Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Soy Controversy

A brief synopsis after reading 'The Whole Soy Story' by Kaayla T. Daniel

Soy marketers claim that their product prevents cancer; is a safe and heart-healthy alternative to animal products; is economical, land-preserving, and the solution to world hunger; and any anti-nutrients/contamination is not enough to cause people to question its use in infant formula, soy milk, breads, margarine, and energy drinks/bars/meal re-placers. When asked for their reasoning behind the push for people to consume large quantities of soy products and the inclusion of soy bi-products in a majority of prepared food items and supplements, proponents of “the yellow jewel” claim that inclusion of large amounts of tofu and soy in Asian diets is the reason those cultures see fewer incidents of certain types of cancer. In reality, there is reasonable doubt that the quantity and quality of soy products Chinese and Japanese people consume is what we have been led to believe. Ancient use of the plant was mainly as a green-manure crop, or whole beans fermented with fish for over a year and used to flavor soups and other dishes in small quantities next to rice and vegetables. Rarely was it used in the fresh forms of soy milk, flour, tofu or byproducts like hydrolyzed vegetable protein, as Asians did not prefer the taste, smell or unruly behavior of soy in its mature and unfermented form.

The main problem behind soy, however, can't be wholly placed on the plant itself: it is the overuse, abuse, and genetic manipulation by the food industry. It's like eating bananas – a banana or two per day is not going to kill you, in fact it may be good for you, but put a genetically modified banana as a main ingredient in your breakfast cereal, dehydrated banana carb powder in your energy drink, a meat-replacer banana main course at dinner, and banana-flour bars for desert, and very quickly you will feel the results of iron-deficiency anemia and a buildup of certain pesticides and toxins found on bananas because of their cultivation. Any substance in excess has potential to cause harm. Human development and regeneration depend on an immense variety of minerals, vitamins, enzymes, phytochemicals, macronutrients and the interactions thereof. No one food except breast milk contains all the nutrients necessary to sustain life for years without later consequences, yet even that food has been partly replaced by fortified soy milk infant formula. Recent developments show formula makers scrambling to add more and more substances to their mixes as children raised on formula develop deficiency and toxicity symptoms.

A major argument put forth to the public is that women who eat soy products and take soy isoflavone supplements have a lower risk of breast cancer. However, even if this were to be found true, are the far more numerous cases of soy-caused thyroid imbalances, cancer of the GI tract and pancreas, allergies, and reproductive impairment worth a slightly lowered risk of contracting breast cancer? In addition to phytochemicals that interfere with normal hormonal signals, unfermented soy products contain phytates, oxalates, goitrogens, lectins and protease inhibitors: plant components possibly helpful in small quantities, but major anti-nutrients and cytotoxins in excess. With all the research being done on ways soy helps the human race, shouldn't warnings be raised about it's potential risks? Then again, the very assumption that soy is a healthy alternative to animal products is a shaky foundation that needs to be propped up by as many positive articles in medical journals as possible.

Butter, milk, cheese, meat, eggs began to fall into disfavor around the same time as the soy oil industry really took off. Since animal products were seen to cause heart problems in otherwise healthy individuals, a ready-made solution presented itself: why not use the soy protein left over from soy oil production to create a healthier, vegetarian, animal-protein replacer in the form of soy milk, soy burgers, and margarine? The problem is, human omnivores misplaced their hope in the soybean instead of supporting responsible land-management and pastured animals that are not only a source of complete protein, but are also filled with nutrients such as omega-3's, highly absorb-able forms of minerals such as iron and calcium, vitamins B12 (not found naturally in plants), etc.: all without needing to be fortified. It doesn't make sense that an industry would spend billions in researching how to make a non-dairy milk, when the raw cows and goats milk available to us is already complete and irreducibly complex, created by a God who knows and cares for His people.

You might just try a glass.


Gretchen said...

I know alot of people who are lactose intolerant and use soy as a substitute in recipes, etc. Do you think that's unhealthy, or is it more dependent on how much is consumed on a regular basis?

You know I am not knowledgeable in this area, so I'd love to hear your feedback too, about another question I've heard about milk in general. There is research that supports the idea that humans were not made to process milk past a certain age, that it is more normal and healthy to be "lactose intolerant" than to continue to consume milk past the infant and toddler years. What do you think? Have you read research that would say the opposite?

btw, you mentioned on my blog that you are taking swimming lessons?!?! how are those going? I hope you are doing well, I love reading your blog and seeing what you're up to with all your animal endeavors.


Garden of Glory said...

Thanks for your questions, Gretchen.

Depends on who you are. Many people have unknown underlying sensitivities to soy, and a very little soy in their diets can set off chain reactions and bad health. Other people can seem to tolerate a lot of soy without showing signs of it affecting them.

I'm of the mind that because soy is found in so many products, it is healthier to avoid it whenever possible. The top list of things to avoid would be 1. Margarine 2. Soy milk (including formula) and 3. Tofu/meat replacers. Things like soy lecithin are hard to avoid totally, but are usually eaten in much smaller amounts, so while the book says lecithin is harmful in any amount, I think moderation is key.

I approach the subject of people not being made to process milk past a certain age in two ways: Biblically, raw milk was considered a very good food. It was a sign of prosperity and health. While it is not commanded to drink raw milk, some of the Israelite dietary customs are still good guidelines for us today, as research is discovering. Raw milk also contains live enzymes, whereas most studies on milk are made on PASTEURIZED milk and of course the enzymes are dead and useless, and adults no longer manufacture enough lactase to digest the dead food, thus seeming to be intolerant.

It is more common these days to be lactose intolerant than tolerant, but I wouldn't say it is more healthy. Milk is still and will always be the closest to a perfect food. If you are lactose intolerant or sensitive you can often still eat cultured dairy products like yogurt and kefir, and drink raw goats milk which is easier to digest than cows' milk. If someone is truly unable to eat any dairy, better to use a modified whey protein supplement than soy.

There's just too many problems when you try to make a bean do the entire job of an animal product, and I think the experiment has failed. But because of our fallen world, there are babies that can't even tolerate their mother's milk, and I cry for them, and don't judge them when they seek other options. I just want to warn as many people as I can about the false health claims by soy advocates who want you to buy it hook, line and sinker.

I'm goin' swimmin' tonight :) I'll let you know how it goes...