This widely used health food and source of protein has a hidden toxic side
By Nirupama Deshpande PhD
The unassuming soybean has silently infiltrated modern diet as the perfect health food – why not, as soy is cheap, it is a vegetarian source of protein and could even unclog our hearts. Truly medicinal, isn’t it? But like any medicine we have to consider its side effects, and there is a hidden dark side to soy, especially one that has the power to undermine everything it means to be male. Like cereal grains, soy is another toxin that is often perceived as healthy, and it can be seen in just about every packaged and processed food in the form of soy protein isolate, soy flour, soy lecithin and soybean oil. As a result, most men are unaware of how much soy they consume.
A study at the Harvard Public School of Health in 2008 showed just how detrimental soy can be to men’s sexual health. The study found that men who consumed the equivalent of one cup of soy milk per day had a 50% lower sperm count than men who didn’t eat soy. This is primarily due to the presence of phytoestrogens in soy, which is a plant compound resembling human estrogen, a female sex hormone. These phytoestrogen mimic and sometimes block the hormone estrogen, and have been found to have adverse effects on various human tissues. Soy phytoestrogens are known to disrupt endocrine function, lower testosterone, increase cortisol (the stress hormone) and may even cause infertility. Soy also increases a man’s requirement for vitamin D, which many men are already deficient in. Vitamin D deficiency has been shown to be one of the factors of erectile dysfunction in men. Further, many infant formulas use soy, putting the baby’s sexual development and reproductive health at risk. Infants fed soy formula have up to 20,000 times the amount of estrogen in circulation as those fed other formulas. This amounts to an estimated five birth control pills’ worth of estrogen every day.
Besides phytoestrogen, soy contains several other natural toxins that are detrimental to health. Dr. Kaayla Daniel, author of The Whole Soy Story, points out thousands of studies linking soy to malnutrition, digestive distress, immune-system breakdown, thyroid dysfunction, cognitive decline, reproductive disorders and infertility – even cancer and heart disease. Here is just a sampling of the health effects that have been linked to soy consumption:
- Breast cancer
- Brain damage
- Infant abnormalities
- Thyroid disorders
- Kidney stones
- Immune system impairment
- Severe, potentially fatal food allergies
- Impaired fertility
- Danger during pregnancy and nursing
So remember, the vast majority of soy at your local market is not a health food. But many of you may be thinking – many Asian cultures have been traditionally consuming soy for centuries with many health benefits to show? These are fermented soy products that do not wreak havoc on your body like unfermented soy products do. This is important because the fermentation process partially neutralizes the toxins in soybeans, and their beneficial properties become available to your digestive system. The the primary fermented soy products are:
- Tempeh a fermented soybean cake with a firm texture and nutty, mushroom-like flavor.
- Miso, a fermented soybean paste with a salty, buttery texture (commonly used in miso soup).
- Natto, fermented soybeans with a sticky texture and strong, cheese-like flavor.
- Soy sauce, which is traditionally made by fermenting soybeans, salt and enzymes; be wary because many varieties on the market today are made artificially using a chemical process.
Please note that tofu is not on this list as it is not fermented. But the important point to be noted is that Asian cultures also don’t consume soy foods as a main replacement for animal foods, but rather as a side dish.