The Great Soy Controversy

The Great Soy Controversy post image

It is almost “common knowledge” now in conventional circles that soy is healthy. After all, it is endorsed by the American Heart Association as healthy. The FDA allows health claims to be made for it on food packaging. “Diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol that include 25 grams of soy protein a day may reduce the risk of heart disease.” They must know what they are talking about. Right?

Sarcasm aside, I was roped in to the “joy of soy” for some years in the 1990’s when I was lecturing that tofu is the perfect food. I also drank a soy based shake every morning because everyone (vitamin companies and the FDA) was saying how good that was for your heart and for hormonal symptoms. I fell for it hook line and sinker.

A good friend of mine was a vegetarian for many years and she substituted soy for animal proteins. She was so “healthy” from all that soy that she couldn’t understand why she was having so many health challenges. There was nothing life threatening, but things ranging from just annoying to life changing. She had chronic inflammation which expressed itself as sinusitis and headaches. That was the annoying ailment. But she also suffered from infertility and wound up going through conventional infertility treatments.

I have seen this story over and over again in my nutrition practice. Ex vegetarians come in ready to make drastic changes due to escalating health problems. Not all is due to soy, but certainly soy is a large part of the vegetarian diet — especially vegan. In combination with the low saturated fat, low cholesterol, high carbohydrate diet that is the essential vegetarian diet, health problems begin to develop. So, in talking about soy, we must make reference to these two diets as well.

In the book The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith, she makes a very strong case against vegetarianism. As an ex vegan of 20 years she is strongly against it as she has experienced significant health problems stemming from the years of nutrient deficiency arising from the vegan diet. She also makes a comprehensive political and moral statement about why it just doesn’t work. If you are interested in this topic, drop everything, buy her book and read it.

Fast forward to today and I’m a staunch advocate against all soy products except small amounts of properly fermented soy made in the traditional way. Proper fermentation results in a probiotic and enzyme rich condiment. To quote Kaayla Danial, soy expert and author of the book, The Whole Soy Story,

The 1999 FDA-approved health claim pleased big business, despite massive evidence showing risks associated with soy, and against the protest of the FDA’s own top scientists. Soy is a $4 billion [U.S.] industry that’s taken these health claims to the bank.

I thought drinking soy milk was OK, because after all the Asians drink it all the time! Don’t they? Well, the answer is no. They do not drink it and they do not eat fake soy products that try to imitate meat, franks, baloney, cheese, etc.

Soybeans originated in the Orient. The soybean was designated as one of the five sacred grains during the Chou Dynasty (1134 – 246 BC). However, evidence shows that it was not eaten, it was used as part of a crop rotation in order to fix nitrogen in the soil.

During the Chou Dynasty the process of fermentation was invented and they fermented the soybean into products such as tempeh, natto, miso and shoyu (soy sauce). These soy products made in the traditional way are considered healthful in small amounts. The Chinese did not eat soybeans in any other way because they knew that there were several harmful substances in them.

Soy is now on the chopping block as study after study after study is beginning to show that the health benefits are just not there, that it may be a risk factor for breast cancer and that it doesn’t help with hot flashes and bone loss in menopause.

Check out this post which will elucidate the 7 reasons to avoid soy like the plague.


The Ploy of Soy


The Whole Soy Story, Kaayla Danial

Photo Credit

This post is linked to : Friday Favorites, Fresh Bites Friday, Fight Back Friday, Sugar-Free Sunday, Melt in Mouth Monday, Monday Mania, Mangia Monday, Homemaker Monday. Weekend Carnival, Mouthwatering Monday, Tuesday at the Table, Delectable Tuesday , Tempt my Tummy Tuesday, Tuesday Tasty Tidbits, Tasty Tuesday, Traditional Tuesday, Tasty Tuesday, Tasty Tuesday, Tasty Tuesday, Tasty Tuesday parade of Foods, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, What’s Cooking Wednesday, Gluten-Free Wednesday, Real Food Wednesday, Healthy 2Day Wednesday, What’s Cooking Wednesday, Foodie Wednesday, What’s Cooking Wednesday, Full Plate Thursday, Creative Juice Thursday


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  • Judy@Savoring Today August 12, 2011, 8:52 am

    Learned about the dangers of soy years ago from The Maker’s Diet and have avoided it ever since. It is astonishing how prolific it is–soybean oil and soy flour is used in so many food products that the unaware consume loads of it every day.

    • Jill August 12, 2011, 9:16 am

      Hi Judy,
      So true. The soybean industry has infiltrated every aspect of the food supply. It is in every salad dressing, mayonnaise, condiments to all baked goods. Almost every processed and packaged food item is subject to some soy ingredient. Scary isn’t it?

  • Randy August 12, 2011, 9:32 am

    I too used to eat plenty of soy products (tofu franks, Bologna, etc). I never really enjoyed the consistency, but thought that eating tofu was good for my health. Thanks to my wife’s research we discontinued the consumption of soy products years ago. It’s hard to believe that with all of the current research showing the risks associated with soy, that the FDA doesn’t take action. The FDA is a Government institution that really has no clue and is not advocating for the health and safety of the consumer, but it is for big agribusiness. Protecting U.S. consumers was its original purpose when it was established with the passage of the 1906 Pure Food and Drugs Act.

