Soy: Is It Good or Bad?
Are soy and it's products good for you? The answer is not so straightforward.
Soybeans have a high protein content (38%) and contain essential fatty acids like omega 3. They are also phytoestrogens, meaning that they are naturally occurring plant compounds that are structurally similar to oestrogen. They therefore produce oestrogenic effects and also have the ability to reduce circulating bioavailable oestrogen. Translation? They are modulators, reducing oestrogen if you have too much, or substituting as oestrogen if you have too little.
This means that soybeans are great for those struggling with symptoms related to oestrogen dominant conditions (endometriosis, fibroids, fibrocystic breasts, breast/cervical/endometrial cancer etc), and those with too little oestrogen like in menopause. Other conditions soybeans benefits include type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease, and obesity (fat cells produce oestrogen, the more fat there is, the more oestrogen there is!).
So where is the problem? It’s with the processing of soy. Many versions of soy products like soy milk, tofu, tofurkey, basically anything that comes in a block or a non-natural shape (soy mince, sausages, burgers etc), are overly processed and all the benefit of soybeans disappear. Soya oil, flour, protein isolates, and GMO* are added to process soybeans into these things. Tofu for example is made from condensed, unfermented soy milk that's been processed into solid white blocks.
From a TCM perspective soy milk in particular is very cold, damp and phlegm forming. It should be avoided if you have any diarrhoea, IBS or IBD (I have spoken already in excess about dampness and IBS), any mucus or phlegm anywhere in the body, including if you have a mucus-y cold! Personally I would try avoid soy milk generally and opt for alternatives like oat milk (although be brand conscious! A lot of milk alternatives on the market are full of sugar, rice bran or rape seed oil - which is super inflammatory and harmful!).
Tempeh, natto, soya paste, miso on the other hand, are made from the whole bean (not from soy milk), and are fermented, making them both probiotic and allowing them to maintain the oestrogen modulating quality of the soybeans. Be cautious with tempeh if you have thyroid issues (hypo/hyperactive thyroid, Hashimotos or Graves etc) as uncooked tempeh can be a goitrogen, meaning it can affect the thyroid gland.
Chinese medicine says that soybeans are cooling and help with dryness anywhere in the body including benefitting constipation. They are good for the kidneys and spleen and help cleanse the heart and blood vessels, improving circulation and helping with diabetes. They also help eliminate toxins from the body, help breast feeding mothers with milk production and decrease water retention. TCM agrees that the fermented and cooked forms of soy beans are preferable.
So to conclude, soybeans and their products can be hugely beneficial, but as with everything - the more processed they are, the worse they are (the more they are stripped of their benefits & have crap added to them!). Go for organic, fermented unprocessed soy products.
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Lots of love,
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