 meter tall and weigh 112 kgs. We go to the gym three times a week and ‘pump iron’. I can still bench press 110 kg and squat 120 kg. Last time I saw a doctor was about 8 years ago for a health certificate!

            We don’t eat margarine or ANY ‘healthy’ food. Not enough room to grow veggies but we buy them fresh. Whole raw milk from the cow, not a lot of fruit and we’ve never eaten ‘Five A Day’ maybe two per day, sometimes only one!

            If people kept track of their calories and weighed their food and ate 2 grams Protein per kg lean body weight and kept fat down to less than 30% per day, there wouldn’t be obesity.

            It’s real simple, if you eat more calories than you burn, YOU GAIN FAT WEIGHT. If you don’t exercise, and you don’y eat your 2 grams protein per kg LBM, YOU WILL GET FAT AND LOSE MUSCLE.

        • Buzz,

          I agree with your comment 100% !

          Kind regards.

        • Let’s not forget that wheat as we know it was not invented until the early 1960s. There were no ipads, there were trees to climb. There were no back packs with wheels, there were book bags and you probably had to walk a couple miles with it loaded up. The obese sugar loaded youth of America shows us that the future is bleak if we continue down this path of destruction.

      • They’re still healthier than 80% of western countries.

        • You have facts to back that up? Healthier than 80% of westerners? Maybe/maybe not… I don’t buy it anyway. Not saying that westerners are healthy or healthy eaters, that is not case for sure either.

          What I’m coming to realize though, is that we’ve (Westerners) have been lied to for a very long time. All the push of the base of the food pyramid as a high carbohydrate diet is the culprit… not the high amount of saturated fats.

          I’m of the opinion that everything we’ve been told for the last 50+ years was really based on what is most profitable for the industry with the most influence, what is easiest to process, etc, not really what is best for human consumption.

          It seems abundantly clear now, more of the right kinds of fats and less carbs… and no refined carbs is the way to go.

          Now that western companies are gaining in-roads into asia and pushing refined foods, convenience, etc… there is no difference among asians… that is crap and dogma just like the food pyramid.

      • And they are heavy smokers.

    • Dennis Tan says:

      You mistake what the author said. The author did say that Asians have been using soy for thousands of years. It’s the practice of using unfermented soy that is relatively new. All the items you named on your list are fermented. I don’t know how but our ancients knew that fermenting makes soy healthier.

      Even proper tofu is made from fermented bean curd and has been for a thousand years. Do not mistake it for America soy oil leftovers they scrape up, compress and pack as tofu without fermenting.

  2. ‘At the end of the day, it is important for women who are pregnant, plan on becoming pregnant, or are breastfeeding, to avoid soy’

    ‘However, the evidence is too weak and inconsistent to conclude that moderate amounts of soy cause harm in adults.’

    Kris, what would you consider ‘moderate’? I’m terrified now about what I may have unwittingly done to my babies in utero! I drink soy milk on cereal and in coffee.

  3. I enjoyed the article, and it was a good reminder about how soy is not all that people make it out to be, and I learned new info too! I also enjoyed the comments about how people ate healthier 50 years ago. Very true. I say that we can still eat like that; it’s our choice!

    Moreover, Kris, do you think that medical doctors are “on board” with this research? I ask that because I have hypothyroidism (I take Armour Thyroid oils… but wish I could get my thyroid to start functioning properly on its own), and my doctor has never asked me about my soy intake.

    Also, it seems that soy based baby formula is still being given out in hospitals (free samples after a mom gives birth), etc…

    As a side note, I’ve done some research on Splenda and it can harm your thyroid function too. As I recall, it has chlorine in it, which hinders thyroid function. Overall, it has a lot in common with the pesticide DDT.

  4. From my past research, fermented soy is good for fighting cancer, but other than that, it is best to stay away from it. Soy is one of the biggest problems when it comes to allergens. If you are trying to lose weight and gaining instead and are eating soy, you are allergic to it.

    Any time you get the opposite reaction than what is expected, you are allergic to that product or something in it. By the way, Amberen is advertised in this article. It contains MSG, another very dangerous allergen pretty much to everybody.

  5. “these asian populations usually consume fermented soy products like natto, miso and tempeh.”

