Soy - avoid or not to avoid?
The soybean has been at the centre of controversy within the nutrition and fitness world. Some people see the soybean as a superfood whilst others see it as a poison.
The soybean is native to East Asia and it features heavily in the region’s cuisine in a variety of forms whether it be as soy milk, edamame, tempeh, miso, tofu as well as a meat-alternative. It is high in protein and is often referred to as the “poor man’s meat”. Soybean also contains a number of vital nutrients such as manganese, molybdenum, iron, phosphorus, vitamin K, tryptophan, etc.
The controversial issue surrounding soybean is not about its protein and mineral content but rather due to its high phytate and isoflavone content. Phytates are substances mostly found in grains and legumes. These bind to minerals such as magnesium, calcium, zinc and iron in the gut thus inhibiting their absorption into your system. Whilst consuming a large amount of phytates is not recommended so is consuming a large amount of isoflavones.
What are isoflavones?
Soy isoflavones are biologically active compounds that are able to bind to the human body’s oestrogen receptors in the same way that human oestrogen can (Mortio et al. 2001). In doing so, they can disrupt the body’s normal endocrine system.
Due to their ability to mimic the human oestrogen hormone it is often used as an alternative therapy to relieve symptoms of menopause in women. It has also been shown that it interferes with normal thyroid function, however more studies are required to confirm this (Rao et al. 1997).
There has also been some studies suggesting that soy isoflavones may exert a feminising effect on men as they may interfere with their oestrogen:testosterone ratio. However research has shown this to be unlikely (Messina, 2010).
However soybean consumption is not all bad. There are studies which have shown that soybean consumption may have a role in cardiovascular disease prevention (van der Schouw et al. 2005), prostate cancer prevention (Lee, et al. 2003), as well as it having a role in the prevention of diabetes and obesity (Bhathena & Velasquez, 2002.). The latter is due to soy’s high protein content and its associated appetite suppression qualities.
The bottom line is that not all soy is bad. Yet unfortunately the type of soy that is mostly consumed in Western society is not whole soy - the one with all the nutrient benefits, but rather as soybean oil and soy protein. Due to their low-cost and various functional properties, these soy products can be found in a variety of unsuspected food items.
It is for this reason that here at the Natural Low Carb Store we are taking the necessary steps to remove all soy ingredients from our products. Thereby ensuring that the quality of our food is second to none.
Bhathena S.J. & Velasquez M.T. 2002. Beneficial role of dietary phytoestrogens in obesity and diabetes. Am J Clin Nutr. 76: 6 1191-1201.
Lee M.M. et al. 2003. Soy and Isoflavone Consumption in Relation to Prostate Cancer Risk in China. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. July 12; 665
Messina M. 2010. Soybean isoflavone exposure does not have feminizing effects on men: a critical examination of the clinical evidence. Fertility and sterility. Volume 93 issue 7 Pages 2095-2104
Mortio K. et al. 2001. Interaction of Phytoestrogens with Estrogen Receptors α and β. Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin Vol. 24 No. 4 P 351-356
Rao L. Divi, Hebron C. Chang, Daniel R. Doerge. 1997. Anti-Thyroid Isoflavones from Soybean: Isolation, Characterization, and Mechanisms of Action. Biochemical Pharmacology, Volume 54, Issue 10, 15 November Pages 1087-1096,
van der Schouw Y.T. et al. 2005. Cardiovascular Disease in Women: Prospective Study on Usual Dietary Phytoestrogen Intake and Cardiovascular Disease Risk in Western Women. Circulation. 111: 465-471