Western societies are now consuming an increasing amount of soy that is unfermented and highly processed.
Food manufacturers favour soy as a cheap and versatile ingredient. It’s added to a wide range of human food products and is also routinely used in the animal feed industry.
You really need to become a vigilant label checker to discover if a food contains some type of soy ingredient.
Soy is now found in bread, breakfast cereals, biscuits, crackers, margarine, chocolate, sauces and soups. Soy is also used to make soy milk, baby formula, soy protein shakes, soy cheese, soy ice cream, vegetable stock, texturised vegetarian soy protein, soy flour, soy protein bars, soy lecithin and soybean oil.
Soy protein products and infant formulas often contain soy protein isolate. This is not something that you can make in your kitchen. This soy ingredient is made in high tech chemical processing plants.
The extraction process utilises high temperatures and the soybeans are bathed in hexane, a toxic chemical solvent. This happens despite hexane use is prohibited when processing organic soy foods.
The safety of soy based infant formula is hotly debated as these products naturally contain a class of plant compounds called isoflavones. The primary isoflavones are genistein and daidzein. These isoflavones are referred to as phytoestrogens because they are found in plants (phyto) and they have the ability to mimic estrogens in the body.
It is well recognised infants are sensitive to estrogen exposure as they progress though different developmental stages. This makes infants more likely than adults to be vulnerable to the estrogen-like effects of the phytoestrogens found in soy.
There is also research to show that genistein and similar isoflavones can compete for iodine when iodine stores are low. Further, infants fed soy containing formula in early life have a higher risk of developing autoimmune thyroid disease.
For infants fed soy formula their rate of exposure to phyotestrogens is much higher which may a negative impact on both their thyroid health and hormonal balance.
Soy + Asian cultures
In Asia, small quantities of whole bean soy products are considered a traditional staple of the diet. From the simple soybean comes a variety of foods including tofu, natto, miso, tempeh, and boiled soy beans (edamame). These foods are prepared using traditional methods to make these otherwise inedible foods nutritious.
Soybeans like other beans, nuts, and seeds contain naturally occurring enzyme inhibitors. Termed phytic acid or phytates, these compounds make soy difficult to digest and also have the potential to bind to minerals in the digestive system. In this way phytic acid acts as an ‘anti-nutrient’ to prevent the absorption of important minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc.
Soybeans contain a much higher phytic acid content than most other grains and legumes. If you have been over doing soy products you may be low in these minerals.
Does soy harm the thyroid?
An incredible amount of hype has accompanied the meteoric rise of soy as a popular ‘health’ alternative. Once reserved as a staple for vegetarians’ soy is finding its way into the shopping baskets of more conventional consumers in various forms, usually disguised as a refined soy ingredient.
When it comes to thyroid health processed soy foods and foods containing soy ingredients should be strictly avoided in a thyroid diet. Soy is goitrogenic, a term used to describe many foods and environmental compounds that have a serious potential to block normal thyroid activity and should be avoided in a thyroid diet.
Highly processed soy products are not normally manufactured using the phytic acid reducing techniques used in traditional cultures such as soaking or long slow cooking. This makes these foods harder to breakdown in the digestive system. Overt time this can lead to digestive distress and lowered micronutrient intake.
This is not good news for thyroid health as the thyroid is particularly sensitive to nutrient deficiencies. For example; iodine, zinc and selenium are three minerals critical to aid ongoing thyroid hormone activity.
Globally soybean oil has become the most widely used dietary oil. This soy derived oil is routinely used in margarine and shortening. It is also used in salad dressings, mayonnaise, frozen foods, commercially baked goods and simulated dairy and meat products. Soy oil along with palm oil and canola oil is often deceptively referred to as ‘vegetable oil’ on food labels.
Food manufacturers label dietary oils as ‘vegetable oils’ to make them sound healthy. However this is far from the truth. They are neither nutritious nor healthy.
The long term consumption of these oils has the potential to harm the thyroid and should be avoided in a thyroid diet. As more of these oils are incorporated into the thyroid cells their goitrogenic effects becomes more obvious.
Watch this Video – Soy and its connection to Thyroid Issues
The environmental impact of soy
The biggest shift in farming methods occurred over the last century, particularly with the introduction of ‘monocultures’. These are large scale farming areas dedicated to a single crop. Soy crops are monocultures favoured by multinational agribusiness to supply a growing demand.
As traditional farming methods are lost and the modern monoculture system of production emerges there is an increasing susceptibility of crops to insects and disease. This then pushes up the use of toxic agricultural chemicals.
Large soy plantations are viewed by environmentalists as a growing menace. Intense soybean cultivation threatens fragile ecosystems and is taking a significant toll on deforestation of the globe.
Soy + genetic engineering
Genetic engineering is the process of using biotechnology to transfer specific traits or genes from one organism into a different plant species. The result is a genetically modified (GM) food. The safety and potential long term health risks of these ‘frankenfoods’ is regularly questioned.
Soy, canola and corn are the most prevalent GM ingredients and are used in many food products. The first genetically engineered soybeans were planted in the USA in 1996. Now more than 90% of the USA soy crop is GM.
As the GM industry grows there has been a corresponding demand for food labels to clearly state if GM plants or microorganisms have been used in production. In the European Union all food, and any ingredients directly produced from a GM source must be labelled even when the GM ingredients may be undetectable in the final product.
The ‘Roundup Ready’ soybean controversy
The GM soybean known as the Roundup Ready (RR) soybean was developed by the biotech giant Monsanto based in the USA. This crop variety was developed to make it resistant to the Roundup herbicides products which are toxic to conventional soybean plants. Apart from the issue with genetic engineering this GM soy is contaminated with pesticide residues which can easily find their way into the food supply.
Watch this video below about the foods that should be included in a thyroid diet
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Louise O’ Connor, the author of The Natural Thyroid Diet –The 4-Week Plan to Living Well, Living Vibrantly, who is a specialist in Thyroid Health. She is a highly regarded Australian Naturopath and founder of Wellnesswork.
The Natural Thyroid Diet goes beyond diet advice and offers practical and effective ways to achieve healthy thyroid levels within just a short period of time. For more details, Click on The-Natural-Thyroid-Diet.com