Is Soy Milk Really Healthy?

Is soy milk really healthy?  No...

A relative of mine recently admitted he had jumped on the soy bandwagon and was kicking off his day with a piping hot soy latte.  I nearly fell off my chair.  

To be fair, there is a lot of controversy around soy, and whether or not it is healthy. There’s not enough education about the health benefits and consequences of soy products, especially for parents and childcare workers.

What's the story with soy?

The soybean (Glycine max) is a type of legume and there are two main types of soy products - fermented and unfermented.  

1.  Fermented soy products use the whole soybean and are therefore wholefoods, offering health-promoting properties, including:

  • High concentrations of prebiotics and probiotics, which recolonise good gut bacteria and modulate your immune system  

  • Lower cholesterol

  • Prevention of osteoporosis

  • Support for women going through menopause, as this a time when oestrogen levels drop, but soy mimics the role of oestrogen in the body, which protects women’s bone health & cardiovascular health.

During the fermentation process soybeans are broken down, making them more digestible and neutralising the toxic ingredients.  Examples of fermented soy products are soy sauce, miso soup, tempeh, tamari and

2.  Unfermented soy products don’t include the whole bean; they’re usually genetically modified and sprayed with toxic herbicides, often referred to as soy derivatives.  Examples of unfermented soy products are soymilk, infant soy formula, tofu, and soy meat alternatives – veggie soy burgers and soy sausages. 

In a nutshell, fermented soy products have health benefits, whilst unfermented soy products don’t; they are quite the opposite.

Dangers of soy

With an increase in diagnosed and undiagnosed milk intolerances and allergies, childcare centres and parents often give infants and children soy milk as a ‘healthy alternative’.  A lot of adults are also reaching for it in an attempt to reduce their dairy intake.   According to Weston A. Price Foundation, toxicologists estimate that an infant exclusively fed soy formula receives the oestrogenic equivalent of at least five birth control pills per day.  

Soy milk contains isoflavones, which are phytoestrogens – compounds that mimic oestrogen in the bodyThis can cause oestrogen-overload, contributing to numerous hormone imbalances, fertility issues and increased risk of cancer.   As far as I am concerned soymilk is 100% dangerous to everyone – men and women, but especially children and women with oestrogen positive breast cancers.

Facts on soy milk: 

  • It contains high levels of phytic acid, which blocks the absorption of key nutrients including magnesium, calcium, copper, iron and zinc in the intestinal tract

  • It contributes to nutritional deficiencies and causes an increased need for Vitamin D and Vitamin B12

  • It contributes to immune dysfunction, such as asthma, hay fever and autoimmune conditions

  • It contains high levels of heavy metals, including aluminium, that are dangerous to the nervous system, liver and kidneys

Oestrogen-overload

Unfermented soy products contribute to an oestrogen-dominance, one of the most common conditions I see in clinic that relates to hormone dysfunction.  Oestrogen overload, in which oestrogen is in excess to progesterone, contributes to young girls hitting puberty early, weight-gain, bloating, thyroid dysfunction, hormonal imbalances, fertility issues, low sperm count, immune dysfunction, auto-immune conditions and chronic diseases.  

High oestrogen levels can cause low progesterone levels.  Progesterone regulates women’s menstrual cycle as well as supporting immunity, reducing inflammation, keeping bones strong, maintaining healthy blood clotting, and is often called the “anti-ageing” hormone.

Therefore, adding additional oestrogen to a diet in the form of unfermented soy products including soymilk is harmful & detrimental.  Even if you’ve been a soymilk convert for some time, or you’re experiencing symptoms that indicate a hormone imbalance, such as irregular cycles, fertility issues, weight gain, depression, sugar cravings or bloating, don’t panic – you can take control of your health and do something about it!

Soy milk alternatives

My top alternatives to cow and soymilk include rice milk, hazelnut milk, almond milk, oat milk and coconut milk.  Goat milk is also a good alternative to cow milk for some, as the chemical structure of it is similar to breast milk, making it easier to digest.  You can buy any of these from a local health store or health aisle in the supermarket, but make sure you get an unsweetened, and ideally an organic, variety.  My favourite brand is Pure Harvest sold in Coles and Woolies (the CoCo Quench will change your life!).  

My leaving message 

I used to be a soy milk victim too, I loved the nutty taste of it, but it’s just not worth it.  Your health, hormones and fertility are far too important.

If you want to include soy in your diet, eat it moderately (1 serve per day) and always eat the whole bean and opt for fermented products only.  You can reduce your intake of soy derivatives and isolates by reading nutrition labels to make sure soy hasn’t been added.  Look out for any word in the ingredient list that states soy, including soy protein isolate and soy protein concentrate.  

Olivia McFadyen, based in Lane Cove on Sydney's North Shore, is a qualified Naturopath, Nutritional Therapist, Herbalist and Homoeopath. Whilst Olivia is a qualified Naturopath and Nutritionist, she is also a realist and understands the demands of modern day life, offering nutrition, herbal medicine and homoeopathic consultations and support without compromising on the enjoyment food can bring. She is passionate about supporting patients to reach their lifestyle goals, optimise their health & develop a healthy yet balanced way of life through naturopathy and homoeopathy. She services her clients by consultations and offering consultations, corporate workshops and natural health programs from her clinic in Lane Cove on Sydney's Lower North Shore.