Sometime during my first in college, I decided to become a vegetarian. I can’t remember all the reasons why I made that move, but I do remember it was a bit challenging. At the time, one of my favorite go-to dinners was a shaved ham and cheese sandwich broiled on an brioche bun that I used to get from a local bakery … and, I remember having to work really hard to give that one up.
When I was making the transition to a non-meat eating diet, one food that I frequently used as a meat substitute was tofu; tofu burgers, tofu dogs, TVP, tofu with salads, etc. Then when I started to cut back on dairy, I started substituting soy milk, soy ice cream, soy butter, soy yogurt etc.
I was eating a lot of soy…for a lot of years.
I was feeling like I was doing everything ‘right’ to stay healthy.
Then one day I went to the doctor.
Routine physical. No symptoms, no problems, no issues. Just routine.
Then next day I was told I had thyroid cancer.
Then I started to learn about the downside of soy.
Then I started to question the health benefits of soy.
Now, I have a different opinion.
Here are my top 5 reasons why I no longer include soy in my diet.
1) Soy has changed, dramatically, in the past 20 years. And, in my opinion, not for the better. Over half the world’s soybean crop is now genetically modified (meaning altered from the way mother nature intended, and sprayed heavily with pesticides). The first GM soybeans were planted in the U.S. in 1996 (that’s when I was 36 years old). Now, the U.S. produces almost exclusively GM soybeans (over 90%). The U.S. is also the leading soybean producer in the world. Why does that matter? Because I no longer know what exactly I’m eating when I eat a soybean in any form (edamame, soybean oil, tofu, tempeh, soy milk) – and that in and of itself, is enough for me to say, no thank you.
2) Soy is a precursor for thyroid issues. Didn’t know this until I started looking into the food/health connection more deeply. And just to know, not everyone agrees with me on this one. But here’s what I know for sure. Personally, I was eating a lot of soy, for a lot of years and one day I discovered I thyroid cancer. Today, lots of people have been eating a lot of soy for a lot of years (unbeknownst to them) and thyroid issues are at an epidemic level in this country, especially for those of us in midlife +.
3) Soy is an ingredient that is practically every processed food on the grocery store shelves today. Soy is a highly profitable agribusiness. And most of us are eating a lot more soy than we may recognize. For anyone claiming, they don’t eat processed foods, I always say “if you have ketchup in your refrigerator, you’re eating processed foods”. And for anyone who thinks giving up soy is all the more reason to justify meat (and I’m not opposed to meat), I say “tell me what those animals are eating (the animals that you’re eating) and I guarantee you, somewhere you’ll find soy”.
4) Soy was never meant to be an entrée. Lots of times when I talk about soy the first question that I get is, ‘what about the Japanese, they have been eating soy forever’? This is my take on that. If you go to Japan, true you may see a fair amount of tofu, miso soup, or tempeh options on the menu, but what you don’t see are soy dogs, soy burgers, soy ice cream, soy yogurt, soy crackers, soy cereals etc. I’m the first to acknowledge that while small amounts may be fine, I’m also quite sure eating it (or anything for that matter) 24/7 is not a good thing.
5) Soy is highly processed. If you ever have looked at a soybean (edamame) and wondered how that small tasty bean gets turned into a block of tasteless blob, you’re not alone! I’ve often wondered that myself, even when I was eating it. I’ve still never seen a video on the topic, but my general philosophy around eating a healthy diet now is this, eat as close to the original source as possible, as fresh and in season as possible, as local as possible, as much of the time as possible. And then let go of worrying about everything else.