Health Approach
Debunking The Soya Myth

Debunking The Soya Myth

Soya, also known as soybean or soyabean is a pulse that is native to Asia, and historical record has shown that the Chinese have been eating soybeans since the 11th century BC. It was gradually introduced to other parts of Asia and in the 18th century brought to the United States and successfully cultivated thanks to its suitable climate. Soy is now also grown in Europe, and it seems that nothing can stop its popularity.

Soya is a good source of protein as it contains all the essential amino acids (protein blocks) that the human body needs and provides more protein than other pulses. It is also a good source of polyunsaturated ‘good’ fats (including omega-3 and -6), disease-causing antioxidants, B vitamins and iron. Calcium-enriched soy products, such as soy milk, yogurt and tofu, provide significant amounts of this important mineral. Soybeans (edamame) and products made using whole beans are a good source of fiber, important for good intestinal health and can also lower cholesterol.

Myth:    Your Hormones Will Messed Up If You Eat Soya

Fact:      Soya contains phytoestrogens, which is why some people find it dangerous. Phytoestrogens are the natural substances that can be found in many fruits, vegetables, dried beans, peas and whole grains. The chemical structure of phytoestrogens is similar, but not identical, to human estrogen. In fact, it is estimated that phytoestrogens are between 100 and 100,000 times weaker than estrogens that occur naturally in humans (and especially in cow’s milk) and therefore have a very weak effect, if at all.

Scientific studies focusing solely on human data conclude that the phytoestrogens in soya foods are completely safe and pose no health risk. The concerns that have been expressed are based on animal experiments, which are irrelevant because phytoestrogens behave differently in different species, though the fact that these animal experiments were  based on injecting animals with extremely high doses or force-feeding in large quantities therefore this has little relevance to human health.

Researches done pertaining that soya-based infant formula may have effects on sexual development and fertility, has found no adverse evidence on any of them. The most reassuring data on soya formula comes from the United States, where tens of thousands of children have had it in the past 40 years and no harmful effects have been reported. Studies on soya phytoestrogens and their possible effect on male hormones and reproductive functions also conclude that there is no cause for concern.

The UK Committee on Toxicity for Food, Consumer Products and the Environment has also conducted an in-depth analysis of the effects of soy on human health concluded that there is no evidence claiming  those people who regularly consume large amounts of soya have an altered sexual development or reduced fertility.

Myth:    Patients Suffering From Breast Cancer Should Avoid Eating Soya

Fact:      Soya can actually lower your bad cholesterol levels and is good for the heart. However, taking soya supplements with an unhealthy diet surely cannot work wonders

Researchers have agreed that soya can improve cardiovascular health by reducing cholesterol levels and plaque buildup in the arteries, thus helps improve blood flow. How is this possible? Well, while soya protein are reducing cholesterol production in the liver, the soya phytosterols actually will be competing with cholesterol molecules present in the blood, thereby lowering cholesterol levels. And do remember that by eating soya, you are probably substituting it for something far less healthy, this is another health beneficial effect for the body.

Myth:    Can Soya Relieve Menstrual Symptoms

Fact:      Yes, this is true! Research has confirmed the fact that those Japanese women who consumed more soya food had less than half the number of hot flashes than those women who consumed less. There are now many studies showing that regular consumption of soya foods or supplements can definitely reduced the frequency or severity of hot flashes and some other menopausal symptoms. The North American Menopause Society conducted a comprehensive review of research on soya and menopause symptoms and concluded that soy isoflavones (the particular type of phytoestrogen in soy) are effective in controlling hot flashes. However, since the overall diet has an impact on our health, it is better to combine soya food into your diet than to take supplements.

Myth:    Antinutrients Can Be Found In Soya

Fact:      This refers to phytate (phytic acid), an antioxidant found naturally in legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds. It has several health protective properties, but critics have focused on its ability to bind and reduce the absorption of certain minerals such as iron and zinc. The truth is that soaking, cooking and fermenting will reduce the phytate content and soya is normally consumed cooked and it also often fermented, so the effect of the phytates is slim.

Myth:    Producing Soya Will Destroy The Planet

Fact:      Undoubtedly, the massive amount of soya production is a serious problem, but not because of going vegans! Over 80% of the world’s soybean production goes to feeding livestock such as cows, pigs and chickens, ensuring that people can have their meat, dairy and eggs. And it is almost exclusively soya from the Amazon and elsewhere that are facing environmental destruction are used for animal feed.

Only about 6% of world soya production is consumed directly as whole beans or in soya products such as tofu, soy milk and soy sauce. Most producers using soya for human consumption in the UK do have a strict non-GM policy and do not use beans grown in the Amazon or other vulnerable countries. If you want to avoid genetically modified soya, go for the organic ones.

Myth:    Are There Good And Bad Soya Products

Fact:      Those traditional foods such as soya milk, tofu, tempeh, miso, soy sauce, and tamari were developed in Asia using traditional fermentation or precipitation methods. Many of these foods use whole beans and are healthier than foods made with soya protein isolates. To extract the protein from soya, the beans must be vigorously processed and some nutrients are lost along the way. Meat substitutes based on soya protein isolate or structured vegetable protein (DVT) are essentially the same thing. They still provide a low-fat source of good protein though are not as healthy as tofu or tempeh.

When it comes to fermentation, there is no easy answer. Some people digest fermented soya food better than others. Fermented products contain friendly bacteria that can improve digestive hygiene, but if you eat a healthy diet, you already have plenty of good bacteria in your gut, so you actually may not need them. The Bottom Line is, all concerns about soya are solely based on animal experiments while more thorough human research do fully supports the overall safety of soya-based foods and their positive contribution to human health.

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