There are some health risks of soy that everyone should be aware of. Unless you’ve been living in a cave (because you’ve taken the Paleo lifestyle literally) for the past 20 years, you’ve probably heard the latest on soy. It’s a “health” food that helps to protect a woman’s heart, bones and breasts. It also reduces night sweats and hot flashes. Don’t believe the hype. Most of the research surrounding the benefits of soy for midlife women still warrants more investigation, as this research is in question now. What we know for sure is that all of the health benefits have been greatly exaggerated by the soy industry. So if it’s not good for us, just how bad is it? Here are a few key health risks of soy.
1. Disrupts Thyroid Function
Soy contains goitrogens which impair and depresse thyroid function, which makes it almost impossible to lose body fat. This is one of the biggest health risks of soy to be aware of.
2. Modern Soy is Overly Processed
Most modern soy foods are highly processed. Typically, the more processed a food, the more it’s void of vital nutrients. Processed soy also contains “anti-nutrients”, like phytates, which block the absorption of minerals, particularly magnesium, iron, zinc and calcium.
3. It’s Genetically Engineered
Soy is one of the United State's biggest cash crops. Why? Because large companies figured out how to genetically modify it to be resistant to poisonous herbicides. Farmers plant a ton of it and spray it down. Then it gets processed into animal feed or for human consumption. It is estimated that 90% of today’s soy crops are genetically modified.
4. Disrupts Hormonal Balance
The soy plant contains what’s known as phytoestrogens, which mimic estrogen, fooling our cells. For women, depending on how much you eat, soy can affect ovulation, cause weight gain and irritate the digestive tract. Although, phytoestrogens are being touted as beneficial for menopausal women (by reducing night sweats and hot flashes), the evidence is not clear as to whether soy is a positive or negative for women.
Now that you’ve heard some of the most well documented health concerns surrounding soy, it’s time for you to decide whether you can chance incorporating soy into your diet (or do more research for yourself). If you insist on soy, these are my top soy tips. Choose small amounts of organic, fermented soy (e.g. tempeh or miso). In addition, ask your OB/GYN or functional medicine practitioner to order a full female hormone and thyroid panel for you.