Good Soy-Bad Soy

soybeanHaving spent many years as a researcher, I feel that it’s wise to look objectively at both sides of every controversy before drawing a conclusion.  I have to admit that I can’t read a claim without checking out the facts–I think it’s in my DNA.

If soy wasn’t so important to people, then we wouldn’t be hearing so much about it.  While there’s been a lot of controversy over the years, we’ve seen a shift recently in the mainstream science community where authorities are now  “debunking the soy myth” and differentiating between good soy vs. bad soy.  The consensus seems to be that not all soy is created equal.

Now I don’t know about you, but when I hear negative things that scare me, I will usually avoid it altogether.   Fear is a POWERFUL motivator and I’m not much of a risk taker when it comes to my health or the health of my family.   I have to admit that I’ve been intrigued by the whole soy controversy and have been interested to separate fact from fiction.  So let’s dig into this issue.

Science is a constantly changing field and many health professionals are still citing dated text book nutrition. We’ve probably seen that in the nutrition field more than other area of science because many of the standards and charts provided by the government for nutrient recommendations are very old.  I’m constantly hearing frustrated doctors who are on the cutting edge of their area of expertise say that their peers are often their biggest problem.  Maybe they don’t have the time or energy to keep up with the latest science outside their own area of expertise, yet we still expect them to know all things.  Each well-meaning, but inaccurate answer just contributes to the mass of confusion about a subject (like soy).

We’ve been reading the negative press about soy circulating on the internet for years, so I wanted to hear what some of the most respected medical doctors who have expertise in nutrition have to say about this subject now. These include Dr. Andrew Weil, Dr. Mark Hyman, Dr. Joel Furman and others who all have been a part of the recent effort to debunk the soy myth.  I’ve included comments from some of these doctors that appear to represent the current general consensus within the science community.  Perhaps even more important is to hear from the scientists who study soy, so I’ve posted two letters from one of the leading scientists in the field of soy research below.

Joel Fuhrman, MD states, “Despite the abundance of scientific evidence demonstrating the benefits of whole soy foods, many people have been scared off from healthful foods like edamame by the anti-soy propaganda (lacking responsible scientific integrity) that continues to float around the internet.”

He recommends steering clear of genetically modified soy as well as processed soy products.

Dr. Furman goes on to say, “Research has shown overwhelmingly that whole and minimally processed soy foods (such as edamame, tofu and tempeh) provide meaningful health benefits. The presence of isoflavones, a class of phytoestrogen, has sparked much of the controversy around soy. There were concerns that these plant estrogens could potentially promote hormonal cancers, such as breast and prostate cancers; however, those fears were unfounded. I have previously discussed the large body of evidence that convincingly suggests that whole and minimally processed soy foods protect against breast cancer. In addition, a 2009 meta-analysis of studies on soy and prostate cancer found that higher soy intake was associated with a 26% reduction in risk. In addition, it appears that isoflavones have a number of anti-cancer effects that are unrelated to their ability to bind the estrogen receptor. Accordingly, soy foods are not only associated with decreased risk of hormonal cancers, but also lung, stomach, and colorectal cancers.

Soy is not a magic pill or a poison; it is simply a bean.

One can’t argue with the data — the associations between minimally processed soy intake and reduced risk of cancers has been reported over and over again. There is no real controversy here. However, one still should not eat lots of soy products, to the exclusion of other valuable foods. Variety is crucial for obtaining diversity in protective phytochemicals, and a variety of beans are health promoting, along with many other foods. So use good judgment, avoid processed foods, GMO foods and eat a variety of whole natural plant foods including beans such as black beans, chickpeas, lentils and enjoy some edamame, tofu and tempeh as well.”

From a Leading Scientist in Soy Research

Dr. Mark Messina, PhD is an acknowledged leader in soy research.  He has made studying the health affects of soy his focus for over 20 years and has published more than 60 scientific papers and given more than 500 presentations on soy foods to health professionals around the world.

