The Soy Decoy: Don't Be Deceived
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The Soy Decoy: Don’t Be Deceived

soy milk next to real milk

Guest Post by Katie Fox

I know it goes against everything we hear these days about healthy eating, but I’m here today to tell you that I don’t eat soy products, and I don’t think you should eat soy products, either.

There. I came right out and said it. Might as well get the controversy right out in the open from the start, right? (wink)

Honestly, I’m not looking for a fight. In my real off-line life, I almost never talk about dietary choices with people unless they flat-out ask me my opinion. Diet is a really personal thing, and people often feel defensive if their choices are questioned. But the soy issue really concerns me, so I decided to take this opportunity while guest-posting here at Keeper of the Home to talk about the side of soy we don’t usually hear about.

You’re about to read a lot of big, scientific-sounding words, but don’t let it phase you. I’ve tried to put everything into plain-Jane language,  for me as much as for anyone else – I’m definitely no scientist! But I believe there are at least three good reasons for avoiding soy, and it’s important to understand them. Here they are.

1. Soy Disrupts Our Sex Hormones

Soy is known as a phyotestrogen. This means that it contains natural compounds that mimic estrogen in our bodies. This sounds like good news for some people, such as post-menopausal women. But what are the effects of phytoestrogens on babies, little boys and little girls, young women and young men?

For babies on soy formula, a 1994 study shows that they are consuming the hormonal equivalent of up to 10 contraceptive pills a day. Little systems can’t handle that overload; it puts children at risk for everything from early-onset puberty to permanent endocrine damage. This might surprise you: the governments of Israel, Switzerland, the UK, and New Zealand have all issued statements against the use of soy formula for babies.

Little boys who consume soy may have higher risks of testicular cancer, and little girls may face higher risks of breast and ovarian cancers, due to longer exposure to sex hormones. There is also a possible link between soy and lower sperm counts in young men.

Just 100 grams of soy contains the hormonal equivalent of one contraceptive pill. Considering all the hormonal diseases that are running rampant today in the West (including infertility), it seems wise to check our consumption of soy.

2. Soy Disrupts Our Thyroid

The thyroid is part of the endocrine system, just as the sex hormones are, so these two issues are intimately related. The phytoestrogens in soy also act upon the thyroid to have a goitrogenic effect, which means they depress thyroid hormone production, slow down thyroid metabolism, and potentially cause an increase in the size of the thyroid (known as a goiter, hence the term goitrogenic). All of that adds up to one thing: hypothyroidism.

I have suffered from hypothyroidism since 2001, possibly earlier. There are many symptoms of this disease, and it is often overlooked or misdiagnosed as depression (which at first happened to me). In fact, some experts estimate that there are as many as nine million undiagnosed cases of hypothyroidism in the United States alone. If you have any hypothyroid symptoms, try to eliminate soy from your diet right away.

3. Soy Contains Anti-Nutrients

Anti-nutrients are chemicals and compounds that prevent nutrients from being properly used by the body. Here are two examples of anti-nutrients found in soy:

Protease Inhibitors
Soy contains protease inhibitors, which frustrate the body’s digestion of protein. Studies show that this could cause the pancreas to be over-worked in the digestion process, and eventually lead to pancreatic dysfunction. Protease inhibitors are found in especially high amounts in raw soy – one reason raw soybeans are considered toxic. Heating and processing the soy lessens the amount of protease inhibitors considerably, but it is never completely eliminated.

Phytic Acid (or Phytates)
Soy (and many other grains, as well) contains phytic acid, which acts like a magnet for many important minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, zinc, and iron, therefore preventing their absorption into the body. Though phytic acid can also help with ridding the body of unnecessary and/or unwanted heavy metals such as lead and mercury, this cleansing effect is bad news for those who rely heavily on soy for mineral content in their diet, such as those in developing nations.

miso soup with tofu

Image by little blue hen

What About Soy in Asian Cultures?

Many people are understandably surprised when they discover the negative effects of soy, and often point out that Asian cultures have eaten soy for thousands of years, with seemingly great health benefits. There are two important factors to consider here.

1. Asian cultures have historically eaten soy primarily in its fermented forms: miso, tempeh, soy sauce, and tamari are all fermented soy products. The fermenting process significantly lessens the protease inhibitors and phytates in soy, almost to the point of elimination. Tofu is the only non-fermented form of soy that has been historically common in Asian cultures.

2. Traditionally, Asian cultures have eaten these soy products in small amounts, more as sauces and condiments than main dishes. A typical starter of soup with three cubes of tofu is very different from a tofu-based entree where tofu is acting as a meat substitute. The average Asian diet in China, Indonesia, Korea, Japan, and Taiwan includes between nine and 36 grams of soy per day. Compare that to a cup of tofu (252 grams) or soy milk (240 grams).

