It's been called the "perfect food". For years we've been told that it not only provides affordable nutrition, but that it's also delicious and easy to prepare in a variety of ways. By adding it to your diet, the "experts" say, you may prevent - or even reverse - dreaded diseases such as cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis and other conditions. As proof for these health claims, our attention is directed to certain ethnic populations where high consumption of this miracle food is credited with their low incidence of these disease conditions. What's more, they say, this "ideal food" can be grown in a variety of soils and climates without depleting the land.
There's just one problem with this rosy scenario: None of the above statements are true.
How dangerous is it to your health?
Studies based on actual science instead of marketing hype reveal that regular consumption of this dangerous food can actually cause the very diseases and conditions it's been credited with preventing and healing. These include:
Have You Guessed Its Name Yet?
In 1913, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) listed soybeans not as a food but as an industrial product. So how is it that today soybeans and soy food products are widely considered to be good for our health?
First, technology now makes it possible to produce isolated soy protein from soybeans, transforming what was once a foul-smelling waste product into food products that can be eaten by humans.
Secondly, seeking to increase the profitability of soybean products, large agricultural firms such as Monsanto and Archer Daniels Midland (which grow the vast majority of soybeans in the U.S.) flexed their marketing and lobbying muscles. As a result, by the end of the 1990s, soy food products went from being virtually ignored by consumers to becoming a "miracle health food" that today's health conscious consumers buy at an ever increasing rate.
As a result, consumer demand for soy products is at an all-time high in the United States. Today more than 300 soy food products, including tofu, soy milk, soy ice cream, soy cheese soy energy bars, soy breakfast foods, soy protein supplements, soy meat, and soy sausage, can be found in our nation's grocery and health food stores. To meet this demand more than 70 million acres of are nation's farmlands are now used to grow soybeans, which have quickly turned into one of the most profitable food crops.
Thanks almost entirely to slick marketing practices, most Americans are now convinced that soy foods can help them prevent heart disease and cancer, build strong bones, and protect against premature aging. Most people simply don't realize is that soy is not a health food and that its reputation for being one is not based on sound science but on a clever marketing campaign that risks the health of the millions of Americans who eat soy food products.
The Asian Soy Myth
One of the main reasons behind the growing popularity of soy foods in the United States is the marketing message that soy is staple food in China, Japan, and other Asian countries and that, as a result, Asian populations have a much lower incidence of cancer, heart disease, and other major health conditions.
But there is a major problem with this message: It's not true!
That's right. In reality, surveys of Chinese and Japanese populations make clear that the Asian soy-based diet is a myth. In China, for example, it was found that the average soy intake amounts to no more than two teaspoons a day, while in Japan a typical serving is a quarter cup of soy taken every one or two days. Obviously such small portions of soy in Chinese and Japanese diets means that soy is hardly a main food source in those countries. In fact, the traditional diets in both countries are primarily based on whole grains, such as rice, along with vegetables and small portions of fish or poultry, not soy. In China, it is poultry and pork that provide Chinese with their main sources of protein, while in Japan the main protein sources are fish.
It's Fermentation That Makes The Difference
Another interesting fact about soybeans is that they were originally considered unfit to eat by the Chinese. History indicates that the first records of the agricultural use of soybeans occurred in pictographs made during the Chou Dynasty (1134-246 BC) of China. In the pictographs the soybean was designated one of the five sacred grains, along with barley, wheat, millet and rice. However, the pictograph for the soybean reveals that it was not originally used as a food, but rather as a plant that was used in crop rotation to provide a greater yield of the other grains, which even then were the staple foods in China. Today, researchers believe that soybeans were planted next to these grains as a method of stabilizing nitrogen in the soil. (Nitrogen-rich soil provides a greater yield of crops.)
Only later on in the Chou dynasty did soy foods begin to be used as food. But this did not occur until the Chinese discovered fermentation techniques, which allowed them to create soy foods such as tempeh, natto, and miso soup. Eventually the use of fermentation to prepare soy foods spread to other parts of the Asia, especially Japan and Indonesia. But to this day, Asian populations avoid eating unfermented soy food.
There is a good reason for this: namely that soy foods in their unfermented state, contain large amounts of natural toxins that not only make soy difficult for the body to digest, but that can also can impair health. The fermentation process destroys or neutralizes these natural toxins and makes fermented soy foods easier for the body to digest them. Research shows that the fermentation process also results in the production of various nutrients that unfermented soy foods do not contain.
What's important to remember is that the vast majority of soy food products that are consumed in the US are not fermented. These products include soy milk, soy protein, tofu, and the literally hundreds of food products that contain soy protein isolate. Additionally, the bulk of the studies indicating that soy consumption can reduce the risk of cancer and other diseases have been conducted using fermented soy foods such as miso. No such benefits have been consistently found using unfermented soy products and in fact a number of studies have shown that unfermented soy products can increase cancer risk. Yet it is precisely these unfermented soy foods that Americans consume the most!
Harmful Soy Compounds
Once you understand the effects of the various natural toxins that unfermented soy foods contain, you will quickly realize why consuming such products are bad for your health. Let's take a look at some of the most common suspect ingredients unfermented soy foods contain.
Soy Protein Isolate: The Most Common Soy Hazard
Soy protein isolate, or SPI, is perhaps the most commonly used soy product in the Western world. In addition to being a key ingredient in a wide range of soy food products sold to American consumers, such as especially soy meats and sausages, soy protein powders, soymilk, and soy baby formulas, it is also used as a food additive in many other types of food products.
