Over the past 15-20 years, soybeans and products have literally taken over the market, and with it our stomachs. Vegetarians are especially fond of soy. But is she all right? The authoritative American magazine “Ecologist” (The Ecologist) recently placed a very critical article about soy.
“It sounds like heresy in our world stuffed with soy,” writes The Ecologist, “but we still argue that you can have a healthy diet without any soy. However, given the extent to which soy has become part of our diet, it will take a Herculean effort to eliminate it from it.”
On the other hand, Asian portal Asia One, in a selection under the promising title “Eat Right, Live Well”, through the mouth of “chief nutritionist” Sherlyn Quek (Sherlyn Quek), praises soy as a “food luminary”; according to Madame Kiek, soy can not only provide tasty and healthy food, but also “prevent breast cancer”, though with a caveat: if it is included in the diet from a young age.
Our article talks about soy and raises two questions for the reader at once: how useful (or harmful) is soy and how useful (or harmful) is its genetic modification.?
The word “soy” today seems to be heard by one in three. And soy often appears before the layman in a very different light – from an excellent protein substitute in “meat” semi-finished products and a means to maintain female beauty and health to an insidious genetically modified product that is harmful to everyone, especially to the male part of the planet, although sometimes for female.
What is the reason for such a scatter in the characteristics of the properties of a far from the most exotic plant? Let’s try to figure it out.
To begin with, a few words should be said about what soy is in its original form. First of all, soy is not a weight loss product, cheap dumplings or a milk substitute, but the most common beans, whose homeland is East Asia. They have been grown here for several millennia, but beans “reached” Europe only by the end of the XNUMXth – beginning of the XNUMXth century. With a slight delay, following Europe, soybeans were sown in America and Russia. It didn’t take long for soybeans to be easily introduced into mass production.
And this is not surprising: soybeans are a highly protein-rich plant food. Many food products are produced from soy, it is widely used for protein enrichment of various dishes. A popular product in Japan called “tofu” is nothing more than bean curd, which in turn is made from soy milk. Tofu has been shown to have a number of health benefits, including lowering blood cholesterol levels and preventing osteoporosis. Tofu also protects the body from dioxin and therefore reduces the risk of cancer. And this is just one example of the properties of a soy product.
It can be concluded that soy, from which tofu is made, also has all of the above qualities. Indeed, according to current opinion, soy contains a number of substances that have a beneficial effect on human health: isoflavones, genistin, phytic acids, soy lecithin. Isoflavones can be described as a natural antioxidant, which, according to doctors, increases bone strength, has a positive effect on women’s health. Isoflavones act like natural estrogens and relieve discomfort during menopause.
Genistin is a substance that can stop the development of cancer in the early stages, and phytic acids, in turn, inhibit the growth of cancerous tumors.
Soy lecithin has an extremely beneficial effect on the body as a whole. The arguments in favor of soy are supported by a weighty argument: for many years soy has been an integral part of the children’s and adult diet of the population of the Land of the Rising Sun, and seemingly without any harmful side effects. On the contrary, the Japanese seem to demonstrate good health indicators. But not only in Japan regularly consume soy, it is also China and Korea. In all these countries, soy has a thousand-year history.
However, oddly enough, there is a completely different point of view regarding soy, also supported by research. According to this point of view, a number of substances in soy, including the above isoflavonoids, as well as phytic acids and soy lecithin, cause significant harm to human health. To understand this issue, you should look at the arguments of the opponents of soy.
According to the contra camp, isoflavones have a negative effect on human reproductive function. It is quite common practice – feeding infants instead of regular baby food with a soy analogue (due to allergic reactions) – leads to the fact that isoflavonoids equivalent to five birth control pills enter the child’s body daily. As for phytic acids, such substances are found in almost all types of legumes. In soy, the level of this substance is somewhat overestimated compared to other plants of the family.