In our home, we do eat small amounts of fermented soy, such as tamari and miso, very occasionally. But we completely avoid the newer forms of highly processed soy products such as soy milk, soy protein isolate (common in protein and energy bars), soy protein powder, and soy cheese. These are totally outside the historical understanding and consumption of soy in Asian cultures. In addition, some of them, such as soy protein isolate, contain much higher concentrations of phytoestrogens than less-processed, more traditional soy forms.

A Few Last Things To Consider

The soy industry is just that – an industry, with the goal of making money. They are desperate to convince us that soy is a miracle health food, and they have invested millions of dollars in marketing to do just that – quite successfully, I would add. For every risk I mentioned above, there is another study that contradicts that risk and wants to call me crazy.

Soy is not without its benefits, I admit. But I encourage you all to check out the facts for yourself. There is just too much evidence of unnecessary risk for me to consider soy products to be an acceptable food source in our home. What about you?

Learn more about soy from these sources, which I used in writing this article:

Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon
The Whole Soy Story, by Kaayla T. Daniel, PhD
Whole Soy
Soy Online
Soy Alert: Health Food or Danger?
Natural Health News: Be Aware of Soy Risks
Do Soy Foods Negatively Affect Your Thyroid?
Wikipedia: Soybean

Have you ever heard about these risks associated with soy? What do you think?

**A note from Stephanie: For those curious about my stance on soy, I think that Katie has summed it up very well. I could have written this post myself, and would have said very similar things. Our family also avoids all processed, more modern forms of soy and only consumes naturally fermented and organic soy in very minimal amounts.**

katie foxKatie Fox loves to learn about natural living, and believes that caring for the earth and caring for yourself don’t have to be mutually exclusive. She loves to help other people understand how they can both contribute to and benefit from a switch to a more natural and organic lifestyle. She is a stay-at-home mom and a native Texas girl, happily married to her best friend. She is the editor of the popular blog, Simple Organic.

Image by Jenny Lee Silver

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  1. The more I hear about it, the more I am convinced that it isn’t a wise choice for our bodies. Thanks for shedding more light on the subject!
    .-= Jessica @ This Blessed Life´s last blog ..Yard Sale Shopping CT edition =-.

    1. @Jackie@Lilolu, Yes, I didn’t even get into the GMO-issue because my post was already getting too long! 🙂 But that is definitely a huge consideration – thank you for pointing it out!

  2. FABULOUS post!! Thanks for taking the time to “spell it all out”!! I am bookmarking for future reference…thank you!

    .-= Camille´s last blog ..Cherish the Moments =-.

  3. Great post! The phytoestregens are the precise reason I stopped drinking soy milk. I used to love it because I bought into the idea it was a great source of learn protein. As I began making the switch to traditional foods, I read about the amount of phytoestregens in soy products and some of the effects on the body, specifically in regards to women’s health. Won’t touch the stuff now!

  4. I completely agree and am so glad you posted this. I haven’t gotten to writing on this subject yet but would love to post a link to it. It’s just right for FamilyNatural! Thanks!

  5. This is very interesting and I have heard these arguments before. I tend to side with the asians on this one. Our family eats Maine grown & processed (we live in Maine), non-GMO, organic etc. tofu, we eat miso and I make our own soymilk (with organic, non-GMO beans) for breakfast cereal. We don’t drink it but do like to pour it on oatmeal. And that’s the extent of our soy consumption. We too have done a lot of research on this topic and feel this is better for us than the animal based alternatives. I know the writers here will disagree, but that’s ok (smile).

  6. I thought this was an interesting article. I am a vegan and we do use soy sometime though I have been trying to limit our use. I recently swictched to Almond Milk which was a great substitute for soy milk and can also be easily made at home. I would say we eat one tofu based meal once a week for my family of 4 so hopefully that is not too much. I know soy is in a lot of thing though so I guess I will have to be on the look out for them! Thanks!

    1. Hey, I am also vegan, but I really appreciate this post. Although I don’t agree with all of it, I think it’s important that we have a balanced perspective on soy. My husband does vegan cooking classes and totally avoids soy in his recipes, mostly to counteract the stereotype that vegans just eat a lot of tofu, soymilk, and fake meat. We don’t use soy in our home, except on a rare occasion. I have two young children and I do not believe that soy is a necessary part of a vegan diet.

  7. I’ve also been avoiding soy since diagnosed as hypothryoid after my first baby was born. I was trying to eat lots of “healthy” soy protein during that first pregnancy, and sometimes wonder if that contributed to the thyroid problem. Great post!

  8. thank you for this. we are adopting soon and will (unfortunately) have to use some kind of baby formula. i was already looking into alternatives (like making my own) but now i definitely will steer clear of soy-based formula!

    makes me wonder: why doesn’t the US government warn of this like other western governments have? maybe because we subsidize soy so heavily…
    .-= sarah´s last blog reception food and drink ideas part 5 =-.

