For years people have been touting soy as such a healthy food. But is it really? I don’t think so. In fact, I try to avoid soy in any form at all costs. And I wish I had known sooner just how unhealthy it is. When I first started going to doctors for digestive issues they told me it was “just IBS.” I found an IBS message board and followed their diet guidelines…which included cutting out all dairy. So I had to find an alternative. My first attempt…you guessed it, soy. I drank soy milk and ate soy ice cream for quite a while. Until I figured out it was making me feel worse than when I was using dairy. I stopped the soy milk. Not because I thought it was bad for my health. Just because it made me feel bad. And I guess that was a blessing in disguise. Although I’m not sure how much damage it did while I was using it.
So, what is wrong with soy? Well, the main issue in my opinion is what it does to your hormones. And as someone that struggles with infertility that is a HUGE issue for me. I don’t want my food altering my hormones in a bad way. Soy contains something called phytoestrogens, which are plant derived estrogens. If you eat soy it mimics the estrogen your body normally makes naturally…reducing the amount of real estrogen your body produces…causing a hormonal imbalance. “a few studies have actually shown that high levels of soy can increase menstrual cycle length, decrease the follicle-stimulating hormone and also decrease the leutinizing hormone.” That’s a recipe for infertility for sure. It can contribute to endometriosis and PCOS in women. In men it can lower sperm counts, lower testosterone levels and even hinder development in boys. So please avoid soy formula!! “Phytoestrogens, particularly from soy proteins, have become a major component in our typical Western diet. The use of soy-based infant formulas to treat babies that are allergic to cow’s milk is of special concern, because it’s believed that the most vulnerable periods when the most serious, and possibly even irreversible damage to the developing sexual organs can occur, are the pre- and neonatal periods.” Or if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, please don’t eat soy. Soy is basically an endocrine disruptor and can potentially cause infertility in both men and women. It can also cause early puberty. And even contribute to breast cancer.
Aside from hormone disruption, soy interferes with vitamin absorption. It inhibits your body from properly using calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc. Plus it makes your body require more vitamin B12.
Another big issue in today’s world is GMOs. Similar to corn products, almost all soy products are genetically modified. Again, something I try to avoid at all costs. When I eat something I want to know what it really is. I don’t want DNA from some other organism in my food. Soy is used in so many products these days in forms like soy protein and textured vegetable protein. It’s cheap, it’s easy to use. Of course big companies use it. They don’t care about health, they care about money.
I could continue. There are so many bad things to say about soy. But I wanted to mostly focus on how it relates to fertility, hormones and children. Do I have anything good to say? Some forms of soy are ok in moderation. Like properly prepared, non-GMO fermented forms (miso, tempeh, natto). But those aren’t things I eat anyway. So I try to avoid all soy. It’s tough. I know I get a little soy lecitin in our chocolate chips (I should pay the higher price for the kind without). Aside from that, though, I don’t knowingly eat any soy. And I don’t intend to let my children eat it either.
We are fortunate to not have any kind of food allergies in our family. But what if you can’t have dairy? There are a few options…that aren’t soy. If you are just lactose intolerant (not allergic) I would first try raw milk. It is much easier to digest and many people that can’t handle pasteurized milk can handle raw milk. If that is not an option or you are truly allergic you can try goat’s milk (preferably raw as well). Or coconut milk. That is a very healthy alternative. Or almond milk (preferable homemade). Many alternative milks that you buy in the store are processed, genetically modified and have lots of sugar (processed sugar) added. Homemade rice milk is ok too, although not as nutritious. The bottom line, just because you can’t tolerate pasteurized cow’s milk don’t immediately jump to soy!
Will it kill you to eat a little soy once in a while if you are a healthy adult? Probably not. But I would say anyone that is pregnant or breastfeeding, anyone struggling with infertility or hormonal issues, anyone with digestive problems and babies/growing children should avoid all soy. And don’t forget it is also hidden in many health and beauty products. So always read labels…both for things you put into and put on your body.
Before I end I wanted to quick mention flax seeds. I used to add them to a lot of my food because they have omega-3s and they really help with digestion. But after some research I stopped. Flax seeds can have similar effects to soy…altering hormones. It is especially not recommended if you are trying to conceive or are pregnant. I don’t think it’s quite as bad as soy, but I still try to avoid it.