Soy: Is It A Friend Or A Foe?

Soy beans and soy milk might not be as healthy as you think

One of the most common foods in today’s market is soy. Soy and soy products have not only gained a lot of popularity in the recent times, but they are also believed to be extensively beneficial for human health. However, most of us are quite confused about its usage and benefits. While we substitute proteins, dairy products, and other foods with soy and soy products, we are not too sure if they go well with our bodies and especially with our hormones. This is because of the ancient writings and practices in many parts of the world that suggested that soy contains anti-nutrients.

Why Is Soy Considered An Anti-Nutrient?

There are many plants that protect themselves from insects and animals with the help of toxic anti-nutrients. Leguminous plants are particularly famous for these hard-to-digest anti-nutrients. Soy too contains a significant amount of such anti-nutrients that pose serious health hazards. Let us see what anti-nutrients make soy not quite health-friendly.

1. Phytates

Phytates in soy is an anti-nutrient.

Although soy is high in protein content and is known to cure children with malnutrition, it also contains phytates. Phytates are anti-nutrients that bond with minerals and ward them off the human body. They also block any absorption of nutrients that could be present in soy.

2. Goitrogens

Goitrogens in soy hamper the functionality of the thyroid gland. Goitrogens may lead to the enlargement of the thyroid gland and result in goiter, as they restrict the intake of iodine by the gland.

3. Genistein and Daidzein

Genistein and Daidzein are isoflavone molecules that disturb liver functioning.

Genistein and Daidzein are isoflavone molecules present in soy that hinder a certain enzyme involved in the synthesis of the thyroid hormone and might also suppress the functioning of the thyroid gland. These molecules disturb the functioning of the liver and certain reproductive hormones. However, genistein has been found to interact with the HER2 cancer-causing gene and prevent the promotion of cancer. Today, many soy supporters claim that while processing soy, these anti-nutrients are removed.

Fermented Soy In Ancient China

 Natto became popular in ancient China.

It has been seen that ancient Chinese writings considered soy unsuitable for consumption. This might be due to the toxic anti-nutrients in soy, which are hard to digest and lead to a number of health concerns. However, the soy-scene changed in ancient China during the rule of the Ming Dynasty, with the invention of the fermentation process. This is when the fermented soy food “Natto” became popular. It was believed that the toxins in soy got neutralized after it was fermented, which not only made it edible, but also, a nutritional remedy for certain health issues.

Soy Is Rejected By Ayurveda

 Ayurveda rejects the consumption of soy in all its forms.

According to ancient Ayurvedic practices, soy is rightly believed to be a hard-to-digest, protein-rich food. Ayurveda claimed that soy is heavy in nature and dulls the human mind. The Ayurvedic scripts and practices also discard the process of fermentation, as fermented foods are considered “tamasic”. So, you can see that soy, non-fermented or fermented, is seriously not suggested as edible by Ayurveda. However, it has been seen that some Ayurvedic experts allow the consumption of soy in moderation.

The Popularity Of Soy In The West

 Soybeans and soy products are quite popular in the West

Soy and soy products have been popular in the West for quite some time now. Be it in the form of soy milk, soy pills, soy cheese, or soybean oil, soy is used in most of the processed foods in the West. It is also favored as one of the major sources of protein in the West. However, it should not be considered as one of the primary sources of protein, as it can be difficult to get non-GMO soy in the West.

Fermented Soy Is Considered Healthy

 Tempeh is a form of fermented soy.

Fermented soy foods like natto, miso, and tempeh are in wide usage and are considered beneficial to humans. Natto is high in Vitamin K2 and has proved to protect the arteries. It is also considered to have been rendering cardiovascular and circulatory support in the West since a couple of decades. Tofu in Japan is considered to be more cultured than the American tofu, and it is believed to be healthy when consumed in moderation.

While we have seen how the anti-nutrients in soy can be risky for your health, fermented soy and cultured soy products are believed to be beneficial for us. So, it is completely our call as to how we consume soy, whether to consider it a friend or a foe.