    This is simply not true. Chinese never heard about miso, natto, or tempeh, which may only be heard in Japan. I am Chinese. Chinese eat cooked whole soy beans or tofu as staple food. They become the most populous people.

    Soybeans themselves cannot be that bad. The genetically modified type is indeed a concern.

    I can enjoy soy milk in China. But the soy milk in USA makes me sick. Very sad that I cannot have my favorite soy milk in USA.

    • Thanks Leo, didn’t know that. Most people in the USA aren’t eating whole soybeans either, it’s usually soybean oil or soy protein. A refined ingredient can have dramatically different effects on health than the whole food.

  6. In Japan, around February 3rd, we take dried soybeans and throw them outside the house saying “demons get out” and throw them around the house saying “good luck come/stay in” then sweep them in the trash. That’s the best use for them. Ick, can’t stand eating them. But really, normally we have one cup of miso soup a day for breakfast maybe, and in the summer a little chunk of cold silky tofu with grated raw ginger and chopped scallions and a half teaspoon of soy on it.

    Americans eat waaaaaaay more soy than Japanese do because now it’s in everything.

  7. I appreciate your articles because they cite real studies that I can read for myself. I give my little girls moderate amounts of soy products based on the idea that they MUST be organic and made from WHOLE soybeans, not isolated soy proteins.

    I noticed that in the most concerning study cited above that implicates soy in increasing problematic breast tissue cells, they fed their soy-consuming group “textured vegetable protein” and I think this is pretty processed stuff. Also there’s no indication that it was organic.

    It feels instinctively safer—and even nutritious—to consume only whole and organic soy. Do you think this is a sound theory? Feel free to link more studies if you got ‘em.

  8. Jagjit Singh Komal says:

    Thank you so much such a lovely and informative article on soy. Will always look forward to your articles on food and nutrition.

    With kind regards,
    Jagjit Singh Komal.

  9. I’m currently trying out low carb vegetarian. Soy products (not shakes) are my main source of protein, yet relatively low in carbs. Any suggestions or alternatives for a vegetarian to go low carb, yet sufficient protein to maintain lean muscle? Already up to 8 eggs a day. Just need some alternatives to make the vegetarian experience sustainable.

    • Mickey Owen says:

      Hemp protein is good.

    • This person, Liayeo, that is eating 8 eggs a day, this doesn’t sound like a good idea. All things should be in moderation and balanced, 8 eggs is way too many. They are high in cholesterol and not very good for you. All forms of beans, legumes, lentils, chickpeas, etc. are good forms of proteins, and you can get proteins in vegetables.

      We actually make our own tempeh at home from whole, organic soybeans, it is a very good source of protein if you want more protein. Although there is a lot of evidence that we eat too much protein as we don’t actually need to consume that much in the first place, and that too much protein (particularly from animal sources) can be leading to increases in cancer.

      Eat a sensible, balanced diet and everything you need generally comes naturally.

      • Louise, Thanks for the concern of 8 eggs a day. Yes is it high in cholesterol to a certain extend. But rest assured I am in good health. Tempeh is freely available in my country and I am consuming it. My worries and nemesis are with Glucose and carbohydrates and not with cholesterol.

        Mickey Owen, thanks for sharing Hemp protein. I will look into that.

    • Kyle Jones says:

      As a vegan, I recommend adding Vital Wheat Gluten to your diet, you can make it into seitan or mould it into balls that can be fried or cooked. Fairly bland, so you need to get creative with spices and such.

      On another note, you should just go Paleo… I think lacto-ovo vegetarians are much less healthy. This is coming from a vegan.

  10. Well that’s interesting. ALL these studies put people on some sort of derived soy protein. NO study actually studied the effects of eating edamame or tofu or soy milk! NONE of these studies show that there are adverse health effects from eating the natural soya bean and its products.

  11. Very good article and the comments that followed. I have gained tremendous insight. Thank you all! I have a question; My son is 12. He was breast fed for 13 months. Since then, he has been drinking organic soy milk as he’s allergic (still) to cow’s milk. I have been introducing butter and cheeses in very small amounts for several years and this has helped him to accept dairy in small quantities. My question; should I be concerned about his soy milk intake? He drinks about 10 to 16 oz per day.

