3 Reasons I Avoid Tofu and Other Soy-based Foods

Tofu and other soy-based products have been promoted for years as healthy, plant-based sources of protein. In this blog, I’m going to share three of the main reasons why I avoid them, as well as the types of soy products I may eat from time to time, and what to look for if you simply can’t do without soy-based products.

1 – Most Soy is Genetically Modified

At least 60% of the soybeans grown in Canada are genetically modified (GM). Why does this matter? Because GM soy (as well as other GM crops like canola and corn) are sprayed with glyphosate (aka Roundup). Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past year or so, I’m guessing you’ve heard about the environmental and health concerns linked to this widely used herbicide.

A recent report by the Environmental Working Group stated that more than half of the 61 different oat-based cereals, granola bars, and snack bars tested contained levels higher than what the EWG considers ‘protective of children’s health’. In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified glyphosate as a potential cancer-causing substance to humans. Closer to home, in 2017, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency found traces of glyphosate in approximately one-third of  3,200 food samples it tested, with some levels higher than what is considered acceptable in Canada.

Not convinced that any of this is a big deal? Then consider the fact that Monsanto was recently ordered to pay US$289 million in damages in a lawsuit that linked Roundup to cancer, and that big retailers are starting to pull glyphosate from their shelves in response to consumer pressure.

While there is still much debate on whether glyphosate is a health risk (there was a lot of similar debate on cigarette smoking not that long ago), I’ll error on the side of my health and I hope you will too. So what about non-GM soy.-based products? Are they healthy? Read on…

2 – Soy Can Disrupt Hormone Balance

GM or not, soy contains substances called phytoestrogens that can cause imbalances to the effects of the natural estrogen production of the body. Soy also contains substances, commonly referred to as goitrogens, that can interfere with thyroid function. Why does this matter?

Phytoestrogens have been linked to breast cancer – enough said on that. Goitrogens interfere with the thyroid gland’s ability to make enough of its hormones, T3 and T4, leading to hypothyroidism. These hormones are critical regulators of our body’s metabolism. Hypothyroidism is on the rise in America and contributes to numerous health issues, including hormonal imbalances, weight gain and obesity.

The Weston A Price Foundation (WAPF) has been warning about the health issues associated with soy for decades; in particular, the harmful effects of soy formula on infants. Here is a shocking excerpt from WAPF’s Soy Alert Brochure.

Babies fed soy-based formula have 13,000 to 22,000 times more estrogen compounds in their blood than babies fed milk-based formula. Infants exclusively fed soy formula receive the estrogenic equivalent (based on body weight) of at least five birth control pills per day.

That doesn’t sound good or natural to me.

If soy-based products are a part of your life, I would strongly encourage you to read the entire Soy Alert Brochure.

Another great resource to learn about myths and facts about soy is the book The Whole Soy Story: The Dark Side of America’s Favorite Health Food. This book delves into the epidemiological, clinical and laboratory studies link soy to malnutrition, digestive problems, thyroid dysfunction, cognitive decline, reproductive disorders, even heart disease and cancer. You can purchase a copy by clicking here.

3 – Soy Prevents the Absorption of Nutrients

Soy contains numerous substances that interfere with the absorption of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients – including protein … which is ironic as the reason most people consume soy-based products is because they are marketed as a good source of protein. Some of these substances have been linked to gastrointestinal issues (including leaky gut), as well as various vitamin and mineral deficiencies including iron, vitamin B12, and vitamin D, which can negatively affect energy levels, cognitive function, and mood/mental health.

What Soy-based Foods I Will Eat?

From time to time, I will eat two types of whole soybean-based foods, providing they are organic and naturally fermented. They are natto and tempeh.

The fermentation process increases the nutritional value of the nutrients of the soybean. In addition, natto is high in a substance called nattokinase which has been shown to promote cardiovascular health (e.g. promotes healthy cholesterol levels, lowers blood pressure, keeps our blood vessels clean). I like to call natto ‘Draino for your cardiovascular system’.

Natto is a part of a traditional Japanese breakfast (Japan has one of the lowest rates of cardiovascular disease in the world). It looks a bit gooey and is an acquired taste. It is traditionally served with a bit of tamari sauce and hot mustard. A serving size is just a few teaspoons, which by the way, is the average consumption of soy foods per day in a traditional Japanese or Chinese diet.

Think about all the soy-based milk, cheese, ice cream, yogurt, protein powders, and fake-meat products currently available to us at grocery stores and/or restaurants … or even soy-based ingredients which are now in more than 60% of all foods on the grocery store shelf. These ingredients are disguised by names that don’t even give a hint of their soy-based origins; for example – vitamin E, vegetable oil, monoglycerides, diglycerides, natural and artificial flavour, vegetable solid proteins, hydrolyzed or texturized vegetable protein.

If you just can’t see yourself avoiding or limiting soy-based products, then at the very least, keep these 3 things in mind:

1 – Make sure they are organic/avoid GM soy

2 – Try fermented soy products like tempeh instead of unfermented tofu

3 – Eat them in moderation

Take control of what you can!