Spilling The Beans – The Trouble With Soy

Man holding soy beans with Soy Warning label

It never crossed my mind that soy – a favorite health food – might be toxic and dangerous. It wasn’t the first time. Bottled water, margarine, and gluten grains all come to mind. But soy? The wonder bean?

I was faithful to the plant. I’d been a vegetarian for five years and though I now enjoy the multitude of benefits and gourmand delight that meat and seafood offer, I trusted in plants. Soy was something I’d celebrated, along with everyone else in Vancouver, in my hippie years. Later, even the men in my life enjoyed my “I Can’t Believe it’s Not Meat” stir fries. After moving back into the omnivore’s diet that nature gave me, I still loved miso soup for breakfast and made an effort to regularly enjoy soy proteins.

Who didn’t? Even Dad’s got soymilk in the fridge- it’s great for preventing prostate cancer, right? Even people who never got used to the taste- or shall I admit tastelessness- of soy added it in hopes of reaping the benefits of those amazing nutrients. Isoflavones, genisteins, lectins, saponins, and phytoestrogens- don’t these wonderful names signal a whole host of cancer fighting, heart disease preventing, cholesterol-lowering miracles?

What if I said that those fancy words are actually toxins and the soya bean is naturally loaded with all of them? What if I told you that big business soy ran campaigns like Soy 2000 to convince us that these antinutrients were beneficial? What if I told you that soy is not a complete protein, is not widely used in Asia, and is incredibly dangerous for human consumption? What if I told you that the Food and Drug Administration lists soy as a poisonous plant?

The thyroid is a tiny butterfly-shaped gland in the throat. The rate of thyroid problems in North America is epidemic, especially among women. It’s so common to have a thyroid disorder that it’s easy to forget that’s not the natural state of being. Because the thyroid regulates the entire endocrine system, the metabolism, and more, it’s a very important body part. The most common disorder is hypothyroidism. This means the thyroid does not produce very much thyroid hormone, and the resulting quagmire of ailments is distressing to say the least – exhaustion, overweight, depression, hair that is dry, falls out, or won’t grow, brittle nails, anxiety, skin disorders, feeling too hot or too cold all the time, menstrual problems, metabolic disorders, recurring infections, immune system fall-out, and a whole lot of other fun stuff. Untreated thyroid problems, or a thyroid that responds poorly to lifestyle change and medication, are gateways for a whole host of Hellish things from fibromyalgia to cancer.

When I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism many years ago, it was something of a relief, despite the fact I was not thrilled to have a chronic and serious gland problem. But even less thrilling was the depression that had always hovered around me- I’m a cheerful, festive sort of person, and the unshakeable melancholy didn’t seem like me. Worse still was the unexplainable weight gain and the exhaustion and picking up every last cold and flu and Bell’s Palsy, a lovely thing that damages the facial nerves and has given me the lopsided features some find sexy, and my ‘sneer’. Finding a reason for this slew of complaints that forced me take medical leave from work gave me hope for a vibrant future, or at least one I could make the best of.

The doctor suggested a few ways to support my health in addition to simply popping pills. I was mildly surprised that I was told to avoid soy foods. I learned the word ‘goitrogen,’ read a bit about thyroid-suppressing foods. I stopped eating all soy foods but didn’t make a big deal- I also learned that peanuts, broccoli, and cabbage all have thyroid suppressing properties. Those were good healthy plants, too, just something to avoid the way fibromyalgia patients should avoid nightshade plants or celiacs should avoid wheat. Nothing more.

One day, my godchildren’s mother was over, and she asked if I thought soymilk was safe for the kids. Safe? Never thought about it. The vegan girl in the circle said enthusiastically, “yes, of course,” without question, which bothered me straight off the bat. Soymilk is way modern and loaded with sugar. For those reasons alone, I would have to say I wasn’t sure. Julie borrowed a couple of my nutrition books. I had no idea whether soy was bad for everyone’s thyroid or just mine, so I said I’d look it up.

