Are Soy Foods Healthy?

Much information abounds on the internet about soy foods. In the modern age a lot of soy in the marketplace is genetically modified which creates concerns for many health conscious people. Soy is a very potent plant and here are some of the main points about soy:

  • High levels of phytic acid in soy foods reduce assimilation of calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc. Phytic acid in soy foods are not neutralized by ordinary preparation methods such as soaking, sprouting and long, slow cooking. High phytate diets have been known to cause growth problems in children.
  • There are many other compounds in soy foods that can interfere with protein digestion. In lab tests on animals it has been shown that soy foods containing trypsin inhibitors have caused stunted growth. To date, these tests have not been transferred over to humans.
  • It has also been suggested that soy foods can disrupt endocrine function and have the potential to cause infertility and to promote breast cancer in adult women. There is no conclusive proof so far that this can occur, but there is strong opinion amongst some cancer patients that their soy consumption was a contributing factor to their illness. Soy foods increase the body’s requirement for vitamin D. If these requirements are not met this can result in vitamin D deficiency.
  • Soy protein contains something known as “anti -nutrients” that block the digestion and absorption of many nutrients. Two of the more important anti-nutrients found in soy are Lectins and protease inhibitors. Lectins are nasty constituents of various plants and can cause all sorts of problems from interfering with the absorption of important nutrients to intestinal damage. Proteases are enzymes that assist in the digestion of proteins. Soy has several protease inhibitors that interfere with the enzyme trypsin and chymotrypsin, both of which are important for the digestion and absorption of proteins in the gastrointestinal tract.

Obviously I am not a fan of soy foods. In the modern age, with the genetic engineering of soy, I feel that soy is more of a danger now than it has ever been. Other studies have shown that soy protein has reduced testosterone levels in young males by up to 4%, which is dramatic for any healthy male, but more so for an athlete.

As much as you find critics about soy you will also find plenty of supporters. Many supporters of soy promote vegan diets and use soy as an alternative source of protein. Although the plant is high in amino acids (protein), plant aminos are not as easily digested as animal proteins. These vegan diets are unsuitable for active people that exercise or those involved in physical jobs or other activities.

My recommendation is to stay away from soy foods and especially soy protein powders as there are far more healthier alternatives available.