    1. @sarah, yes, the govt subsidies really complicate the US food industry, unfortunately. It really stinks. About formula – if you’re interested in making your own, check out the homemade baby formula recipes in the cookbook Nourishing Traditions. I personally know of a few babies who have thrived on these formulas. We are about to adopt, too! Although we don’t know yet whether we will bring home a baby or toddler….Anyway, congratulations on your adoption! Good luck! 🙂

  9. I agree with most arguments about the contemporary use of soy. While the evidence is pretty convincing, I had to laugh at your argument that it contains anti-nutrients because ALL grains contain anti-nutrients. That’s what makes them shelf stable so they don’t spoil in a week or two like fruits and veggies do. That’s also why the soaking, fermenting, and sprouting of grains is used so extensively around the world (other than industrialized nations where food processors decided long ago to just strip the grain and remove the anti-nutrients all together…an extremely unwise, but nevertheless purposeful decision). I personally don’t use most soy products (tamari being the only exception), but just so long as they are prepared properly and used sparingly, you’ll be ok. Great topic.

    1. @Jeniece, yeah, I tried to briefly mention that in parentheses but it was really beyond the scope of my article here to get into the issue of grains in general. We actually eat very little grains in our home….because of the anti-nutrients and because 2 of us are gluten-intolerant, it’s just easier for us. I would rather eat other things than spend time properly preparing a lot of gluten-free grains. 🙂

  10. I’ve heard this lots before, and don’t really like soy anyways. We do very occasionally use tofu about a few times a year in a stir fry, since my daughter LOVES it, but because of the issues, its not often like I said. I figure those few times will be fine.

  11. What a great article, Katie, and now I don’t have to write one up myself ;). Pretty much everything I would have said has been said in this article.

    On an anecdotal level I was convinced I was lactose intolerant in college. I could not drink milk, eat ice cream, or soft cheeses without digestive issues. I drank soy milk and ate soy ice cream like it was going out of style.

    It has been 5 years since I quit soy because of the above mentioned concerns. I have since found to have a low thyroid and hormone imbalance. It seems to be repairing itself very slowly through a traditional foods diet.

    I also discovered raw, pastured milk from local dairy and cultured dairy products. I eat raw cheese, cultured dairy, and occasionally raw milk with no digestive issues from before.
    .-= Shannon´s last blog ..Winner and a Coupon Code for Stainless Steel Bakeware =-.

  12. Wow. I didn’t know any of this! We don’t eat much soy, and other than the occasional (maybe, once every few months) carton of soy-milk, we eat almost no soy, but my 3 year old son does love that milk, and now I know that almond or rice milk is a better option than soy. Thanks for the post,
    Sarah M

  13. Well written and thoughtfully explained. There really is a huge push on how wonderful everything soy is in a lot of the health food industry.

    I find it so interesting how “behind” the US is on a lot of foods, additives or medicies that other countries are already understanding are harmful, yet we keep right on using. Its going to take dedicated people who dig a little deeper and share their knowledge to spread the news, so thanks!
    .-= Kait Palmer´s last blog ..The Business of Christianity =-.

  14. I’m just curious whether anyone knows if the possible side effects of soy can be reversed? I’m now feeling rather guilty (and uninformed) because I had my sons drink soy milk as young toddlers rather than cow’s milk (mostly because of issues with going to the bathroom). We’ve since pretty much just stopped drinking milk of any sort all together.

    1. @Sara K, You might consider trying goat’s milk or almond milk, if you haven’t already. Both are lactose-free, with a lot of other health benefits. A couple of caveats: goat’s milk can be very expensive, and almond milk is off-limits for those with nut allergies. Also, if you decide to make your own almond milk, be sure NOT to use bitter almonds, which contain arsenic.

    2. @Sara K, I saw a documentary once called Supersize Me that talked about the health problems that occur due to eating the wrong things (in this case, McDs every meal for a month). The body is amazing at detoxifying from the junk as long as we feed it the right foods. Though the documentary didn’t have anything to do with soy, the producer did say that ALL the negative effects (liver failure included) of eating poorly were reversed. I think that would be true with soy side effects too. No need to feel guilty for doing what you thought was best at the time. I’m sure you’re boys will be fine. I just switched to raw dairy and love it.

    3. @Sara K, I would also agree that the body is amazing at healing itself when given the chance. I wouldn’t worry about the past; just give your sons a nutrient-rich diet now and their bodies will get what they need to move forward healthily.

  15. Great article! I’m always concerned when my friends say “I don’t each much soy yet I know the majority of their diets are prepackaged foods. They have NO IDEA how much soy is hiding in the ingredient lists! Blech!
    .-= Ambre´s last blog ..And the Little Children Will Lead Them =-.

