Setting the record straight on soy

Question: Help me solve the mystery of soy. I hear that it gives males estrogen and is generally not good for health—then I hear that it is the best thing since sliced bread. Can you help me make good decisions regarding soy?

Dr. Fred: Of all the misconceptions about good nutrition, the ones surrounding soy are definitely among the most dangerous. I covered this subject in detail back in the June 2013 issue (“Why America’s favorite “health food” is anything but”).*So if you missed it, I urge you to go back and read that article now. But in the meantime, it’s worth repeating a few main points:

  • Any potential soy had as a health food pretty much went out the window once Monsanto co-opted the crop back in the mid-90s. More than 90 percent of soybeans in this country are now genetically modified to be “Roundup Ready.” Which means that they’re soaked with pesticides prior to making their way into our food supply.
  • Soy features two main phytoestrogens, genistein and daidzein. In excessive amounts, their estrogenic effects could have a negative impact on men and women. And thanks to crop subsidies, the American food supply—and processed food in particular—is already completely oversaturated with soy.
  • Overall, the data supporting soy’s health benefits against heart disease and cancer is conflicted, potentially biased, and underwhelming at best.

If you’re looking for quality nutrition, you’re barking up the wrong tree with soy. While organic, GMO-free forms of the stuff won’t necessarily kill you in small amounts, I simply can’t recommend soy as dietary staple—with one exception.

Japanese soy dishes like miso and natto are true health foods with well-documented benefits. They’re non-GMO (Japan won’t even let our soy crop into their country). And they’re fermented properly. So if you’re going to eat soy at all, do yourself a favor and stick with these choices.