I put on my Nancy Drew outfit and began some nutritional detective work. A clue here and there, some secret passages, a couple of bad guys named phytates and lectins later, I realized I was in the middle of a big ol’ can of worms and the only way out was through, down the rabbit hole.

It all starts out rather confusingly- after all, hadn’t everyone’s favorite health dude Dr. Earl Mindell dubbed the nutrition phenomenon, “The Soy Miracle”? Sure enough, Mindell’s Soy Miracle assures me (innocently enough, as the year is 1995, before the mother load of research gets unearthed) that soy is a good food for me. In fact, he writes about how beneficial it is to my thyroid. “Soy may somehow stimulate the thyroid gland to produce more hormone,” he writes. This is immediately suspect, as the thyroid-lowering connection is well known, well established, and not controversial. A few pages extol the virtues of the perfect protein and cancer fighting wonder food. The rest shows a bunch of groovy recipes like the Tempeh Reuben sandwich.

Sounds tempting – but it sure doesn’t take long in my new detective hat to see some suspicious handshaking. The good doctor thanks the United Soybean Board and Soy Foods Association of America straight off the bat for their help. Hmmmm…

Go figure- looks like many of us forgot the obvious adage Mom told us: if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Think about this: who told you that Asians eat a lot of soy, that they have for thousands of years, that they eat it instead of animal protein, and that soy is why they are so healthy? Soy is monk food, and what could be kinder or healthier than a monk’s vegetarian diet?

So who said all this? Your Asian family or friends? Not mine. And here’s something shocking: none of it is true.

It was one of the biggest industries in the world, soygriculture, who told you this. I thought it, too, but then I realized I don’t really know a lot of Asian families intimately enough to know their customs. The ones I do know cook a great deal of pork, delicious vegetables and rice.

Bur Dr. Mindell says, “In many parts of Asia, soy foods are a dietary staple.” But simply looking beyond the Soy Board’s claims into history and anthropology, it doesn’t take long at all to find out that in fact, the Chinese eat massive amounts of eggs and pork, and very little soy.

Mindell touts how Japan enjoys the longest life span, lower rates of colon, lung, breast and prostate cancer. “Judge for yourself,” he says. And we did. We were presented with seemingly obvious information, but advertising is what it was. Because the truth is much different, and lower Asian cancer rates just might be from the lack of un-food in Asian diets and the masses of seafood they consume. The Japanese eat a few TABLESPOONS of soy a day as a condiment.

Monk food? Clean protein? The roots of soy are much more humble. Soybeans were used as crop fertilizer and livestock feed. Knowing soy could be harmful raw, the resourceful Asians made an art out of fermenting techniques to make them digestible. Hence, miso and tempeh, the most edible forms of soy, are important arts in Asian history. What about the nice monks? Moby’s sarcasm may not be far off- does the high estrogen content in soy messes with testosterone, making monastic life a little easier on the celibate?

Still, what’s the big deal? So it’s not Asia’s star dish. It’s still the picture perfect glow of rosy health, right? A complete protein, low in fat, fighting off cancers and osteoporosis, lowering cholesterol, non-allergenic, brain-building, green, low carbon footprint, and yummy, too – right?

Not so fast. Concerned consumers in both the carnivore gourmands and the garden of Vegan groups are starting to suspect the reality might be more like this: gas, bloating, infant starvation, moobs, a whole host of thyroid problems, coronary disease, anaphylactic shock, Alzheimer’s, serious endocrine disorders, a range of menstrual abnormalities and ‘female problems,’ cancer, low or nonexistent libido, puberty before age ten, hair loss and more. Could it really be? Aren’t all of these things among the endless problems soy was going to prevent?

Hundreds of doctors and scientists and consumer advocates worldwide are now expressing concern and caution over soy. But one has devoted her research in recent years to the alarming topic.

