At times the soybean has been called a perfect plant source of protein and an answer to world hunger. It's found in products such as soy milk, tofu, protein powders, and is prevalent in processed and fast foods. But, is soy really a healthy food?
The United States is the largest producer of the soybean, of which over 90% is genetically modified to be resistant to pesticides. In its raw form, soybeans are toxic to humans and animals, and it has to be wet cooked at high temperatures prior to consumption, the protein becomes denatured and is no longer a complete protein. For example, although used prevalently for animal feed, it has to be supplemented with amino acids such as lysine for healthy animal growth. Processed soy just isn't complete source of protein when it's all said and done.
There have been many claimed health benefits from soy consumption; including reduced LDL cholesterol and even weight loss. Unfortunately, whole soybeans, soy concentrates and protein isolates have substantial negative health effects.
Processed soy products are still high in phytic acid, an anti-nutrient that blocks the proper absorption of essential minerals, such-as calcium for bone growth and zinc, which is needed for the nervous system function.
Soy can significantly affect our hormones due to phytoestrogens, which have the ability to mimic estrogen hormones, and have detrimental effects on women, men, and children. These phytoestrogens depress hormones needed for healthy thyroid production. In men, it even lowers sperm count and reduces libido.
It's important to note that although soybeans originate in Asia, it was not historically available to eat until fermentation techniques had been developed. Fermented soy products such as miso, fermented tofu, and fermented soy milk are common amongst Asian cultures.
Following the fermentation process, the compounds that affect our health negatively are removed, including the allergens that cause allergic reaction to soy. That same process actually increases nutritional content, making the mineral content more bioavailable as well as the proteins more easily digested. While the use of soy originated centuries ago and can possibly have healthy benefits, as food, we largely haven’t gotten it right.