  16. Thank you so much for this very informative post! I also try to avoid soy in my diet, and have found that the more “real foods” I eat the easier it gets to avoid it (I never eat straight soy products like tofu, so the majority of the soy in my diet was probably coming from soy protein added to processed foods). I do find it frustrating that it is added to so many things – even Breyers ice cream, which is supposed to be all natural!

    Thank you again for the post!

  17. I’ve also found it pointed out that traditionally if asian countries ever did use tufu not only was it in small quantities it has ALWAYS been paired with sea vegetables (which they eat a lot more of than americans do anyway) which are like natures powerhouse multi-mineral supplement. When you are consuming 1500X the amount of a mineral than u need in one day on a regular basis a little phytates are hardly of concern. Also just wanted to say also that another non-dairy substitute that may be an even better choice than almond or rice milk is unsweetened coconut milk which can be purchased in a can and thinned to a consistency that you enjoy, especially if you just use it to eat on top of cereal.

  18. What are your views on edamame (soybeans in the pod)? Having grown up in Japan throughout my childhood, soybeans were a common side dish. Do you think it’s harmful to eat these as well or just consume them in smaller quantities?

  19. I live in China and I have to add my 2 cents. The only thing is that many Chinese people drink at least one cup and sometimes 2 of soymilk everyday. They also eat green soybeans boiled in salted water often as an (and I’m going to spell this incorrectly) hors d’eurve. There are also other dishes they make with yellow soybeans…many more than you mentioned. I’m interested to know what you think of this. I’ve read some of the information that you mentioned but we’re vegan and so tofu is an easy substitute for eggs and soymilk for milk. Alternately, we don’t do a lot of either of those though, so we’re probably okay anyway, but what about the Chinese eating so much soy?

  20. Thank you for this excellent, informative and important post. Until about 5-6 years ago, soy milk was the standard milk in our home. I was pleased to be providing my children with such a healthy alternative to modern dairy products. It was during a rare doctor’s visit where we were discussing the early perimenopause my friend was going through that my doctor extolled the virtues of soy in the alleviation of perimenopausal symptoms. My doctor, a lovely Christian woman, has a special interest in the natural and herbal treatment of perimenopausal/menopausal symptoms. She said that one cup of a popular soy-fortified cereal with soy milk would be very helpful to my friend.

    It was at this moment that all the concerns that I had read about soy came flooding into my mind. If this was so great for my perimenopausal friend to help balance her hormones, what was I doing feeding it to my children, especially my little boy?!?! I started to do some further research and very soon afterwards, we bought our last carton of soy milk forever.

    During my research, I was lead to the Weston Price Foundation, which has helped me form some new ideas about healthy eating.

    Thanks again, mama!
    .-= ChristineG´s last blog ..Nourishing Herbal Tea Especially Great for Pregnancy =-.

  21. Excellent! Thank you. This has been my opinion for a year now, not to mention when I would try soy milk I could tell a big difference in my hormones – it was like self-induced PMS. Maybe this is the beginning of each person spreading the word about NO MORE SOY! It takes a lot of voices to make corporate America listen.

  22. This is not the first time I’ve read this information, and oh, how I wish I’d known this 10 years ago. I actually fed my son soy formula because he could not tolerate regular (we won’t even go into my regrets about not breastfeeding). As I am personally dealing with a number of hormonal issues (PCOS, a hysterectomy 2 years ago for endometriosis) I am very concerned about the long term effects of all that soy in his tiny newborn body. At age 10, he is very healthy, but our diet still needs a lot of work, as I married a very picky eater and our son takes after him.

  23. My son is allergic to dairy (including goat’s milk). He is also allergic to nuts, eggs, wheat, and anything else with gluten. Needless to say, soy has been a part of his diet, and when we are cooking for everyone, it becomes a part of the entire family’s diet. Should I be looking into rice milk as an alternative?

    Also, if you have any suggestions for a substitute for butter, I’ve been wondering about that for some time. 🙂

    1. @Deborah Duke, I would definitely check out rice milk or possible hemp milk. Also, depending on how you’re using it, coconut oil and coconut cream can be a good substitute for butter – or sometimes people can tolerate ghee even if they can’t tolerate butter. Hope that helps! We can”t do gluten either so I know a little bit about food allergies – it can be so frustrating. Good luck!