“In the mid 1990s I started noticing a lot of articles with headlines like the ‘joy of soy’ or ‘soy of cooking’ and was entranced by the claims that soy was good for personal health and also the planet,” Dr. Kaayla T. Daniel says. “The reality was another story. I was seeing a lot of sick vegetarians and other health conscious people who ate a lot of soy and seemed to be suffering greatly from it. That aroused my curiosity and I began researching the subject.”

She is not a messenger for the dairy industry – she is a citizen and scientist concerned with faulty propaganda and real food. She exposed the soy industry’s endless dirty secrets in her book The Whole Soy Story: the Dark Side of America’s Favorite Health Food.

While the vast sea of information online and in journals is confusing, jargon-riddled and often pits the debate as a vegetarian/meat-eater’s one, Dr. Daniel’s book is clear, organized, factual, meticulously documented, and explains all the hard words. Though Daniel, as a nutritionist, obviously sees wisdom in our natural hunter/gatherer diet, it’s clear that soy is dangerous for meat eaters and vegetarians alike, and that we must all find alternative foods.

If only the problem were one little toxin. But it takes Daniel nearly 400 pages to cover all the info, plus 44 pages of study references, so that we can verify the sources for ourselves. “It was read for accuracy prior to publication by leading MDs, scientists and toxicologists. And my conclusions have certainly been validated by the recent warnings issued by the Israelis, French and Germans,” Dr. Daniel says. This is solid science, but thankfully Daniel is also an engaging writer. “The studies come from a wide variety of sources – universities, clinics, FDA’s Laboratory for Toxicological Research, USDA scientists, etc,” she explains. “Many of the most damning studies were funded by the soy industry itself.”

Here’s a brief overview of Daniel’s findings:

  • Soy oil was the first and primary profit center for soy, and soy was largely responsible for the spread of hydrogenated or trans fats
  • Most soy is genetically modified
  • Soy farming is wreaking greater devastation on forests, cottage industries, and family farms than the cattle industry. (If you mistakenly thought soy was a bunch of hippie farmers, like I did, Dr. Daniel tells it like it is: “Let’s name names. Monsanto, Dupont, Archer Daniels Midland, Solae . . . Nearly all the old hippie companies have been bought up by the big boys. For example, White Wave is owned by Dean Foods. Some of America’s largest food companies now manufacture soy foods or use soy ingredients heavily in their products. Think Kraft, Kellogg, ConAgra, General Mills, Heinz, Unilever Best Foods and Dean Foods.”)
  • Soy is a major allergen, and because it is used as filler in hundreds of products including meats and ‘vegetable oil,’ people with allergies may be at risk
  • Soy contains goitrogens, which damage the thyroid
  • Soy contains lectins, which cause red blood cells to lump together and may trigger abnormal immunity responses
  • Soy contains oligosaccarides, sugars that cause bloating and gas
  • Soy contains oxalates, which prevent calcium absorption, cause painful kidney stones and vulvodynia, a vaginal disorder
  • Many plant foods contain phytates and phytic acid, naturally occurring ‘pesticides’ to keep plants from being eaten while growing. phytates impair mineral absorption, and in fact, remove many minerals already in the body, including iron, zinc, and calcium. phytates in many foods are alleviated by cooking – soy’s phytate levels are high and stubborn.
  • Isoflavones, lauded as natural estrogens, are serious endocrine disruptors, lowering testosterone, causing menstrual disorders, and cancer cell proliferation
  • Protease inhibitors interfere with digestive enzymes, saponins may lower good cholesterol and damage intestine
  • That all of these plant chemicals can have benefits, and do exist in other foods, to varying levels of edibility: that soaking grains and fermenting beans are ancient food prep traditions
  • Soymilk is far from a natural food: it is filled with rancid fats and high in sugar
  • Soy cheeses are largely made with hydrogenated oils (safety level of hydrogenated products? ZERO)

Some health problems that may be associated with soy foods are:

