My goal is to help you decipher between wellness ploys – meant to confuse you and cause you to empty your wallet … and beneficial wellness joys – meant to help you live your healthiest life.
Now, soy has definitely been a health food buzzword for quite some time. But, is soy truly healthy, or are your ideas about soy misconceived? In other words, is soy all it’s cracked up to be?
Soy – Good or Bad?
As it turns out, no. All soy is not created equal.
And if you’re eating the wrong soy, the result could be disastrous when it comes to your health. Now, if you’ve believed soy to be healthy under any circumstance, it’s not your fault. Marketing companies have pushed you to believe in the potential health benefits of various soy products. But that doesn’t seem fair, does it?
No, it’s not fair. Soy is cheap to grow and cheap to process, so naturally it’s a dream come true for food manufacturing companies. Unfortunately though, most of the food industry’s claims about soy just aren’t true.
How did all the hype about soy get started?
Well, like any good lie, the claims about soy are kind of based in some bit of truth. For instance, members of Asian cultures are among those celebrated for living healthy, long lives. And soy manufacturers let consumers believe longevity could be related to the soy found in the typical Asian diet. It’s all about the marketing.
But, if you were to examine the diets of Asian cultures over time, you’d make an interesting discovery. The soy in those diets is – on the whole – a very different kind of soy. It is not the processed soy you see in American soy milk, soy burgers, and other processed soy products.
The Japanese eat fermented soy. That’s a much different story from the dangerous, processed or unfermented soy products you see on most American grocers’ shelves.
Unfermented Soy – the soy you want to avoid
Now, according to the Centers for Disease Control, 20 percent of the food poisoning cases in the U.S. are the result of lectins in undercooked beans.1 Does this make beans of any kind sound like a health food to you? Of course not.
And the same is true for edamame – otherwise known as unfermented green soybeans. Unfermented soybeans are most definitely not the health foods they’re made out to be. Tofu products are also unfermented soy.
The problem is, if you eat soy, you’re eating a food designed to harm you.
That’s because the lectins found in soybeans are, by their very nature, meant to make you feel sick in order to protect the plants they come from.
To further complicate the situation, lectin-heavy soy, corn, and grains are also fed to the animals you eat. Without our interference, cows would never choose to eat soybeans. Their natural diet consists of grass. But industrial farmers feed their livestock lectin-heavy soybeans. Why? Because it’s way more effective than grass when it comes to fattening their cattle up.
Most of the time, unfermented soy takes the following forms you want to stay away from –
- Soybeans (raw or cooked)
- Soy chips
- Soy flour
- Soybean oil
- Soy milk
- Processed foods with soy
- Soy protein isolates (in protein bars and powders)
Another negative aspect to unfermented soy is that it can have phytates. These are substances famous for the prevention of mineral absorption. This is bad news when your body is trying to hold onto minerals, like iron.5 And unfermented soy can have a pretty significant phytate level – more than many other legumes and beans.
Finally – and I just hate this about unfermented soy – it’s often genetically engineered. That means it’s scientifically treated to defend itself against pesticides. So, when buying any soy product – unfermented or fermented – check to see that it’s sourced from organic soybeans.
BUT, not all soy deserves a bad rap.
For instance, traditional soy – like the fermented soy eaten by the Japanese – can actually be good for you.
Fermented Soy – the good soy
When soy undergoes a traditional fermentation process, it can be easier to digest. Here’s why –
The good gut bugs – or probiotics – in fermented soy can help feed your gut bugs and digestive flora.2 Not only can this aid in digestion, but it can also help you absorb the nutrients you need most, like –
You see, when soy is fermented, it becomes less likely to cause discomfort in your gut.
For one thing, the lectins in soy bind to the glycoprotein receptors of the cells lining your intestinal mucosa. This can interfere with the absorption of nutrients.3 But most lectins can’t withstand fermentation. So, if soy undergoes a fermentation process, the lectins can become deactivated. The soy is then easier to digest and less likely to cause gastric distress.
Perhaps one of the most beneficial characteristics of fermented food like soy is the presence of vitamin K2. Vitamin K2 is an important vitamin, and it’s not uncommon for people to be deficient in it. You want to get K2 where you can, because it can really help –
- Support the health and flexibility of your arteries
- Direct the calcium in your bloodstream to the proper bones
- Boost bone health4
When soy is fermented, the bacteria actually creates K2, so you want to get this fermented food into your diet asap.
But where can you get fermented soy?
Well, these are just a few examples of fermented soy food products –
- Tempeh – With tempeh, fermented soybeans are shaped into cakes with a sort of soft, meaty texture. The flavor is nutty and earthy. You can usually find tempeh in the refrigerated section of your local natural foods market. You want to make sure to buy grain-free tempeh, though.
- Miso – If you’ve never had it before, miso is a fermented soybean paste. It’s got a savory flavor often used in soup.
- Natto – Lately, there’s a lot of buzz about natto. Natto is a traditional Japanese dish made from soybeans fermented with Bacillus subtilis var. natto. Many people enjoy natto for breakfast. These fermented soybeans are really gooey and have a strong, pungent flavor. Most natto comes with sauce. So make sure and spoon that over the top of your cauliflower rice. I love to crack an omega-3 egg on top of the natto. Finally, sprinkle some seaweed on top.
In the end, if you’re going to go for soy, make sure it’s fermented. Fermenting soy products like miso, tempeh, and natto deactivates the lectins in them. And your gut bugs will be much happier when tasked with digestion.
Furthermore, only eat organic soy products. And, do your best to avoid tofu, edamame, soy protein, and soy oil.
For more on Dr. Gundry’s thoughts on soy, watch his video on the topic:
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