Thursday, July 18, 2013

Confused About Soy? Me too.

Recently I've started getting pretty intense with my interest in nutrition. I've been reading different books on it for the past few months, and I'm starting a master's in September. I've always been interested in it, but, until recently, I never actively sought to learn about the peer-reviewed research and actual biochemical processes that occur after each bite of broccoli.

Now that I've finished a few books, I look back at my food diary from even just three months ago and scoff at the choices I made. Seriously? Frosted Mini-wheats? Just no.

I started devoting more of my income to food, and less of it to online shopping. [Amazon, it's okay if we still see each other for things I need, but gourmet chocolate-covered goji berries just aren't happening anymore. It's a toxic relationship.] Right now I'm spending about 1/4 of my income on groceries. I try and vary the produce I buy, and keep processed ingredients to a bare minimum.

Now that my food-habit background is laid, here's something I'm really still confused about: where does soy fit into a healthful life? Let me start by telling you my past relationship with soy.

1. Soy milk makes my mouth and throat itchy when I drink it.

2. I was a vegetarian for 6 years during my youth, and I never really ate soy except in processed "meat" products.

3. Soy is in every processed packaged product sold in an American grocery store.

That's about it. So I really just avoided it when I stopped being a vegetarian because I knew it made me uncomfortable (similar to the feeling I get when I eat foods farmed using certain pesticides).

In the past four months I've had an extreme outbreak of acne: I was initially blaming it on estrogen dominance, although I'm now thinking it was the birth control I was taking. When researching a ton about estrogen dominance and how dietary estrogens can influence the body, I discovered that soy is high in natural estrogens. I decided to really be aware of soy in my diet as to minimize my interaction with excess foreign estrogens. Recently I've been looking into a vegan diet, and I have reconsidered the effects of soy. After researching a vegan diet and lifestyle, I came across evidence of toxicity in soy when not fermented. There are conflicting thoughts on this, too, and then I got into the reasons why ALL raw vegetables were unhealthy.

At this point I'm retreating back into my hole of security, eating everything in moderation (except any processed crapola).  Is soy as bad as everyone says it is? Do dietary estrogens really make any difference in your body's natural hormone balance? Are fermented sources of soy "better" for you and less "toxic"? Soy is a bean, so I would imagine it was eaten raw in the beginning of our food relationship with it. Have we evolved away from being able to consume it and certain other foods raw? Those theories sound like the lactase theories about digesting casein, which I've found to be confusing as well.

The book "The China Study", while informative (and repetitive...) has left me cold on the theories proposed in other nutrition books I've read. I feel like each time I read a book written by reputable scientists, I'm left with a different mindset for eating.

Don't even get me started on coconut oil.

So, basically, this is me reaching out to anyone else who has come across this same confusion, compiled sources, and made a decision on their view of consumption of different soy products. I'm going to do this (eventually), but this is just the statement of my intentions, and a call to any other who have resolved their feelings on the issue.

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