A Vegan Doctor Addresses Soy Myths and Misinformation
Source: Free From Harm
By: Holly Wilson MD
Soy has long been recognized as a nutrient-dense food and as an excellent source of protein by respected dietitians and clinical nutritionists. (1) The soybean contains all of the essential amino acids, as well as an impressive list of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). Micronutrients in rich supply in soy include: calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9, C and zinc. Fiber and omega-3 and 6 fatty acids are also present in soy. The composition of these nutrients varies among preparations, but is in the highest quantity in whole soy foods such as edamame (whole soy beans), soy milk, tofu and tempeh.Yet despite the powerful health benefits of whole soy foods, myths and misinformation regarding the ‘dangers’ of soy consumption are being widely circulated and presented as fact. I will address a few of these myths by taking a closer look at some of the sources of confusion and controversy.
“All soy is GMO!”
I would like to begin by explaining that the largest consumer of commercially grown GMO soybeans, both in the US and globally, is farmed animals. GMOs are genetically modified organisms, and their safety for human consumption is a hot topic of debate; many European countries have banned GMOs. While long term studies and conclusive data on the health effects of GMOs are lacking, GMOs are ubiquitous in our food supply. Soybeans are one of several major food staples now dominated by genetic modification. Currently, 81% of the global soybean crop is genetically modified, and approximately 85% of all GMO soybeans end up in farmed animal feed. The GMO soy consumed by farmed animals is utilized as a source of protein by them, and does not just magically evaporate in the slaughterhouse or the milk processing plant. It ends up on your plate.non-GMO tofu image, soy mythsBut while an alarming percentage of soybeans are genetically modified, the claim that “all soy is GMO” is one of the great soy myths. Of the soy directly consumed by humans, non-GMO soy foods such as tofu, tempeh and soy milk are widely available in stores which offer soy products, and they are clearly labeled non-GMO.
“But I heard soy causes cancer!”
Misinformation regarding soy’s relationship to cancer largely stems from confusion around the presence of phytoestrogens in soy. Phytoestrogen is not estrogen. Estrogen and testosterone are steroid hormones, and occur naturally in both sexes of humans, as well as in animals used for food. They help regulate sexual function and secondary sexual characteristics, in addition to nonsexual cellular functions. While estrogen plays many important beneficial roles in humans, it also naturally promotes proliferation of cells, and, at high levels, can increase risk of some cancers by encouraging cells to multiply more than they usually would. Hormone replacement therapy in postmenopausal women (specifically, taking only estrogen) has also been implicated in cancer growth. (2)