        1. @Deborah, You’re welcome! Also, I forgot to say that coconut milk can be a great dairy substitute, too! You can buy it in cans and water it down. Hope that helps. 🙂

  24. Great topic! We stopped soy several years ago, even my kids thought Mom had gone bonkers.
    But as more info came out they finally jumped onto my bandwagon. I have a daughter with thyroid problems, and just recently have met many young women with the same thyroid problems in the same neighborhood. One of them cut soy out of her diet and is totally recovered. We live on what used to be croplands, so we worry about what pesticides were used. What kind of dirt did my kids play in…
    We still meet many people who think soy is wonderful, the magic health food. We play it by ear on whether to mention our opinion. Even then, I just state what we do, and encourage people to do their own research so they can make a wise and educated decision.

  25. Not related to soy, but I saw a commercial this weekend that compared 2% milk to french fries – stating that they had the same amount of fat. Even if that were true (and I doubt it), you can’t tell me that french fries have the same nutritional value with all that grease and salt as milk! Made me so mad I wanted to spit! (commercial was for some low-fat, “healthy” milk brand).

  26. My 2 cents worth. I am an ovarian cancer survivor with a BRCA 1 mutation. Breast and ovarian cancers can be estrogen receptive. I avoid all soy in hopes of preventing a recurrance. Just a warning.

  27. I was given soy formula as an infant and was diagnosed at age 27 (I’m 29 now) with hypothyroidism. I’m wondering if there is a connection. Thanks for this detailed article!

  28. Thanks for raising awareness on this important topic! Is there such a thing as an “acceptable” amount of soy, an amount that won’t do much damage? It’s easy to avoid it when eating at home, but I also live in China, and when eating with local friends it’s impolite (and culturally insensitive sometimes) to turn down foods that they offer. Like someone who commented above, from what I’ve observed, the local Chinese I know here do consume a lot of non-fermented soy products: there are soy milk stands everywhere, all kinds of soy milk makers available in stores (one of the hottest appliances around here!), not to mention lots of tofu dishes offered in restaurants and homes. So it will be unavoidable to consume some, but I just want to know, for peace of mind, what is too much!?! Thanks!

  29. We were big into soy in this house until about a year ago. My daughter, now 11, was raised on soy formula, then soy milk, soy yogurt, soy ice cream, “vegetarian” entrees made from soy, etc. My daughter has steadily gained weight over the years to the point now of obesity, and I always wonder if it wasn’t the constant soy that messed her up (thyroid?) from the inside out. Wish I could tell every parent “don’t do it!” when it comes to soy…
    .-= lisa´s last blog ..Enchilada Salad =-.

  30. great article at putting many concerns with soy in understandable language. I have friends that are very knowledgeable about nutrition and shared this with me a few years ago. however, I tried almond milk and was appalled by the amount of sugar in it. I’ll stick with regular milk for now. we don’t drink much of it and only have cereal a few times a week so I’d rather do that.

  31. THANK YOU! I have been convinced of this for so long and am so thankful that people like you and scientist are finally beginning to weigh in on this!!

  32. Great site! I have already bookmarked your page…Now I don’t have enough time to read on,however, by skimming through I must say…I’m impressed.

  33. Thanks for reminding me of the dangers of soy. I first learned about it in the book, The Mood Cure by Julia Ross. We have been using soy milk for a while now since we decided to go vegetarian in nearly all our meals. We also drink almond milk and coconut milk. I will be eliminating soy milk (there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth from my kids).

  34. Very interesting post, I’d never really considered this before. I am a HUGE soymilk drinker. I have a question then, what do you think about cows milk, because hearing all the negative things about drinking that was what originally made me switch to soymilk. I suppose a cup of cows milk every now and then would be more natural than soymilk?? It’s so hard to know what to do when there’s so much information out there.

  35. We have had store bought cow’s milk, raw cow’s milk, soy, rice, almond…
    It’s interesting that you would pick cow’s milk over soy. A pregnany cow would have much more estrogen (mammal estrogens, not plant estrogens) in her system than any soy beans. Just like eating red meat, it wou add even more horomones to your body (even from an ‘organic’ cow) than you’d be hoping for.
    I’ve battled with endometriosis for years and avoid all forms of meat and animal milk now, and never had soymilk or many soy products growing up. My son gets a combination of organic foritfied soy and almond milk now instead of cow’s milk.
    Every plant contains phytoestrogens, broccoli is also loaded with these imitation estrogens, as well as all grains, fruits, and nuts. Consumption of phytoestrogens from other sources of fruits and veggies is four times higher than that of soy.

