Most of what I have come to believe about diet is based on my own experience of different foods as well as scientific research. I have tried many different kinds of diets and have experienced varied results with each. With some diets, my digestive problems worsened while I gained extra weight. With others, I felt more energized, my digestive system seemed to work more optimally and I lost weight.
I am a firm believer that each person’s body is different and that each person has to find for themselves what kind of diet works for them. It is through paying attention to our bodies signals and reactions that we come to know what kind of diet most suits us.
However, one food that I have come to believe is not beneficial for most people is nonfermented soy. This may be off the beaten path of what we are used to seeing in health food stores: soy cheese and milk, tofu, soy sauce, soy protein powder, baby formula and even soy cream cheese are all products we are familiar with. (The use of fermented soy products such as miso, natto, and tempeh can be beneficial and healthy.)
When I first became a vegetarian and eventually a vegan (except for eggs), eating tofu and drinking soy milk seemed like the natural alternatives to eating meat and drinking milk. However, I ended up gaining about 25-30 pounds from my original weight and I also remember continuing to have digestive problems during this time. It wasn’t until I actually began eating meat again, about nine or ten years later, that I started to shed pounds and keep them off. I also had more energy than I remembered having in a long time.
There are a few major problems with soy as a food unless it has been fermented:
- Soy is one of the top main food allergens along with dairy products. Because of this, it doesn’t make a great alternative for people who are already allergic or sensitive to dairy products because they may end up developing an allergy to soy by eating it too often.
- Soy is hard to digest because it “is high in phytate content and contains potent enzyme inhibitors that are only deactivated by fermentation and not by ordinary cooking. These inhibitors can lead to protein assimilation problems in those who consume unfermented soy products frequently… Those who wish to eat tofu would be wise to imitate the Japanese who eat small amounts of tofu in fish broth and not as a substitute for animal foods” (Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon).
- In addition to being hard to digest, “92 percent of soybeans planted in 2008 were GE” (genetically modified) (Sustainable Food News, 7/8/08). Furtermore, the last time I checked, the United States was not required to lable foods that are GE.
The following is a video by Dr. Mercola of Mercola.com who gives a very good rundown of these and other reasons why unfermented soy products should be avoided.