  • Bladder, prostate, colorectal, thyroid and breast cancer
    Precancerous lesions
  • Heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Malnutrition
    Stunted growth
  • Flatulence
  • Pancreatic problems
  • Low libido
  • Early puberty
  • Anemia
  • Zinc deficiency
  • Osteoporosis
  • Intestinal damage
  • Mal-absorption and leaky gut syndrome
  • Kidney stones
  • Allergies
  • Infant death
  • Immune system disruption
  • Thyroid disease

And the list goes on. This isn’t the first time we’ve been concerned. Before the massive health movement of the late 80s and early 90s, all sorts of articles came out about soy safety. But hardly anyone liked the stuff anyhow, and vegetarians had yet to think of it as a food group. Soy decided to get a makeover, and save itself from the financial fallout that was nigh – when it’s dirty toxic margarine secrets would inevitably leak out.

“By 1985, there was a considerable body of research from U.S. Government and university laboratories and British government institutions warning of the health dangers of soy foods, particularly to high-risk consumers such as infants and vegetarian women,” says Dianne Gregg, writer of The Hidden Dangers of Soy, and survivor of soy-related illness that nearly killed her.

“These were published in scientific journals. In response, in 1985 the soy processing industry in the U.S. held a number of conferences and devised a program, ‘Soy 2000,’ the intent of which was to aggressively promote soy as a health food when they already knew it contained biologically active levels of toxins. This involved heavy political lobbying of Congress and Federal regulators, a vast advertising program, planting favorable articles in popular and academic media, obtaining huge Federal farming subsidies, and sponsorship of meetings by the U.S Department of Agriculture. The aim of Soy 2000 was to promote to the consumers that soy was a proven health food with no adverse effects. Their claim was that millions of Asians have been consuming soy in large quantities for thousands of years and are all remarkably healthy as a result. American consumers were expected to believe this, and most of us did!”

Soy’s first incarnation in North American consumption was also a health food imposter. After millenniums of wisdom where humans used butter or lard or olive oil, good enough for the Bible and good enough for the world, suddenly margarine was “heart healthy” and “cholesterol-lowering.” But lately, studies started talking about how heart disease INCREASED from this new artificial fat, hydrogenated margarine, which our body cannot recognize. OF course it did. This was not a real food.

Sound familiar? It is. Those who perceive of soy as innocent and concerned for your health may be surprised at how big a player soy was in the hydrogenation revolution. Most hydrogenated oil was soy. Now, even junk makers like chips and fast food have pulled these artificial fats out of their products. Hydrogenated oils are liquid plastic and they are poisonous. Most governments place safe consumption levels at ZERO.

Clearly soy, which still defends hydrogenation, did not then have our best health interests in mind, just profit. When the tide turned, they turned up the noise on how healthy soy is, and it became a health food, its history in margarine conveniently blotted from public consciousness.

While the health dangers are considerably ominous, not everyone is in immediate danger of death. But Dianne Gregg came within inches of her life.

Gregg had never been a vegetarian, but slim, health-conscious, and staring menopause head-on, she decided to take charge of her health and began eating soy. “I started to include soy protein drinks for breakfast, and protein bars as a snack. For eight years I was constantly nauseous, bloated, and gaining weight each year. I knew something was wrong but the doctors said it was normal and to accept that I was getting older. In April 2003, I had a soy veggie burger for dinner and that is what did me in. This was the first time I had one. The next morning I was rushed to the hospital because I thought I was having a heart attack ? but I went into anaphylactic shock.”

“After four days in the intensive care unit, the doctors diagnosed food poisoning, but I didn’t agree. By now I weighed 150lbs. That was more than I weighed in my ninth month of pregnancy!”