Dr. Messina recently produced a two-part summary update on soy (in response to Shaklee Corporation’s request) summarizing the latest science on the health benefits of soy consumption. It covered a wide range of topics such as how a daily moderate intake of soy can promote heart health and bone health, potentially alleviate certain menopause symptoms and possibly even help keep skin looking beautiful.
Part 1:
According to Dr. Messina’s careful review, many of these studies incorrectly link soy to adverse effects. So let’s look at the facts about the so called “anti-nutrients” in soy, how soy really affects the thyroid, breast health, and brain function and the real differences between unfermented and fermented soy. Dr. Messina’s detailed investigation also includes reference citations of published scientific research studies he analyzed to reach his conclusions.
Part 2:

Choose Soy Protein Powder Wisely

When it comes to choosing soy protein powder, experts warn us to be careful since many companies use genetically modified soy beans, which they DO NOT recommend.  I noticed that some companies are saying all the right buzz words to market their products, but hopefully that’s not enough for the intelligent consumer.

So let’s start with the label.  Do you see things like sucralose or other artificial or questionable ingredients?  If so, then that’s a pretty good reason for concern.  So what if a label looks good, at least we think it looks good, because most of us are not experts in chemistry, right?  How do we know that what’s listed on the label is really in the product since there’s no government agency going around verifying this?  It’s hard to trust a company’s label when you hear about studies done that have exposed so much dishonesty with labeling, but at least you can narrow down the companies who appear to have a good product.

Another logical step may be to look into the company’s philosophy and practices.  Do they walk the talk?  Have they produced fad products or had a product recall?  How much to they spend on research? Is it done through independent credible third parties?  What are their quality control standards for manufacturing?  Where do they get their raw ingredients and do they test them to be sure they are what they say there are?  Whoa!  My head is spinning and my list is getting a little long here…must be the auditor in me!  This is a lot of work to go through for a supplement, right?  It is, but consider what you are investing in.  Good nutrition could dramatically change the quality of your life and may even add some years to your life and the lives of those you are making those choices for.  So doesn’t this investment deserve some due diligence on our part?

Since we’re talking about soy protein, I’d like to share something that has helped me determine the quality of a soy protein product.  I received this from a trusted, brilliant scientist & biochemist with over 38 years of clinical experience in nutrition.  I hope you find it to be helpful too.

Essential Seven Checklists for a Quality Soy Product:

1) Were the soybeans ORGANICALLY GROWN?

Studies have shown decreased levels of food nutrients and increased levels of nitrates in chemically fertilized crops, when compared with their organic counterparts. There is a connection between the ingestion of nitrates & CANCER! Therefore, it is important to know that pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides have not been used during the growing process. In particular, with soybeans, since they are such a hardy plant, a powerful and DEADLY weed spray called Round up is usually used. For your safety, you must know that your soy products are organically grown.

2) Were the soybeans GENETICALLY ENGINEERED?

Genetically engineered soybeans are much cheaper to purchase, and most companies producing soy products look for ways to save money.

3) Does your soybean powder contain ALL of the nine essential amino acids?

One of the most valuable features of the soybean is that it is a complete protein and provides ALL nine of the essential amino acids. The body requires these daily to produce hormones, digestive juices, antibodies, and enzymes. HOWEVER, not all soybeans are created equal. Quality and amino acid content will vary based on soil conditions, and variable growing and harvest conditions. If one essential amino acid is missing, the immune system can be depressed 30%, and many important body functions are delayed or stopped. Therefore, it is essential that each batch of soybeans be checked for amino acid content if we want to depend on the soy isolate to provide a GUARANTEED supply of the nine essential amino acids.

4) Were the crushed soy flakes washed in alcohol or water?

Alcohol washing destroys isoflavones content up to 88%! It is the isoflavones that reduce the risk of breast, prostate, lung and bowel cancer! As well, it is the isoflavones that are so beneficial in hormone balancing and increasing bone mass.

5) Was the “anti-thyroid”, “anti-growth” substance in the raw soy removed?

Asians, who have consumed large amounts of soy for years, have known that RAW soy contains an “anti-growth”, “anti-tyrosine” substance. Tyrosine deficiency will cause low blood pressure, low body temperature, and restless leg syndrome. Therefore, Asians always lightly cook their soy foods to deactivate the “anti-tyrosine/anti-growth” substance.