    While I agree with the dangers of over-comsuming anything, this seems to be just one side of the story 🙁

  36. While avoiding the obvious soy products like soy milk, tofu, soy based formula and meat substitutes is a good start, there is so much hidden soy in almost everything we consume it’s scary. Soy byproducts are used in most commercial cereals, baked goods, mixes, even heavy cream and chocolate bars and other things you’d never dream of it being in. The following items frequently seen in ingredient lists are cover-up names for soy by-products:

    Monosodium glutamate or MSG
    Hydrolyzed plant protein or HPP
    Hydrolyzed vegetable protein or HVP
    Vegetable oil
    Vegetable shortening (like Crisco and the other solid white shortenings in a can)
    Vegetable broth
    Protein concentrate
    Protein isolates
    Guar gum, vegetable gum
    Gum arabic
    Glycerol monostearate
    Natural flavorings
    Thickening agents
    Liquid smoke
    Vitamin E
    Citric acid (can be derived from fruit, corn, or soy)
    Thiamine mononitrate

    Read all labels carefully….the rule of thumb is the more processed it is, the greater chance of it having some form of soy in it even if it’s not obvious. And, some manufacturers aren’t even required to list certain ingredients if they are considered “proprietary!” Hence the vague and ubiquitous “natural flavors” seen on ingredient lists. And that’s not even including the soy byproducts that are in our beauty and hygenic supplies…..lotions, creams, shampoos, makeup. It’s literally EVERYWHERE.

  37. Thanks for posting on what I have long suspected. I was visiting one of your pages via a google search for tshirt repurposing. When I saw the link for dangers of soy I had to check it out. I have been suspicious of soy ever since the hoopla of its benefits for postmenopausal women. Exactly what you stated in point number one. I simply chose to avoid it personally. I have mentioned my concerns to a few close friends. Thanks for speaking up on this!

  38. My mom is soy intolerant. She doesn’t live with me, but I have a tendency to keep an eye out for it and avoid soy anyway. I’ve also read this information on soy in the book “150 Healthiest Foods On Earth.” Very interesting. I think we Americans have a tendency to latch on to the latest and greatest “superfood” in the hope that if we consume enough of it, we don’t have to worry about our diets filled with fast food, processed food, etc. Change is slow going in my house, but it is going.

  39. First, I want to say that in general I agree that overconsumption of soy is not a good thing. Anything can be abused but that doesn’t make it definitely and completely bad. I agree that soy is not my preferred source of “dairy-like” nutrition. But…I now have a young daughter who is allergic to cow milk protein. Rice and almond milks are simply not nutrition dense (fat and protein to be specific) enough to be a viable alternative at this time. Other animal milks are usually just as intolerable as cow’s milk in those who are allergic to them. All food sources have their place. Abuse of any of them can and usually will cause problems .

    Regarding thyroid function, one poster was concerned that her post pregnancy hypothyroid was caused by her soy consumption. I also am hypothyroid. For me it was Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. In this, the thyroid can be high and low in cycles for years and then in finally craps out. Often right after a pregnancy. This is quite possibly what happened. They aren’t sure why this timing exists but that it’s likely due to the dramatic hormonal changes we go through after delivery. Our hormones (estrogen etc….) and thyroid are so connected! Rest assured it would have happened at some point pregnant (soy) or not. (as an aside, now that I’m on thyroid replacement, I don’t have PCOS symptoms anymore, I have regular periods, stopped miscarrying, and get pregnant easily). For history I was BF and never drank soy milk.

  40. It is so great to hear someone else expressing concerns over soy. My son would not breastfeed and the nurses in the hospital decided he was lactose intolerant and switched him to soy formula within a day of his birth. Being uninformed at the time, I continued with the soy formula until we took my son, at about 9 months, to a Dr who practiced both mainstream Western medicine and holistic Naturopathy. It was she who advised us to take my son off of soy formula because of the hormone reasons mentioned in this post. I mentioned to her that when my son was about a month old, he had milk leaking from his breasts. His pediatrician at the time told me it was normal because he was “coming off” of my hormones. But the naturopath and I both now believe it was from his little body being bombarded with the phytoestrogens from the soy formula. My son is now almost 4. Last year we had him tested for allergies and found out that he has a low-grade soy allergy. So those nurses could have potentially put his life in danger by switching him.

  41. My granddaughter (who actually had very little exposure to soy other than in processed foods) has developed a soy allergy my son had the same thing happen to him when he was around 5 (again no big exposure). It has made us very aware of how many food products include soy in them. My daughter has actually found that it is extremely difficult for them to eat in restaurants or even order take out food because most of it has some soy in it. Soy is in things like bread that it didn’t used to be because it is cheap. Government subsidies have made soy a cheap food source and an easy way to extend food with a cheap ingredient. We either make our own bread products or buy local breads that don’t include soy when my dd and gd are around. My daughter makes her own pizza dough, her own tortillas, etc. because all of the commercial ones have soy. Nearly all chocolate also has soy lecithin in it. We’ve found only a very few types that don’t, other than straight cocoa powder of course.

    What has been really frightening is the expansion of soy in processed foods. When we had to eliminate soy from my son’s diet it was a much smaller deal than it’s been for my granddaughter. The number of products that didn’t used to have soy and now do is really really shocking.

    All of this really encourages us in our “cooking from scratch” resolve.