Dianne went home, and didn’t eat much of anything for a while. When she recovered from her mystery illness, she started her day again with her soy health drink. She began having palpitations and other symptoms. Linking the reaction to the soy, she began her internet research, and found that in addition to very common and possibly deadly allergies, soy is implicated in hundreds of deadly or chronic diseases. Other consumers may not be linking their health problems with their health food. So Gregg wrote her book, The Hidden Dangers of Soy (www.hiddensoy.com).

“My intention was not to bash the soy industry but to make the public aware of what the Western version of soy contains, and that if they are not feeling like themselves, or are developing health issues, to try and eliminate soy and see if they don’t feel better. In my book, I have testimonials from others with real horror stories that never attributed it to soy products.”

Part of the ‘hidden danger’ is what’s hidden. Gregg says that soy is hiding in everything from meat to chocolate to oil, so people hoping to avoid it don’t usually do a good job. “The number of processed and manufactured foods that contain soy ingredients today is astounding. It can be hard to find foods that don’t contain soy flour, soy oil, lecithin (extracted from soy oil and used as an emulsifier in high-fat products), soy protein isolates and concentrates, textured vegetable protein (TVP), hydrolyzed vegetable protein (usually made from soy) or unidentified vegetable oils. Most of what is labeled ‘vegetable oil’ in the U.S. is actually soy oil, as are most margarines. Soy oil is the most widely used oil in the U.S., accounting for more than 75 percent of our total vegetable fats and oil intake. It’s found in margarine, shortenings, frozen dinners, canned tuna, mayonnaise, breads, cookies, crackers, canned soup, breakfast cereals, and fast foods to name a few.”

Gregg says many women keep eating soy in hope of the benefits, and end up with hypothyroidism. While contributors to the thyroid epidemic may include hormonal birth control products, fluoride content in water, stress, and sugar, soy’s strength as an endocrine disruptor should not be underestimated. Especially with soy hidden throughout many foods – you can’t eat uncooked broccoli, another goitrogenic food, in high quantities by mistake, for example ? even those who choose not to eat soy may be eating a lot of soy!

Another person who is very concerned about thyroid health is Mary J. Shomon, a patient advocate and best-selling author, whose many books on thyroid and autoimmune diseases I have read and enjoyed, notably Living Well With Hypothyroidism. Shomon is not an anti-soy crusader by any stretch. Her research and advocacy is concerned only with the thyroid. She has no vested interest in vegetarian/omnivore battles, soy business practices, or anything else that remotely relates to my story, except as it may or may not affect the thyroid.

It has been a well-documented fact for decades that soy foods lower thyroid hormone (Drs. Doerge and Chang, FDA, Division of Biochemical Toxicology, for starters, and more from 50 years of diverse sources). But the Soyfoods Association of North America is not very concerned about my health. They cheerfully tell me, “Like other plant foods that contain goitrogens, soy can be part of a healthy diet.” (Cooking broccoli or peanuts destroys their lower levels of goitrogens, but cooking soy does little to remove them.) They tell me that soy does not cause thyroid problems in healthy people (though even small amounts of the food in a daily diet have been shown to slow a normal thyroid.) They tell me to get enough iodine, which is fair enough, and to take my medicine in between meals so that the soy won’t affect the absorption.

Shomon says, “I think that you need to consider the messenger. The soy industry has a vested interest in promoting soy, and downplaying any potential negatives. Again, some soy can have a place in a healthy diet, but stick with the fermented forms you find in Asian foods, like tempeh, tofu, miso, and use it, like the Asians do, more as a condiment.” She says, ” if over-consumed, especially in its processed, isoflavone-heavy forms, it can have detrimental effects on thyroid health. Soy is a goitrogen, a food that has the ability to slow down the thyroid gland. In some people, over-consumption of soy can trigger a thyroid condition — or aggravate an existing one.”

For the record, I contacted the Soyfoods Association of North America by telephone and email to ask about these claims and to ensure fair storytelling as a journalist whose only vested interest is the truth, not profit or ideology. No representative from any of the soy boards returned my contact.