  12. As Janet and Leo have mentioned that whole organic beans are the key to soybeans, everything else is processed and has its problems. As for Estrogen, please review some of Walter Veith’s videos on health that tell us (a very researched man) that the estrogen in soybeans is known as a phytostrogen that promotes human estrogen that is in the body, but does not create more estrogen.

    In other words, it helps already existing estrogen hormones to do a better job, rather than cause more estrogen. Please take the time to listen to his take on this, it is very educational.

  13. I wonder how it is possible that in Japan the risk of breast cancer is very low, while consumption of soy is high.

    Can anyone explain that to me?

  14. Some of your conclusions are contradicted by the following article that quotes Professor Mark Wahlqvist who has studied and published widely on legumes.

    http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/diet-and-fitness/why-soy-confused-20130510-2jc5b.html

  15. You’ve got me panicking a little bit now…

    I’m lactose intolerant, so I’ve replaced milk with soya milk (sometimes almond, coconut or goat). I eat edamame beans as well. As a female who has had issues with (as you referred to it) menses this worries me even more (had issues before becoming lactose intolerant).

    I do however want to point out that the studies cited that performed experiments on rodents don’t necessarily mean it will happen to humans – the way they do this is extreme and not like the conditions in which humans would consume that same product.

  16. Wayne Malcolm says:

    I live in Japan and eat natto almost 1 to 2 times a day. This is the first article I have read that does not claim fermented soy products such as natto as super foods to be consumed regularly. Instead you say “small” amounts. Interesting. I just wonder what “small” means? And, do you have any other links about the nutritional value of natto and other fermented foods?

    Finally, I have been living in Japan for 10 years and in that time I have seen a change in the size of people. The traditional Japanese diet is quite healthy, but it is definitely being challenged by the over-processed diet of the US. Sad really.

  17. Julie Daniel says:

    Interesting… I have been told recently about the negative effects of consuming soya bean milk. I use moderate amounts in coffee and smoothies, probably one carton per week and sometimes as a treat have the chocolate soyabean milk frozen.

    Cows milk tends to upset my stomach a little. Went to light/skim milk… then soya, thinking it was a health move. Now I’m not so sure. I’m post menopausal so I’m wondering if it will either contribute to my change in life… or inhibit my metabolism? What do you think? Julie Daniel.

    • It’s hard to predict how (and if) it will affect a single person, so I don’t know. If you’re consuming a little bit of soy and you feel good and are happy with your health, then maybe there’s no need to change anything.

  18. Julie Daniel says:

    I’m seriously thinking of changing back to light cows milk now that I have read your information and comments… What about rice milk? Any ideas on this?

  19. In trying to do an informative fact based article, you have completely and violently ruined it by referring to animal tests. Are we rats that are raised in captivity in cages? The answer is no, so how on earth can tests on such unnatural, distressed and abused creatures prove or justify anything, ever?

  20. I’ve gone to Asia and from my personal experience, Asians do not eat mostly fermented soy. I rarely saw any fermented soy being eaten in China. I’ve seen natto consumed in Japan, but not in the same amount as unfermented tofu.

    Science should explain reality, not reality being misconstrued to fit emerging/incomplete science.

    The best way to stay healthy is to avoid any nutritional advice coming from the West.

  21. Nwachukwu Gloryy says:

    I only agree that we should go back to our former eating habits and reduce the excessive intake of processed food. People in Nigeria are beginning to die of strange diseases formally associated with the westerners, especially now that they have started to eat like them.

  22. I just bought a can of organic soy. So I got on the PC to see what to do with it. More likely I’m going to throw it away. Then I looked at a couple dozen things to see what I am eating. Well, 98% has soy oil, even organic.

    I’ve also have been checking out fluoride, the water we drink, just to mention one. I’ve come to find out the American businesses are slowly killing us. We are putting lead, aluminum, mercury, and arsenic in our bodies, just to mention a few.

    Jokingly I call myself, ‘A mad scientist’. Now what to do?

  23. Lauren Grey says:

    I wanted to start taking protein shakes, and the one I chose (among many other options) was Whole Food’s Soy Protein Powder. It has a ton of protein (more than most of the shakes I looked at) but is it bad for me?

    I’m not naive enough to think everything Whole Foods sells is good for you, but I thought it would be good for weight loss since it is a protein shake and I’ve replaced it with my breakfast. Should I stop?