  42. I have been allergic to soy for over thirty years. It is in almost everything these days. It is one of the top eight food allergies, so why is it one of the top additives? I have been cooking from scratch consistently since last November due to a new nutritionist that doesn’t allow any food additives, anything that is chemical sounding in food, including artificial sweeteners. I am doing this because I have a lot of weight to lose, but I am focusing on long term changes in food. I haven’t had carbonated drinks since November, I have wanted salads and vegetables instead of the less healthy carbs, and now my body won’t tolerate fried foods at all. Your body wants changes and will help you if you are serious about this.

  43. Let’s not forget that most soy products are made with genetically modified soybean seeds that are being overproduced to the ruin of the lands in the midwest. Grown with heavy pesticides and processed insanely.

    Thanks for the post. I love it!

  44. I love this post! I have two little boys and I was shocked the “bad side” of soy! Thank you so much, great information 🙂

  45. I know it’s an old post but this article is very important. Soy gradually made me very sick as a vegetarian.

    Soy is dangerous. It’s being snuck into many foods that claim to be soy-free, even flour is cut with soy. Look at all your breads, cookies and crackers. All your mixes. If you want to live longer and heathier, be less swollen and fuffy, don’t eat anything soy. BTW, you can get chocolate with no soy at Trader Joes for a reasonable price. Stay away from
    Soy oil, or “mixed vegetable oil”
    Almost all mixes have soy.
    Your allergy to soy will build and you will get sicker and sicker.
    Mass food manufacturers use it because it is very cheap and adds a bit of fat, protein and texture to breads, etc. That’s why it’s taken over. If you are vegetarian eating a lot of soy, you are out of your mind.
    This has nothing whatsoever to do with organic vs. not organic. The problem is that soy has naturally occurring bad constituents in it.

  46. I’m glad to see there are other people who agree with me! It’s amazing how many foods contain soy. I have been buying a certain brand/type of canned tuna forever because it stated on the contents: contains fish. Most say fish, soy. The other day I was in the grocery and saw a 4 pack of the tuna that I normally buy the single can of and the contents stated: fish, soy!!! Picked up the single can and yes, it stated only fish!!! I think we still have a long way to go in regulating packaged foods in America! Jillian Michaels has a lot to say about soy and fake ingredients in our foods. Her book is a good read.

  47. Excellent article! You addressed all the topics that I had red flags about for years. We eat fairly healthy as a family (except those pesky snacks) and I was trying to go more organic. I switched all household cleaners and most bath and body products. Now to tackle the food… I think I like what I am learning about rice and coconut products!

  48. I’m a nurse practitioner, and I avoid soy products as well. I also recommend that parents avoid soy formula; I’m amazed at how many babies are being fed it! The American Academy of Pediatrics has cautioned against soy formula, except in “very limited circumstances”, due to all it’s harmful effects. Anyone who wants to learn more about the dangers should go to Dr Weston Price’s website:

  49. I know that this post is a little but old, but I just found it. My husband will love it! He has been telling people (myself included) that soy is, well, the devil 😉 He refuses to eat things with soybean oil, etc. etc. It’s everywhere! Thank you for some facts that are even more eye opening to the dangers!

  50. I saw this post from a link on “moving to a more natural life” post today…I have a question, I’m not sure it has been addressed…what about EDAMAME? I know they’re a type of soybean…are they also unsafe? We eat a lot of them, and I grow my own in our garden. Any input would be appreciated…and I love your blog! Thanks…Heather

  51. Thanks for the article. I am also concerned about soy, but we have a unique situation. Our daughter has had a severe dairy allergy since she was 8 months old (she is almost 6 years old now). I breastfed her until she was 16 months. She is also allergic to all nuts and eggs. Getting good sources of protein in her body is hard, other than the meat option. So, she cannot have almond milk, and rice milk contains almost zero grams of protein. Any idea as an alternative to soy milk? Right now she drinks about 6 oz. of organic soy milk each day and also has some on her cereal.

    1. I would try coconut milk. Much, *much* healthier then soy. I would encourage you to avoid the soy at all costs.

    2. Sarah, we have 2 daughters with issues like yours. We can have almond though, as our nut allergy is to tree nuts (peanuts, walnuts, hazelnuts etc). We do a lot of coconut milk. Our pediatrician, dietitian, and GI specialist all gave the stamp of approval for coconut milk, almond milk and flaxmilk (only 4-8oz of flaxmilk/day). We found the vanilla flavored milks are LOADED with sugar, so we try to steer clear of those. We love the flaxmilk as it’s loaded with omega fatty acids, which our kids are low in with their diets. Hope it helps.

