The Bad Side of Soy

Recently in the news there have been articles decrying the benefits of soy. Some news stories even lay claim that soy and new soy products are harmful and not beneficial at all. The claims range from the potential damaging effects of soy formula given to many infants and toddlers to soy consumption causing early puberty in children to soy disrupting the function of the thyroid gland. I have even heard, though not seen credible published reports, that too much soy consumption can cause heart trouble, not prevent it or aid in the healthy functioning of the heart as doctors and other scientists say it does. These types of rumours or speculation, while taken in context by me and most other long-term vegetarians or users of soy, can be confusing and disturbing to new users of soy products who desire to improve their health.

The debate concerning the possible bad side to soy products is not especially surprising. Any health claim is open to questioning and controversy. Before soy can truly be declared a “wonder food”, it has to stand before debate and questioning, and any possible negative side effects should be carefully explored and explained. It is also something to note that many food companies are exploiting consumers’ perception that soy is a health food by putting a meager amount of it in just about anything. To some consumers, who merely heard on the news that soy is good for your health, a chocolate-covered granola bar full of processed sugar and preservatives will protect him or her from heart disease because it is stamped on the label: Contains Soy! or some similar claim.

Doctors and scientists need to do a better job of explaining how soy works in the human body, what ways it is beneficial and in what circumstances it could be harmful. Soy by itself is not a wonder food drug, but an interaction of soy with different kinds of foods, a complete diet, that can be very beneficial to the body. This is whole soy I am talking about, such as tofu or soymilk or soy protein. Some marketers of soy are merely taking out components of soy products, such as isoflavones, and selling them as pill supplements to menopausal women and/or middle-aged men with heart disease. These components do not act in the body the same way that whole soy products do, which causes problems and leads people to believe that soy has a harmful side.

I urge anyone interested in the benefits of soy foods to do their homework. Talk to your physician before taking any soy supplements, and use soy additives/components sparingly. Stick with whole foods such as tofu, soymilk, and soybeans. Other good soy foods include tempeh, soy flour, miso, and textured soy protein.

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