It seems that nowadays the topic of soy foods is a hot button issue. You’re either on one side of the fence or the other. After a great deal of research, I’ve found that the dividing line in the soy debate actually comes down to the genetically modification of soy and not necessarily the nutritive properties of the food itself. You see, soy has been a medicinal plant ally for thousands of years in Asian cultures, and in many studies today, it’s still proven to be a very powerful superfood when used in moderation and the proper intention. However, when it becomes genetically modified, as 93% of U.S. grown soy is today, it loses much of its nutritional value as well as becomes a toxic intruder to our bodies.
Let me put it this way, an allergy is described as “the body’s response to a foreign protein” and a genetically modified organism (GMO) is technically a genetically modified protein. So, according to those definitions, it should come as no surprise that food allergies and sensitivities became an epidemic at exactly the same time that foreign proteins were introduced into our food supply in the mid 1990’s. The health issues associated with soy are all linked to unfermented GMO soy, which is coated with copious amounts of pesticides and contains “antinutrients” such as saponins, soyatoxin, phytates, trypsin inhibitors, goitrogens and phytoestrogens. Quite a mouthful, indeed.
Usually, when you read about the effects of soy, you’ll come across a lot of data about phytoestrogens and hormonal imbalances. While phytoestrogens are inherent in soy, they are increased exponentially when they are genetically modified to levels that are detrimental to our unique human physiology. Because phytoestrogens can be found in over 300 natural food sources, we are likely consuming them on a daily basis, and studies show that its only harmful when consumed in large quantities, hence the problem with GMO soy.
However, when soy is fermented in its organic form, it become a powerhouse of lush, assimilable nutrients for our body. Most of the bodies immune system is found in a complex array of trillions of bacteria in our intestines. When we ferment foods it chemically transforms soy into simpler compounds by the action of enzymes, which are produced by microorganisms and bacteria. Enzymes act by hydrolysis – a process of breaking down or predigesting complex molecules to form smaller and more easily digestible nutrients. In other words, a lot of the natural “antinutreints” found in soy dissolve away, leaving behind highly-activated, potent healing nutrients as well as healthy bacteria to replenish your digestive tract!
Another wonderful fact about soy: it’s one of the few plant sources that has ALL of the essential amino acids, making it a complete plant-based protein source. Plus, it can help lower your cholesterol and improve overall heart health. Studies are even showing that it may help fight certain forms of cancer, like colon cancer and breast cancer.
So the next time you’re shopping for soy, be sure to check the label for organic, non-gmo certifications and try to go for a fermented soy product like tempeh rather than a cookie cutter pre-made soy patty with loads of preservatives and artificial flavors.
Personally, I cut out soy for a few years due to personal concerns over the estrogen issue. But I found that fermented, organic, non-gmo soy foods like tempeh, natto and miso actually feel great in my body and, in moderation, supply essential nutrients that I can feel enhance my healthy lifestyle. For me, it came down to listening to my body and paying attention to how I was using soy products. Today, I use them medicinally and sparingly, much like traditional Shoji Ryori Japanese cuisine (probably my favorite style of food ever!)
Kris Carr (one of my all-time favorite wellness warriors) has an incredible article and vlog about the soy foods debate on her website. Click this link to check out this awesome resource for more detailed information and her personal viewpoint on the soy debate:
For great ideas on how to use organic, non-GMO soy foods in your recipes at home, click on the image below to watch one of my all-time favorite tempeh recipe videos for a mouthwatering and easy-to-prep Supreme Kale BLT Salad!