  52. I’ve have always tried to avoid soy products for the same reasons. However, if you really do your research, you can find non-hormonal, non-GMO products. I now use (and sell) a protein powder like this so you get the benefits without the dangers. I hate that pediatricians are so quick to put infants on soy formula!!

  53. Thank you for writing this article and giving words to what I have begun to suspect. I was diagnosed with an underactive thyroid this past year. One of the first things that I noticed was the warning to not eat soy products. I have eaten soy since sometime in 1997 when I became a vegetarian. Soy was one of my main sources of protein. I have been wondering with the reading that I have been doing lately if eating soy is why I now have a thyroid problem.

  54. I was wondering if you could tell me whether or not edamame soy beans fall under this category. They’re different in many ways from regular soy beans, but haven’t heard anything about them from anyone who writes about soy’s harmful effects. thank you.

  55. I have been drinking soy milk, and eating soy cheese since I was small. I am of normal weight and hit puberty at an average time. My mother made me blind taste test different non-dairy milks when I was diagnosed as lactose intolerant and soy milk was the only one that tasted ok to me, and I have been drinking it ever since. Soy has never hurt me, only helped

  56. I too avoid soy like the plague, because I’m hypo and I’m allergic to it. A LOT of people are allergic, but you rarely hear about it. There is a website called The Hidden Dangers of Soy that talks about the allergy part. I can’t believe how many people push it, and the only way I can get people to back off is to tell them I’m allergic to it. Otherwise they don’t shut up about it. And while some post meno women might need estrogen, you also need PROGESTERONE to go with it, otherwise you get fat and have a high risk of breast cancer.

    Run from soy!!

  57. I will avoid soy from our diet after reading this. We have been drinking soy milk, homemade without any additives, and it’s not much but I use it too in recipes. We only eay soy cheese. Will switch to fermented soy and use sparingly. My question is also, what about endames? And you mention that there are other grains as well that like soy are harmful. What are they? What about wheat?

    1. I think that edamame is fine in moderation. I haven’t read anything that makes me as concerned about it (particularly because it isn’t processed the same as most soy products), but I would stick to organic only and not make it a mainstay of your diet.

      As for other grains, I think conventional wheat is best avoided. It has been so altered and tampered with over the years, and there is much evidence that it contributes to many health problem. Many people don’t realize it but they are actually sensitive to wheat. Our family chooses to use ancient “wheat-like” grains instead, such as Kamut or spelt.

  58. A concern I have about soy is something my mother pointed out to me which is that almost all chicken feed (including organic) is high in soy. Doesn’t that make our eggs soy laden?

    1. Yes, unfortunately. It’s best to try to find both chickens and eggs that are not fed soy, if possible. It’s not quite the same as eating large amounts of soy ourselves, but it’s still something that you want to minimize and avoid if possible.

  59. One other thing that I would have added to the list: The fact that Soy products are PROCESSED from Soy beans. Does it not worry anyone that you are drinking milk made from a bean? What incredible amount of processing had to go into that to make a white creamy liquid?

    1. The process of making soy milk dates back over 2000 years in China. The process is actually very simple and natural. Dried soy beans are soaked in water, boiled, and then filtered with a skimmer… There’s no “incredible amount of processing”. Today, they add a few more chemicals in order to preserve the milk, and some sugar sweeteners. However, seeing as those chemicals are also in everything else we eat, there’s really not much to complain about.

  60. Thank you for this post, we had just switched to soy milk and now we will be definitely cutting it out. What type of milk or dairy do you use at home or recommend? I have a toddler and usually give him a half cup of milk before nap time.

  61. My reason for avoiding soy products is that in 1994 soya beans were genetically engineered for pesticide tolerance, and now the majority of the US crop of soya beans are genetically modified. No way I want to feed GE food to my family! Organic soya products from Japan filled a niche until Fukishima….

    All the best

  62. I think we’re being a little too “overly cautious” about soymilk here…Yes, there are cons to soy milk, but then again, THERE ARE CONS TO ALMOST ALL FOODS. There have been very credible studies that have stated that regular milk can even lead to a higher risk of cancer and coronary heart disease.

    GM products are everywhere. Soy is considerably healthier than most products. Don’t kid yourselves and blow things out of proportion. Soy milk is still good for you.

    And also to dispel a myth: Soy is not extremely modified to create soy milk. The process is actually very simple, and it has been done by the Chinese for over 2000 years. Dry soy beans are soaked, boiled, and then filtered. The process is pretty natural…

    Don’t kid yourselves. You could make a laundry list of “cons” to almost any food, including dairy milk and coconut milk. Soy milk is healthy for you. Don’t be scared by a few scientific terms.

  63. Also, Almond & Coconut milk has a great skim milk like body with no aftertaste. And you can cook with it just fine. Cream can be replaced with raw cashews in cold water blended or food processed….stands up GREAT in vegan casseroles, soups or stews.

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