By far one of the most thorough, informative and wide-ranging info portals on soy danger is Soy Online Services, in New Zealand. Associated with Dick and Valerie James, the content-heavy site shows no agenda but to help people dismantle the confusing array of information. No membership, no fees, no hidden agenda- just the facts, ma’am. Dick James has been correcting misinformation for years, writing letters to governments and health providers on his own time and own dime. His formidable efforts to spread his truth are honorable- Dick has never taken a dime for this time, or for Soy Online Services.

For the Jameses, it all began when his prized parrots began getting sick and dying after switching to miracle-soy-based-bird-food, he decided to get to the bottom of the issue and found astounding horrors surrounding soy foods. A dear young friend also died somewhat mysteriously, and that’s how they started researching soy. They launched a legal investigation to get to the bottom of the bird-food issue, as well as the human health implications, and so began Soy Online Services.

Dick James is a man who has generously given his time and energy to educating people about their health. He says it’s a “fallacy is to think that vegetarianism equates to soy consumption. It does not.” Vegetarians used to eat a wider spectrum of food. Because of marketing and industrial politics, soy is everywhere, even in bird food.

The internet is abuzz with theories hoping to defame the cozy circle of soy opponents, many whom, like the James’, are affiliated with the Weston Price Foundation (www.westonaprice.org.) Dr. Kaayla Daniel serves on the board of directors. The foundation follows the nutrition research of Dr. Weston Price, a dentist who wandered the globe studying the diets of diverse people. The foundation heavily encourages traditional diets based on animal foods and vegetables. Their agenda doesn’t scare me away: I have a deep respect for the Weston Price research, and these people work hard to advocate safe, humane farming practices, chemical-free food, and old fashioned methods of fermentation and soaking. The diet may sound funny to those used to boxes and cans, but any student of world cuisine or of history and anthropology can tell these are hardly off the wall. Dr. Daniel says, “The Weston Price Foundation is supported by membership dues and private donations and receives no funding from the beef or dairy industries. We recommend an omnivorous diet that includes free-range eggs, grass-fed meat and raw dairy products from happy, pastured cows, but such products do not come from factory farming operations or corporate agribusiness. We support small farmers, humane treatment of animals, sustainable and organic agriculture and the consumer’s right to obtain fresh healthy foods directly from local farmers.”

The good sense of sustainable and humane farming and traditional food preparation get lost in the extravagant propaganda. “It’s all about money. Soybeans were first heavily grown here for the soy oil? the one used most often in margarines and shortenings. But once processors took the oil out of the soybean, they had a lot of soy protein left over. The question was whether they should take it to the landfill and pay to dump it or turn it into another profit centre. Soy protein would make an excellent fertilizer, but unfortunately the chemical fertilizer companies had that market cornered. It is used as a primary ingredient in animal foods, but there are limits on how much they can safely feed to animals… It was initially hard to sell people on the idea of eating soy because it was perceived as either a poverty food or a hippie food. Then marketing experts changed the image of soy to an upscale ‘health food.’

And that dear readers, is why all of us think this toxic waste, not healthy enough for animal feed, is a wonder food.

Not everyone is as concerned about phytic acid or lectins as Daniel, James, Gregg and myself. Dino Sarma is a passionate vegan chef with a degree in biology. Though vegetarianism was not historically synonymous with soy-eating, it is now, and Sarma’s cookbook, The Alternative Vegan, was the only one I could source that was vegetarian and soy-free.

“Most vegans in the USA and Europe don’t really bother with actual vegetables,” Sarma laments. “Alternative Vegan is so named because it provides an alternative to your typical vegan cookbook, where it seems like soy and other meat/dairy analogues are so pervasive that non-vegans often feel that you can’t eat a vegan diet without them.”

