Soya and Health
There is a lot of controversy about soya and it's effects on human
health. Articles that you read may have a certain bias depending on
what "camp" they come from. We come from the wholefood camp and it
is from this perspective that we take an in depth look at the soya
It may come as a surprise to many to learn that soya milk and tofu
are not wholefoods - they both involve a long refining process. The
same is true for TVP (a soya based product) and soya flour. As such,
it is advisable to avoid consuming large amounts of these products
on a regular basis. Refined soya also contains phytic acid; excessive
intake can contribute to mineral deficiencies. Occasional consumption
of good quality, organic, refined soya products should cause no problems
to those with robust digestive systems who are not sensitive to soya.
Tofu is beneficial for those with heat signs - feeling hot, red face,
red eyes, high blood pressure, constipation and great thirst. For
cooler persons, the cooling properties of tofu may be balanced by
combining it with ginger, which is a warming spice. Note: Commercially
made tofu may be fermented using chemical ingredients, alum or vinegar
and are not recommended. Choose tofu that is fermented with nigari
or lemon juice. Make an effort to change the water daily and wash
before use as toxic constituents migrate out of the tofu and into
the soaking water.
It is very important to note that refined soya is a hidden ingredient
in many refined and pre-packaged foods available on the wider market.
It is used to "pad out" such foods - generally people are not even
aware that they are eating it. All the above precautionary measures
apply, particularly so as this hidden soya is not organic and therefore
may be genetically modified. There is also substance called soya protein
isolate - a product that is so highly processed it can barely be termed
a food substance - which should definitely be avoided at all costs.
Genetically modified soya should be avoided wherever possible from
a health, environmental and ethical point of view. For more information
on this issue see the Genetically
Modified Foods page.
The most beneficial wholefood soya products that are available are
fermented products such as miso - which contains valuable digestive
enzymes, tamari and shoyu (types of soya sauce) and tempeh (a protein
rich wholefood alternative to tofu). All traditionally fermented soya
products are very safe as the fermentation process produces substances
that counterbalance all potentially toxic constituents. Whole soya
beans are also beneficial, although they must be thoroughly cooked
in order to destroy toxic parts of the bean, which inhibit a digestive
enzyme called trypsin. A Chinese saying says that the beans should
be boiled twice for the length of time it takes to burn an incense
stick. Fermented products are less cooling than refined soya, yet
miso, tamari and shoyu are very salty and should be eaten in moderate
amounts. That said, they are highly beneficial foods and may form
a regular part of the diet.
Soya is viewed from a Chinese perspective as a damp and cool food.
Thus it balances out conditions that are hot and dry. Some of the
symptoms of the menopause may be described as hot and dry and it comes
as no surprise that soya products (particularly the refined ones)
are extremely efficient at alleviating symptoms such as hot flushes
and vaginal dryness. From a more scientific viewpoint, soya contains
substances called phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens dock at oestrogen receptor
sites and thus mimic the effects of real oestrogen. Women suffering
from symptoms associated with the menopause may find that adding extra
soya to their diet is helpful, yet caution should be exercised. You
may use refined soya on a regular basis, unless it is contra-indicated
for your individual constitution - see People
Who Should Avoid Soya. It is best to only use small amounts of
refined soya. As little as seven grams a day can prevent symptoms.
A fermented soya supplement is available called Soyagen, which offers
a convenient way of taking wholefood soya. For those women who would
like to avoid or cannot tolerate soya, ground linseeds, red clover
tea and sage tea, all help to reduce symptoms. There are many other
herbs that can help to bring the hormones back into balance. Please
note that it is best to see a herbalist if you decide to take hormonal
herbs on a long term basis.
The Haelan Centre has never sold soya based infant formulas because
they tend to have too much sugar in them and also we do not believe
that soya is an ideal alternative to breast milk. Looking at it logically,
it seems wrong to choose such a phytoestrogen rich food for the sole
source of nutrition for an infant. Recent research has shown that
soya fed babies have a two-fold risk of developing thyroid abnormalities.
The best alternative to breast milk for babies is goat's milk formula.
We carry a goat's milk formula called Nanny, which is suitable from
birth onwards. It is the most similar animal milk in nutritional composition
to human milk and is suitable for most babies who have problems digesting
cows milk. Ask your doctor about alternatives to soya milk formula
in the unlikely event that your baby is unable to tolerate cow or
People with thyroid disorders, digestive problems (loose stools, bloating
or irritable bowel) or signs of dampness (excess mucus; tumours; cysts;
parasites; yeast sensitivity) should definitely avoid refined soya
or only consume it in small amounts on a very occasional basis. Even
these people are highly likely to be able to tolerate small amounts
of the more beneficial wholefood soya products.
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