A food that has taken its place as one of the most heralded “superfoods” of our generation is soy. It is touted as being capable of preventing all sorts of health issues such as heart disease, cancer, and osteoporosis. Praised for its health benefits as well as its affordability on a large scale to feed millions and millions of people, soy has literally achieved a “rock-star” status amongst those who consider themselves to be in the know about health and nutrition.
Soy has now become the forerunner and replaced the much-villainized meat, dairy, and eggs for the vegetarian counterparts of our communities. Its very notoriety has carried it so far to provide license for us to use it for all manner of products and useful items such as candles, personal care products like shampoos and skin moisturizers, and even feed for animals being slaughtered for food.
Once regarded only as a minor crop and an industrial product, soy is now a major player in the agricultural realm and covers a staggering 72 million acres of farmland in the U.S. Demand for soy has been far-reaching and powerful in its takeover as the miracle health food amongst lobbyists, government movements, and special interest groups. News of its versatility has reached new levels of insistence as it has also been pushed to become a main ingredient in lunches for children in schools. According to the USDA, “with the soy-enhanced food items, students are receiving better servings of nutrients and less cholesterol and fat.”
The manner in which the majority of soy products sold on the shelf are produced will come as quite a surprise to most people. SPI (soy protein isolate), the main ingredient in many soy products – and particularly in imitation meat and dairy products, some soy milk brands and baby formulas – is created in an industrial factory environment where the most harsh processing takes place.
Here is a limited explanation of what the soybean goes through in order to process it for consumption in millions of soy products bought in stores (from The Healing Crow Web site):
“Soy beans are combined with an alkaline solution which removes fiber, precipitated and separated using an acid wash, and finally neutralized in an alkaline solution. Acid washing in aluminum tanks leaches high levels of aluminum into the final product. The resultant curds are spray-dried at high temperatures to produce a high-protein powder. A final indignity to the original soybean is high temperature, high pressure extrusion processing of soy protein isolate to produce textured vegetable protein (TVP).”
Soy blocks the absorption of B12 vitamins. More people have an allergy to soy than to any other legume. Limiting soy use to fermented soy foods like tempeh and miso is the best choice. Another issue with soy products, particularly those available in the U.S. is that processed soy products contain estrogen. Excess estrogen has been linked to cancer growth, and can be particularly unhealthy for men and boys to consume regularly as it can severely damage their reproductive systems.
Some popular counter-arguments brought up by the pro-soy crowd are that the Asian populations of the world have consumed soy for millennia with amazing health benefits and evidence abounding for its proof. What most studies and research fail to acknowledge is that, once again, we are not talking about the natural, fermented soy foods used only in moderation by generations of people. We are in fact talking about industrially produced, altered soy products that in no way resemble these ancient, medicinal foods. This, unfortunately, represents the bulk of soy “food” available in American and other developed society’s marketplaces – soy milk, soy cheese, soy butter, soy oils, soy ice cream, soy “meats” and the like – all of which are as unnatural and unhealthy as can be simply because they are not whole foods.