  24. Ekaterina says:

    Soy is controversial. Soy is being touted by big business as health food. We know it’s not. There are so many reactions from soy, unless fermented and organic.

  25. I’ve read hundreds of articles about healthy diet, many of them contradictory, confusing, some even ridiculous, and I came to this conclusion:

    1. Eat only whole organic foods; processed, refined, ‘reduced fat’ don’t touch with a stick.

    2. Eat raw, blend, juice and cook (don’t overcook) yourself from as wide range of whole foods as possible, including herbs and spices (again, don’t use ready mixes or first check what they contain – should be only natural ingredients).

    3. Don’t eat meat often, even if organic (didn’t make up my mind on fish yet as even though it’s healthy, just look how polluted the environment from which it comes from is).

    5. Use more raw plant oils (olive, coconut) than animal fats.

    4. Don’t overeat and eat only when you’re hungry.

    You don’t have to count calories, exercise from time to time on top of that and you’ll be just fine.

  26. Chloe Bessette says:

    Hi, wonderful article. I find it difficult to find articles that are unbiased.

    I noticed that commenters are saying that back in their day or 50 years ago, food was better and so on. But somehow, I don’t believe it might have been the case for everyone… My father in-law is 65 and just about on his deathbed. He is the most pig-headed man I have ever met… His daily food intake consists of 6 slices of the whitest of white breads and baloney, even though all the specialists and doctors he sees tell him to stop eating so much salt and sugar.

    But he refuses to eat any differently. He’s always said, “I was raised eating hot dogs and baloney and that’s the way I like it.” His blood pressure is so high that last winter he spent several weeks in the hospital because he almost burst an artery. 3 days after being back from the hospital, he ate half a sugar pie in one sitting, all to himself. His vitamin and mineral intake is so low, that a small bout of diarrhea led him to a potassium deficiency at Christmas time that made it impossible for him to move or do anything on his own.

    His condition is honestly pitiful, but I will admit I can’t get myself to pity him because he was told all his life by his wife, doctors and anyone with common sense that his eating habits would lead him to his deathbed. And there he is now. I honestly feel worse for his poor wife. She tried so hard. And after all these years she told me “you can bring a horse to water but you can’t make it drink” … And now life is a prison… for the both of them.

    Baloney and hot dogs… white bread. At 65, if he says he was raised on these things, it’s hard to imagine that things were that much better 50 years ago… Not for poor people anyway, I guess. I do know that the use of chemicals, GMOs and preservatives has gotten worse since then though.

  27. I must say I’m very dismayed with what I’ve read in this article, although I do find it equally interesting.

    Being Chinese and living in the UK I have no choice but to make my own soybean milk as I grew up drinking it whenever I liked. It was available nearly everywhere in Hong Kong and cost next to nothing. If I do not drink a couple of glasses a week I will not be able to sleep, sometimes for a few days.

    Once I have my usual intake, not only that I can sleep but also it’s deep and sound. It has so far been very good to me and I dread what would happen if I couldn’t use soybean milk as a natural medicine in this case.

  28. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forks_over_Knives. So that is all lies and propaganda? I want to know your opinion on this.

  29. It is well known that rodents metabolize phytoestrogens differently than primates, so you can throw out all those studies about sexual development in mice, rats, etc. No such problems have been found in monkeys or in humans. Furthermore, humans have been eating unfermented soy for centuries in the form of tofu and edamame.

    It’s amazing how quickly the myth has spread about fermented soy being the only traditional consumption of soy by humans. Ugh! People need to get reliable information about soy from nutritional authorities, such as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly known as the American Dietetic Association), not from misguided internet alarmists and activists.

    • Kyle Jones says:

      A scientific paper supporting your statements:
      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24398273

      But of course, some people will continue to perpetuate soy as dangerous. I am vegan, but not for reasons of health, however I find it despicable that people try to discount my personal choices with pseudo-science. I don’t think I’d be any less healthy eating 2-3 servings of meat a week. I’d simply be less environmental and ethical, something you realise is important when you’ve morally matured.

      Cheers.

  30. Omega 6 fat consumption is *not* linked to inflammation in the human body, according to this 2013 study:

    http://cafnrnews.com/2013/05/still-soy-good-for-you/

If you made it all the way down here, you probably liked the article. Please share it:

Speak Your Mind

*