When some of my friends tell me about their eating habits, they’ll often mention soy milk as a part of a healthy lifestyle. “I only drink soy milk lattes!” they tell me proudly. I usually bite my tongue (I work hard to keep my neuroses to myself in social settings), but I try to avoid soy milk like the plague. While the dangers of soy and soy products have been fairly well-documented in the press, it is still a common belief that soy products are inherently healthier. Not surprisingly, the presence of soy is often used as a marketing gimmick to grab the attention of health-conscious consumers. But as per usual, I am here to explore the realities of this ridiculously prevalent ingredient!
What is actually in soy?
Food manufacturers love to peddle their soy-based products as healthy alternatives for things like dairy. But let’s take a look inside: soybeans contain compounds called isoflavones, a type of phytoestrogen. Unfortunately for us, phytoestrogens are recognized as regular estrogen in both men and women. It goes without saying that random, uncontrolled doses of sex hormones can have pretty unsettling and unintended effects on our bodies. The ONLY group of people that benefit from having additional doses of estrogen are those with specific hormonal imbalances. If you don’t have a sex-hormone imbalance, there is absolutely no need for any homemade hormone therapy!
What’s worse is that 90-95% of soybean crops in this country are genetically modified (GM). Modern soybeans now contain genes that allow them to withstand the use of a ton of herbicides to help increase soybean production. It is this very gene that wreaks additional havoc on our bodies. The effects are staggering – some studies have shown that ingesting genetically-modified soy products can lead to breast tissue growth and erectile dysfunction in men and infertility in women. In 2010, researchers at Russia’s Institute of Ecology and Evolution found that after feeding hamsters GM soy for two years over three generations, by the third generation, most lost the ability to have babies! Oh and by the way, genetically modified crops have NEVER been tested for safety on the human population. The FDA just assumes that major chemical companies have our best interests in mind and leaves it up to them to determine how healthy their lab creations are.
Soybeans love to play dress-up
Have I scared you enough? Want to decrease your soy intake? It’s important to point out that soybeans are one of the biggest crops in the US and as a result, soy is in EVERYTHING. Seriously. It is almost impossible to have soy “in moderation” because chances are – you are being exposed to soy products in most of your food and many of your beauty products. That is where the biggest risk lies – the fact that even if you think you’re only having a little bit here and there and therefore, its perfectly harmless – I’m sorry to say that you’re not. You’re probably getting a little bit of it a LOT more than you think.
Next time you take a trip to the grocery store, look in the packaged goods aisle and see how many products you can find without the use of soy additives. Soy can be found in obvious food items like soy milk, but is also commonly added ingredient in chocolate, ice cream and even many beauty products!
If you have been drinking soy milk because you are lactose intolerant (like moi), you should consider looking into healthier options like almond milk, coconut milk and hemp milk. I personally enjoy making my own homemade almond milk whenever I want to give my green smoothies a little more texture!
[Other Sources: "It Starts With Food" by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig]