Soya products are everywhere. Soy was considered a wonder-food for a time: cheap to produce, high in protein and very versatile. Vegetarians have used TVP – texturized vegetable protein (made from soy) as a staple to provide a good source of protein in the absence of meat. As well as tofu, soya can also be found in the form of soya burgers, sausages, even soya bacon, soya cheese and of course soya milk.
Well, grudgingly, I have to inform you that this seemingly healthy, low fat, high fibre pulse is not the good guy it appears to be. There are quite a few reasons for this and I’ll keep it as simple as possible:
• All pulses contain a substance called phytic acid. Soya beans contain far more than any other pulse. This is a problem because phytic acid binds with minerals in food and prevents them being absorbed which is why phytic acid is called an anti-nutrient.
So, if like me, you have been putting soya milk on your breakfast cereal and then taking supplements, much of the goodness in your breakfast and the minerals in your supplements will not be absorbed due to the binding action of the phytic acid.
• Secondly, soya contains strong goitrogens – these inhibit the function of the thyroid gland. Many people have a sluggish thyroid and find they have low energy and stubborn body fat as a result. So, if you are having soy products your thyroid function could be being negatively affected.
• Soya also contains substances that encourage red blood cells to stick together raising the risk of blood clots.
• Soya products need to be fermented for a long time (Tempeh, Miso) otherwise they contain enzyme inhibitors which prevent certain digestive enzymes working properly which then stops adequate digestion of proteins. This can lead to indigestion, bloating and more serious conditions as deficiency of certain amino acids (the building blocks made from proteins) can have long-term medical implications.
• Soya is very high in phyto-oestrogens. These mimic oestrogens in the body, albeit in a much milder form. There are some benefits to this, especially for menopausal women, but serious problems can arise when children and pre-menopausal women are using soy on a regualr basis, causing hormonal irregularities. One study suggested that babies being fed soy baby formula will receive the equivalent oestrogen of 5 birth control pills a day! I think this may be somewhat over-estimated, but there are certainly hormonal issues that must be taken seriously.
• Finally, 90% of soy crops are genetically modified and have been found to be one of the most highly contaminated crops by pesticides.
Need I say more? I loved my soya milk. I am struggling to find a healthy alternative as I dislike and do not approve of the likes of rice and oat milk as they are very sweet and usually have omega 6 rich oils added, which is not ideal. Almond milk is a more balanced option.
I have recently been told about a coconut ‘drink’ made from coconut milk which I am keen to try. Meanwhile, I am using goats milk. I’m not a huge fan of the taste but it contains fats and proteins that are much more digestible then cow’s milk and contains good levels of oleic acid, found in human milk, making it very good for babies.