Monday, May 9, 2011

The Perils of Soy

I’ll be the first to say that we are not avid fans of soy. Primarily because Little B is allergic to soy and subsequently so am I. But as our journey of soy allergy has grown, my knowledge and shock at the perils of soy have grown. Both of us bleed internally from soy which is shocking in itself but I find it more shocking about where you find soy in food.

Have you every stopped to think what soy is in? The most obvious things probably come to mind – soy milk, tofu, soy products like yoghurt and ice cream. Soy is actually an insidious product…soy is quite literally in everything. Soy is in just about all breads, most processed foods, in nearly all chocolates, it can be in cow milk yoghurt, it can be in oils, its in pasta sauce, it contaminates most nut mixes (biodynamic or mainstream). But here’s where it gets tricky – soy is in all mainstream meats (its used heavily in grain feeds), it’s used in many organic meats (namely chicken, and pork).  But I was shocked to hear from two different dietitians recently that there are no longer any soy free chickens in Australia.

We used to think that Little B was allergic to eggs until we found out that if a chicken eats soy grain then its in their eggs. There are no retail soy free eggs in Australia (so unless you have your own chickens and feed them soy free grain, eggs are out). All farmed fish in Australia is fed soy meal (think salmon). Many canned fish contains soy contamination. Soy is also in many pelletized fertilisers which you then put onto your vegie garden or to feed your fruit trees.

It was originally invented for cardboard, but soy is now a filler that manufacturers fling into just about everything these days. Because it is cheap!!  Not nutritious, not beneficial….they key word here is because it is cheap!

Hmm with so much hidden soy in food how much is too much?? Nobody knows – the typical catch cry is but Asian cultures have eaten soy forever….but most studies have said that Asians traditionally consume about 1 serve of soy per day, but even if that was 3 times a day, what do people in Western cultures actually consume - directly and indirectly?? Lets say you drink 2 glasses of soy milk per day, but then you have some eggs on toast for breakfast, followed by a chicken sandwich for lunch and some chocolate or a yoghurt and maybe a lamb stew or a pasta for dinner – how many serves of soy is it now??

What about the effects of soy long term?? I was interested to find out that soy is a goitrogen which means it affects your thyroid . I have met 6 women in the past 9 months who all have thyroid problems that their doctors attribute to their intake of soy milk. Their thyroid problems have improved greatly from the removal of soy products from their diet.

Further reading and you see that soy is an endocrine disrupter much like BPA.  There is now rising infertility in the world as well as early puberty for females. Is this a case of too much soy, too much oestrogen, too early in life? Dr Mercola believes that children are at increased risk for prostate and breast cancer, early puberty, endometriosis and infertility, irregular and painful menstrual periods if they are given soy formula or soy milk.

Others like Retha Newbold, a developmental biologist at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences believe feeding a child soy is never a good thing. Obviously it’s never been a good thing is this household but maybe its not a good thing in most households??

Hmmm I’m not one to judge but the more I find out about soy (especially my newest knowledge about soy in meat) has opened my eyes amazingly. I’m lucky that I then found a two small farmers who raise their lambs and beef biodynamically – they eat grass and only grass (with a few bits of seaweed thrown in). But how long before we are manufactured out of the food chain? How long before everything contains soy?


  1. I have to say when I read about soy about 5 years ago I got a whole lot more vigilant about how much of it is in our diet. It certainly was an interesting 12 months trying to pull most of the sources out.

    Another bit of food for thought on "eastern cultures" historically eating soy is that much of the soy they consumed was fermented. Unfermented products such as tofu and soy milk being consumed in large quantities is a reasonably recent phenomenon.

    Thanks for the reminder on animal feed. I still need to check what we are currently feeding our chickens. We swapped from a straight grain feed to a crumble as there was too much going to waste for my comfort but I didn't go to far into the new ingredients.

    Kind Regards

  2. It's scary, isn't it. Same can be said about corn too.

    You are one super mama, with all that you do!