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Fact: The US grows 84 million metric tons of soy annually

The majority of Americans are eating processed foods replete with soy byproducts such as soy protein isolate and soy lecithin.  In addition to these derivatives, 80% of all vegetable oil consumed in the US is made from soybeans.

Soy cultivation dates back about 3,000 years, to the Chou Dynastly, when Chinese began fermenting the small, green beans into miso, natto, soy sauce, and tempeh. Today the average Japanese adult eats about 10 grams of soy protein per day. A vegetarian in California may consume 50-75 grams of soy protein in one day.

Here’s where Western diets have gone astray.  Diets high in burger-sized portions of tofu and processed soy protein are not the “traditional” diet.  We can’t expect to get the same results from eating fresh corn on the cob as we would consuming corn syrup, so why would the rules be any different for soy?

The Genetically Engineered Bean
Roundup Ready (RR) soy is genetically engineered to withstand glyphosphate (the main chemical in Roundup) fertilizers. In the United States, 90% of all soy grown is Roundup Ready.  There have been reports that pesticide applicators and agricultural workers have a hight risk of having children born with neurological behavior problems.  Studies show higher incidences of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and leukemia.  It inhibits the process of making sex hormones and is responsible for reproductive issues.

Soybeans are unique due to their high-isoflavone content.  Other foods, like peanuts and some beans, contain isoflavones, but at a fraction of what soy foods contain.  Isoflavones, a class of phytoestrogens-“phyto” meaning plant “estrogens” referring to the hormone classified by the same name-are chemically similar to the humane hormone.  In the body, phytoestrogens sometimes act as stunt doubles for the human hormone, meaning they can mimic estrogen’s effects by reducing hot flashes or by promoting estrogen-sensitive breast cancers.

Scientists have warned of soy protein’s carcinogenic potential and of the health dangers of excessive soy-food consumption. The pro-soy contingency says there is no definitive data about the effect of soy and isoflavones on breast cancer risk for high-risk women or for women with breast cancer.

One shouldn’t put too much emphasis on any single food as a source of a specific nutrient.  Unquestionably, the best way to increase soy intake is through eating whole soy, like edamame. Diets replete with processed soy foods are still diets filled with processed foods; just because it’s soy doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Quality and quantity are still the best markers for good nutrition. Integrating some tofu, tempeh, and other traditional soy foods in one’s diet is a safe bet as long as they are consumed in moderation.  Soy powders, isolates, and hydrolyzed bits are not innocuous food substitutes.

Current research seems to indicate that food really is medicine, and that phytoestrogens need to be treated as such. Stick to the no-GE stuff and just don’t overdo it.

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