SPI is difficult to make. The process by which it is derived from soybeans is complex and goes through various stages in industrial factories. In the first stage, soybeans are mixed with a chemical solution that remove the fiber content soybeans contain. Once the fiber has been removed, what remains is then mixed with an acid wash, which further separates proteins from out of the soy mixture. This stage typically occurs in aluminum tanks and as it occurs, high levels of aluminum are usually leached from the tanks into the final product, SPI. Aluminum is a known toxin that can cause a host of health problems. It has even been linked to Alzheimer's disease! Is the presence of such a dangerous toxin what you expect in a health food?
But that's not all that is unhealthy about SPI. The final stage of the SPI manufacturing process involves spray drying of the soy mixture at very high temperatures in order to produce the protein isolate powder. During this spray drying process, chemical substances known as nitrates are formed and become part of SPI. Nitrates are known cancer causing agents (carcinogens). As if that weren't enough, during the initial processing stage, another known toxin, called lysinoalanine, is also formed and remains as part of SPI's make up. Additionally, a certain amount of the trypsin blockers we discussed above also find their way into SPI, having survived the manufacturing process.
What's perhaps most ironic about the health claims made for soy protein isolate is the fact that, as a direct result of the manufacturing process needed to make SPI, the proteins that soybeans contain are rendered ineffective, meaning that the body cannot use them efficiently. The proof of this fact can be found in animals that are raised on soy feed containing SPI. In order to prevent a loss of normal growth that can be caused by SPI's denatured proteins, the animals must also be fed the amino acid lysine.
And the bad news doesn't stop there. Because of its unpleasant taste, most soy protein isolate on the market contains numerous artificial flavorings (including monosodium glutamate, or MSG!), which also act as harmful toxins in the body once they are consumed. Moreover, a variety of studies reveal that the use of SPI increases the daily requirements for a wide range of vitamins and minerals, including vitamins B12, D E, and K, and the minerals calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, and zinc. That's; because regular consumption of SPI causes deficiencies of these nutrients.
Other tests also show that regular consumption of SPI and foods containing SPI as an additive can cause enlargement of various organs of the body, particularly the pancreas and thyroid gland, and can result in an increased deposit of harmful fatty acids in the liver.
Despite how harmful SPI is to good health, its presence in food products continues to increase and more and more consumers are hoodwinked by the marketing efforts of the commercial agriculture industry into believing that soy foods are good for them. In addition, today soy protein isolate, which is also sold as textured vegetable protein, is extensively used in school lunch programs, commercial baked goods, diet drinks and fast food products.
Soy Can Also cause Dangerous Hormonal Problems
Today, many infant children in the United States are fed soy baby formulas. Such formulas contain another highly touted soy ingredient – isoflavones. Isoflavones are said to help protect against breast and prostate cancer, despite the fact that there is little evidence indicating this is so.
Isoflavones are part of a class of chemical compounds known as phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens mimic estrogen, a hormone that is present in both males and females. Health claims made about isoflavones' alleged anticancer benefits are based on hormonal imbalances that occur in men and women as they age, leading to varying ratios of estrogen, testosterone, and other hormones in their bodies.
For many years, prostate cancer was thought to be due, at least in part, to excessive testosterone levels in men. Based on this assumption, it was thought that a diet high in phytoestrogens could help to counteract elevated testosterone levels, thereby reducing the risk of men developing prostate cancer. Today, however, scientists recognize that there is not a link between prostate cancer and testosterone and that, in fact, many cases of prostate cancer may be due to elevated estrogen levels!
Similarly, research now shows that elevated estrogen levels in women can lead to a variety of health problems, including certain types of cancer. Based on this research, does it make sense for men and women to add substances that mimic estrogen to their diets? Of course not, but that is precisely what happens when they consume unfermented soy foods and beverages.
Now let's get back to the dangers of isoflavones to infant children. Simply put, infants who are nourished in soy-based formulas are at risk of developing dangerously elevated levels of estrogen. In fact, research shows that infants fed soy-based formulas have circulating estradiol (a form of estrogen) concentrations that are as much as 13,000 to 22,000 times higher than infants fed cow milk-based formulas. According to researchers, this is equivalent to administering at least five birth control pills per day to infants who are given soy-based formula.
Because of the extreme disruption of hormonal balance that soy-based formula can cause in infants, many researchers believe that they will face a host of serious health problems, including an increased risk of cancer, as they grow into adulthood. Already, older children raised on soy-based formulas are exhibiting signs of entering puberty earlier than is normal and healthy.
Boys also face the risk of developing smaller than normal testicles and other diminished male characteristsics, while girls face the risk of physically maturing sexually long before they are emotionally equipped to handle such a transformation. In addition, earlier than normal sexual maturation in girls can increase the risk that they will develop other problems later on in life, including menstrual problems, infertility, and cancer.
On top of that, researchers already know that soy-based formula also causes serious thyroid problems in infants!
Even More Problems
The list of other health hazards posed by soy foods and beverages is equally alarming. They include:
These are hardly the results you should expect from consuming a health food!
Now that you have read this report, you can see why soy food and beverages are not at all the "perfect food" they are made out to be. In fact, they pose a serious risk to your health and should be avoided at all costs. Don't believe they hype and marketing claims made on behalf of commercial agricultural interests seeking to increase their profits at your expense. Because, as the facts make clear, the story they are telling you about soy is a lie.
Despite all that, if you still wish to include soy your diet, be sure that you do so using only fermented soy products. These include tempeh, miso, and organic soy sauce (tamari), all of which are okay for you to eat.
But do so sparingly and remember:
When it comes to good health, there is no such thing as a perfect food. Good health depends on many factors, including a healthy diet, proper exercise, and stress management. Like most other areas of life, when it comes to creating and maintaining your health, something seems to be too good to be true, most likely it is. Certainly that is the case with soy food products!
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