Sarma’s lively cookbook is teeming with inspiration from India- stuff he learned from mom. He has a flair for international cuisine, and likes to be able to recognize how his food started out. He recalls fondly the markets in Chennai, where people, vegetarian or not, ate a variety of produce. “I can remember the boisterous shouting of the vendors? The sheer amount of colors and smells that surrounded me. I also remember the stunning variety. Spinach did not mean a selection of one or two types of leaves? More like ten or fifteen, each season. ..Squashes and gourds abounded. Jackfruit, lychee, mango, papaya, guava, grapes? The long bananas, the short skinny ones?.” Sounds like paradise to me, too.

Most of his recipes are meals simply put together from the produce aisle. He likes to keep things cheap, and he likes to avoid weird ingredients you can’t pronounce. There were already more than enough soy cookbooks flooding the market. And while Sarma is not impressed by pricey, flavorless soy ‘meats,’ he didn’t avoid soy because he finds it unhealthy. “Most of my readers aren’t really all that concerned about soy, and just like simple, tasty, healthy food,” he says. He doesn’t worry about getting enough soy for protein. “All food contains proteins in varying amounts,” he says. “Get enough calories, and your protein will take care of itself? Eat a varied diet, including lots of whole grains (brown rice, whole wheat berries, millet, quinoa, amaranth,) dark green leafy vegetables (mustard greens, kale, collard greens, radish greens, wild spinach), fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, and some beans, nuts, and legumes to round out your meals.” I highly recommend Sarma’s book to anybody: vegetables are not just for vegetarians!

As a science major, he’s heard the words phytates and saponins before. “If I were to get scared of everything with saponins, I’d also be avoiding yucca, tomato, grapes,” he says. Phytates, lectins, these are “commonly found in animal feeds.” As for saponins: “Again, the high levels of saponins is found in the feed for dogs, but hasn’t been really linked to human food.”

Sarma believes in living compassionately and says going vegan is one of the best things he ever did for himself and the world, but that he doesn’t ever see a reason “to be a jerk about it.” He likes to educate people through colorful produce and joyful eating. And while he does not cook with soy in The Alternative Vegan, he says he has yet to see study against soy that convinces him. When I ask him what he believes, he says, “I don’t like to use the word ‘believe’ when it comes to scientific data. Upon examination of the sources of the soy scare, I sincerely question the motives, the research methods, the data collection methods, the statistical analyses? And the funding organizations.”

Amen. Exactly. And after I did, you can be sure I will enjoy wonderful vegetables of every kind, but I will never touch anything- not chocolate, not tuna fish, not salad dressing- that contains unfermented soy, ever again- and as for fermented, I love my tamari on sushi, but that’s about all I’ll risk.

After the margarine debacle, soygriculture just got lucky. Other food issues like mercury in fish or pesticide-riddled oranges were their own issues, not a spiritual war between two opposing camps. Soy just happened to be there, pumping its health-makeover propaganda just as the vegetarian-meat debate revved up. That debate won’t ever be resolved, because people all over the world eat all kinds of different weird things, from insects to blubber to nothing but olives. The vegan versus omnivore question has nothing to do with soy, which is bad for both groups.

But the soy market saw a perfect opportunity to pit big business against two groups that consisted of citizens with a similar concern- what to safely put in our mouths. Soy conveniently became an emotional, spiritual issue: saying soy is bad is the same as saying ‘you shouldn’t be a vegetarian.’ But it isn’t. It’s just saying soy is bad for you, same as soda or sugar are bad for you. Except that soy might be worse!

If you only read one thing on the topic, make sure it’s Dr. Kaayla Daniel’s expose. “It’s sad that so many people feel that all information must be financially motivated. The truth is that neither I nor New Trends Publishing has ever accepted any funds from the beef or dairy industries or from any government agency.”

Meanwhile, Big Soy is happily pocketing everyone’s money while they defend one of the most deceptive businesses of all time. Dr. Daniel says many- meat eaters and vegans- have read her work. ” I think they owe it to themselves and certainly to their children to educate themselves. Many who have taken that step have come back to me with thanks.”

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