Phytic acids, as well as a number of other substances in soy (soy lecithin, genistin), block the process of entering the body of useful substances, in particular magnesia, calcium, iron and zincwhich can eventually lead to osteoporosis. In Asia, the birthplace of soybeans, osteoporosis is prevented by eating, along with the unfortunate beans, a large amount of seafood and broths. But more seriously, “soy toxins” can directly affect the internal organs and cells of the human body, destroying and changing them.
However, other facts are more plausible and interesting. In Asia, soy is not consumed as widely as it might seem. According to historical documents, soybeans were widely used as food in Asian countries, mainly by poor people. At the same time, the process of preparing soybeans was quite complicated and included an extremely long fermentation and subsequent long-term cooking. This cooking process through “traditional fermentation” made it possible to neutralize the very toxins mentioned above.
Vegetarians in the US and Europe, without thinking about the consequences, consume about 200 grams of tofu and several glasses of soy milk 2-3 times a week, which actually exceeds the consumption of soy in Asian countries, where it is consumed in small quantities and not as a staple food, but as a food additive or condiment.
Even if we discard all these facts and imagine that soy does not cause any harm to the body, there is another factor that is very difficult to deny: almost all soy products today are made from genetically modified soybeans. If today every third person has heard about soybeans, then probably every second person has heard about genetically modified foods and organisms.
In general terms, transgenic or genetically modified (GM) foods are foods derived predominantly from plants that have been introduced into the DNA of some particular gene not naturally given to that plant. This is done, for example, so that cows give fatter milk, and plants become resistant to herbicides and insects. This is what happened with soy. In 1995, the US firm Monsanto launched a GM soybean that was resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, which is used to control weeds. The new soybean was to the taste: today more than 90% of crops are transgenic.
In Russia, as in most countries, the sowing of GM soybeans is prohibited, however, as, again, in most countries of the world, it can be freely imported. Most inexpensive convenience foods in supermarkets, from mouth-watering-looking instant burgers to sometimes baby food, contain GM soy. According to the rules, it is mandatory to indicate on the packaging whether the product contains transgenes or not. Now it is becoming especially fashionable among manufacturers: products are full of inscriptions “Do not contain GMOs” (genetically modified objects).
Of course, the same soy meat is cheaper than its natural counterpart, and for a zealous vegetarian it’s generally a gift, but the presence of GMOs in products is by no means welcome – it’s not in vain that denial or silence about the presence of transgenes in a particular product is punishable by law. As for soy, the Russian National Association for Genetic Safety conducted studies, the results of which showed a clear connection between the intake of GM soy by living beings and the health of their offspring. The offspring of rats fed with transgenic soy had a high mortality rate, as well as being too underweight and debilitated. In a word, the prospect is also not very bright.
Speaking of material benefits, it should be said that most soybean producers, and mainly GM soybean producers, position it as an extremely healthy product, in extreme cases – not at all harmful. It is obvious that, be that as it may, such a large-scale production brings a good income.
To eat or not to eat soy – everyone decides for himself. Soy, no doubt, contains a number of positive properties, but the negative aspects, unfortunately, rather overlap these qualities. It seems that the warring parties can endlessly cite all sorts of pros and cons, but one should rely on facts.
Soybeans in their original form are not suitable for human consumption. This allows us to draw a (perhaps somewhat bold) conclusion that this plant was not conceived by nature for human consumption. Soybeans require special processing, which eventually turns them into food.
Another fact: soybeans contain a number of toxins. The processing of soybean used to be very different from what is used today. The so-called traditional sourdough was not only a much more complex process, but also neutralized the toxins contained in the soy. Finally, the last fact, which cannot be denied: more than 90% of soy products today are made from genetically modified soybeans. This should not be forgotten when using soy products in the diet or choosing in the next supermarket between a natural product and its often cheaper soy counterpart. After all, the obvious golden rule of healthy eating is to eat as much natural, unprocessed food as possible.
Sources: SoyOnline GM Soy Debate