Various reports have indicated that there may be a darker side to soy, America’s most loved health food. In this article, we will take a look at the dangers of soy protein and why it should not be viewed as an alternate to other traditional protein sources.
Soy foods have been known to be beneficial for health and many vegetarians rely on them for their protein needs. However, as some recent researches suggest, not all is well with soy proteins. There have been concerns that soy protein can pose health problems ranging from certain forms of cancers to weight gain. There is credible evidence now, that we should not solely depend on soy for deriving proteins, and its intake should be limited.
Proponents claim that soy proteins can help reduce menopausal symptoms and reduce the risk of breast cancer. But, more and more independent researches are proving that there are certain side effects of soy protein and excessive consumption can lead to numerous disorders like infertility, infantile leukemia, reproductive disorders and certain kinds of cancers.
Dangers of Soy Protein
Soy foods are high in phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are plant-based compounds that mimic the estrogen, the hormone produced in the human body. Studies have found that higher levels of estrogen can lead to conditions like endometriosis, uterine fibroids and infertility. Infants who are fed on soy formula are also at a risk of being obese. Phytoestrogens have been held responsible for causing hormonal imbalance in young girls causing premature puberty.
Soy is rich in goitrogen – a substance which prevents the thyroid from getting its necessary amount of iodine. When eaten in excess, these can cause goiter, apart from causing other problems like fatigue, nausea. Goitrogen also causes mood swings and effects your ability to remember things.
You must have noticed that it is generally advised to soak all grains, seeds, nuts and legumes before they are put to consumption. The reason for this is that all of these contain phytates, which blocks the absorption of minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc etc. which are extremely essential for the body. Soy foods have very high levels of phytates, so soaking it overnight like other grains doesn’t help in getting rid of phytates.
Trypsin is an enzyme which helps the body to digest proteins. Trypsin inhibitors are those substances which interfere with the functioning of trypsin and reduce its efficiency. Soy foods are rich in trypsin inhibitors and consuming them in excess can cause diarrhea, cramps and bleeding.
One common question that most Americans ask when told about the dangers of soy protein is that Asians, particularly Japanese and Chinese eat soy everyday, but still they are slender and healthy? The truth is that Asians do not consider soy as an alternate to the natural sources of protein and do not see it as a ‘health food’. They consume soy products in very limited amounts. For example, Japanese and Chinese, on an average consume about two teaspoonfuls of soy foods and it is highly fermented.
There are some ways in which you can limit the side effects of soy proteins. Some of these are
- Soy should always be consumed when it is fermented, like tempeh, miso, natto.
- People who have a thyroid problem should stay away from soy products.
- Generally modified soy should be avoided as it contains certain toxins. Organic soy products are always a better option.
In the end, we would like to advise you that soy should be consumed in limited quantities. There are other sources of proteins like fish, eggs, meat, and vegetarians can include legumes, nuts, seeds and other cereals in their daily diet to get the required amounts.