Soy is easily one of the most controversial health foods in the world. It’s cheap, fast-growing, high in protein, and over the last 20 years here in the U.S. we’ve gone gang-busters with the plant, adding it as an ingredient to nearly every processed food, condiment and dairy replacement out there.

Asian cultures have been eating it for eons in the forms of fermented tofu, sauces, and miso – not as the processed milks and soy-based derivatives we’re consuming now. Most of the products we’ve become accustomed to on the grocery store shelves are a far cry from the food’s traditionally fermented uses in Asian cuisine.

In its raw state, soy is actually difficult to digest and contains “anti-nutrients”. Like most other legumes, soy needs to be fermented or cooked using specific methods to unlock it’s beneficial nutritional qualities. When overly consumed, soy can also potentially create undesirable imbalances in the body you may want to avoid. Let’s take a quick look at soy’s upside, downside and how to shop and eat it correctly…

4 things to consider about soy: 

High Estrogen:

Soy contains plant estrogens in the form of isoflavones, which can be especially problematic in processed soy isolates hidden in many food products. Some serving sizes of soy protein powder for example contain the equivalent estrogen dosage as a birth control pill.

These plant estrogens are endocrine disruptors and may cause menstrual irregularities, fertility issues, increase breast tissue growth in women, men and children, lead to lower libido in men, fat accumulation around the waistline, and put one at a higher risk for breast cancer.

The estrogen content of soy is especially problematic for children, considering it is commonly found in infant formula and many other processed foods and snacks meant for children.


Soy is extremely hard to digest. Like other legumes, it contains anti-nutrients in the form of lectins and phytates (help the plant to ward off insects and pests). Even when cooked, soy’s anti-nutrient content remains high.

In moderation, phytates have been shown to have some benefit to our health. But when consumed regularly, these phytates can bind to minerals like calcium, zinc and magnesium (both of which we are often deficient in) and may block nutrient absorption of other minerals and nutrients, leading to malnutrition and other nutrient deficiency related issues.

thyroid health:

Soy contains goitrogens, compounds that inhibit the thyroid’s ability to utilize iodine correctly leading to low thyroid function (hypothyroidism) and slow metabolism.

Processing + GMOs:

Soy is hidden in nearly all foods from sweet to savory foods in the forms of processed soy isolate protein powder and refined oil. Too much soy can potentially lead to imbalance, so read those food labels.

In addition, approximately 90% of the soy grown in the US is genetically modified and sprayed with chemicals. Unfortunately only time will tell how GMO’s and pesticides truly affect our health on a cellular level.

4 healthier ways to consume soy:


This salty fermented paste has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese, Japanese and Korean cuisine. Miso contains a plethora of probiotic and micro-organism content, making it wonderful for both digestion and overall gut health. It also has the ability to breakdown two of soy’s isoflavones, daidzein and genistein.

Aged Tofu:

Tofu is made by curdling soy milk. It’s proteins coagulate creating a sliceable cake-like and mild meat substitute. Little tofu that is sold in the US is fermented, but it is possible to source tofu that has been made through fermentation, also called bean curd, making it far more digestible and nutritious.


Natto is simply, fermented soybeans. The beneficial bacteria, Bacillus is added to the soybeans and the fermentation produces a very unique cheesy, umami flavor and slimy texture that some consider a delicacy.

In addition to reducing the phytate content of soy and increasing its digestibility, natto is also the richest source of K2, which promotes blood coagulation, may help to deposit calcium to bones and teeth, and reduces inflammation.

*Those with heart disease should consult their doctors before consuming natto.

Tamari and Soy Sauce:

Tamari and soy sauce are both very similar but the main difference between the two is tamari is usually made without wheat. Made with naturally occurring yeasts, bacteria and koji spores, the fermentation process breaks down the soy into sugar, alcohol and amino acids, making it more digestible.

The Chalkboard Mag and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease. All material on The Chalkboard Mag is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health program. 

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