    • Jill August 12, 2011, 11:01 am

      Hi Randy,
      Thanks for the comments. Your wife must be very wise. I always wonder if these government agencies actually started out with the admirable motive to protect the public — or if the whole thing was corrupt right from the beginning starting with who they put in charge…

  • Leslie August 12, 2011, 10:56 am

    I love your blog and this entry is particularly compelling for me. I went on a vegetarian diet during the no-fat, high refined carbs, and replace all your meat with soy fad in the 90’s as an attempt to loose weight. I initially lost 10 lbs although now I attribute that more to the switch from a couple of big gulps of diet coke or pepsi a day to water. Thinking that my loss of 10lbs was a success to the diet, I continued with my diet of soy burgers, soy hot dogs, soy cheese. no fat cookies, not fat potato chips etc. What I ended up with was years of weight gain that I was unable loose no matter what I ate or didn’t eat. I also had insane dental problems and pain problems both of which I had NEVER had a problem with before. I was in my early 20’s and had pain in my feet walking down the stairs! I found the fat flush diet and in it the author details some of the problems with eating soy especially the loss of copper and hair loss etc. After that, I went back to being an omnivore. I lost 50 lbs with that diet but it is pretty restrictive and I like having milk and cheese. Now, I am going to stick with what I now works for me and I no longer deprive myself of milk, eggs, cheese, butter, and especially hollandaise sauce!

    • Jill August 12, 2011, 11:09 am

      Hi Leslie,
      Thanks so much for your kind words and thanks for sharing your experience. There has recently a big bruhaha at the Ancestral Health Conference — many differing opinions about what causes weight gain and the obesity/diabetes/cardiac problems we face today. The bottom line is that each person has their own biochemistry and what works for one may not work for the next person. We all have to find what works for us individually. Whether is be paleo, primal, high carb, low carb, Weston Price, etc. That takes some work and some effort on the part of the person — something some people are not willing to do.

      Kudos for finding out what works for you!

  • Barbara Goodman August 12, 2011, 1:07 pm

    We stopped using soy milk and other products awhile ago for similar reasons mentioned in the article. And, so many products tout high levels of soy in their product which gets me so angry now. We use almond milk and just started using some coconut milk. Though, I admit, I don’t make these fresh like u do, Jill.

    • Jill August 12, 2011, 3:58 pm

      Hi Barbara,
      Almond milk and coconut milk are great alternatives — so much better than soy milk. Some people have to make their own because they cannot tolerate any additives — others do it because they do not want any additives in their food. But buying commercial coconut or almond milk is still a better choice especially if you shop for the brands with the least amount of additives and no added sugar.

  • Rita Palma August 12, 2011, 2:35 pm

    I never quite bought the ‘soy joy’ and I’m glad for it- my sister-in-law and I can’t even discuss it anymore. She defends it so strongly… I’ll take a grass-fed burger for my protein!

    • Jill August 12, 2011, 3:59 pm

      Hi Rita,
      I guess she is a vegetarian? She should read The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith. It may open her mind a little. Or some of the soy articles on the WAPF website.

  • Isaac Kojima August 12, 2011, 7:58 pm

    I had my private soy joy since I was child. Always eating natto, miso, tofu and other Japanese products. Specially natto, since dad is from Tokyo.

    • Jill August 12, 2011, 8:21 pm

      Hi Issac,
      Excellent! I have yet to taste natto but would love to!

  • Kathy B. August 12, 2011, 9:47 pm

    Wonderful, timely article. Some friends and I were just discussing GMO ingredients in dietary supplements and the soy topic came up.

    For some reason, soy (which I avoid like the plague) is a common ingredient in dietary supplements. Cheap filler, or? Read labels carefully!

  • jean August 14, 2011, 10:17 am

    For a very short while, I ate and drank soy products, until I learned from the Asians. Good post.

  • Of Goats and Greens August 14, 2011, 12:18 pm

    Thanks for this post. I switched to soy burgers after the Jack in the Box event back in the 90’s. I am now (for a few years) off of them, and at this point believe soy or tamari sauce should be eaten within the context of the cultures where they came from. These are way different than the “faux food” created from soy. Looking forward to reading your next post on this topic.

  • Jen August 15, 2011, 6:31 am

    Ha. I hate soy. It almost killed me, but try telling people that and they look at you like you are from outer space. Great article.

    • Jill August 16, 2011, 2:13 pm

      Hi Jen,
      I know what you mean, but it’s worth getting the message out. I particularly hate to see mothers with the soy milk for their kids!

  • emily August 16, 2011, 7:01 pm

    wow, very interesting! Thanks for linking to Tasty Tuesday. I will look forward to your next post. I’m a vegetarian (not a vegan) and eat an occasional veg burger or hot dog…. I really don’t eat that much say though. can’t wait to hear what else you have to share!

  • nicolette @ momnivores dilemma August 17, 2011, 7:39 am

    Tweeted. Love this. {and now following you on “the twitter”}

    What really ruffles me is the addition of “soy lecithin” to many food products, so the average consumer, is eating loads of it via emulsifiers.


    Because of my gluten issues, I can’t even do soy sauce, it makes me deathly ill. If people are going to “do soy”, I say do like the Asian cultures: fermented only and in small amounts.

    • Jill August 17, 2011, 9:00 am

      Hi Nicolette,
      Agreed. It is so pervasive in the food supply you really have to try hard to avoid it. What irks me is that lecithin is and of itself is actually good — but coming from GMO soy it is terrible. However, they could source lecithin from eggs but they don’t for obvious reasons.

      Love your jello! I’d love to see you post it at my new real food carnival FAT TUESDAY!