6) Is your soybean food RAW or heated?

Amino acids are very sensitive to heat. In some studies, cooking protein has been shown to destroy up to 50% of some ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS. If an individual consistently consumes a diet that is lacking in all of the essential amino acids, inadequate brain development and hormones, or other body tissue development can be the result.

7) Has CALCIUM been added to your soy powder?

Some negative reports about soy say that soy powders are VERY ACIDIC and cause bone loss because it causes calcium to be drawn from the bones!!!! The raw soy bean is a NEUTRAL food–neither acidic or alkaline. However, the removal of the soybean oil (which is essential so the soy powder will not go rancid very quickly), makes the powder very acidic. Therefore, adequate calcium (which is very alkaline) must be added to cause the powder to be neutral again, or it can cause the above stated problem. Many protein powder manufacturers do not add any or enough calcium.

(Source:  Dr. Richard Brouse)

I thought about stopping here, but many of you have asked me what I use and recommend to my friends, family and clients.

My Favorite Protein

If you know me or have been on my website, you know that I trust Shaklee nutrition.  I’ve actually been to their manufacturing facilities and talked with their scientists.  I know what they do to ensure that their products are safe and effective and it’s impressive.  Shaklee goes beyond organic–they don’t just accept something that is “certified organic”.  They perform over 350 different tests on every raw ingredient to ensure that nothing came along for the ride and they’ve actually found problems with some “certified organic” ingredients.  That’s just the first part.  When they create a product, it’s always based on strong scientific research and if safety is questionable, they will not do it.

Next they test the product to be sure it does what it’s intended to do.  If it doesn’t work, they go back to work until they get it right.  Of course this is all simplified–it’s much more complex.  These products are tested through independent 3rd party research facilities like Harvard, Yale, UC Berkeley, etc. and the results are published in major peer-reviewed journals, something very rare in this industry.  Shaklee has invested over $300 million in research and development, more than the next 6 largest companies combined, and with these standards, it’s no wonder they’ve never had even one product recall in their entire 57+ year history!  Because of this level of integrity, Shaklee has been the choice of so many elite athletes, NASA, the U.S. Ski Team and 7 of Time Life’s 25 Greatest Adventures of All Time.

Shaklee uses only non-GMO protein that meets ALL of the criteria listed above.

They have designed an extracting process that removes the “anti-tyrosine” substance, yet keeps the soy in a raw form in order to maintain the HIGHEST LEVEL OF AMINO ACIDS and ISOFLAVONES, which are very sensitive to heat.

Dr. Shaklee created the FIRST plant-based protein and from the very beginning chose soy because of the benefits, but he made sure it was done RIGHT, from the start.  It was in more recent years that we’ve seen soy become so altered.

Protein powder is important to many athletes today, so we see a lot of marketing to athletes (and LOTS of hype). Many companies will pay professional athletes well to promote their product, which is emotionally compelling to consumers.  It’s been unfortunate to see that several Olympic athletes have been stripped of medals because of positive drug testing, only to find there were no drugs involved.  Instead, the products they used were found to contain high levels of mercury or other heavy metals that built up in their bodies because of the proteins they were using.  One famous case was with Jessica Harding who was banned from competing in the Olympics due to positive drug testing. This turned out to be due to a tainted product she was using from a well-known company who pays professional athletes to endorse their products.

Shaklee does not pay athletes to endorse their products.  Athletes using Shaklee products made the choice to use them and they have collectively won over 100 Olympic medals!  Eli Bremer, and Olympic Pentathlete is now the team captain for the Pure Performance Teama growing body of Olympic athletes that will ONLY trust Shaklee.

 At the End of the Day, the Real Proof is in our Health

Shaklee protein was a large part of my daily regiment that  helped me recover from chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia and many other health problems.  I’m thankful for the Shaklee 180 protein which helped me restore my metabolism after 3 children!  My entire family has been using Shaklee protein for a good part of their lives and they will tell you that they can’t live without it!  I personally know hundreds of people who have had almost miraculous health improvements using Shaklee protein (and other Shaklee supplements).

If you’re interested, you can check the Shaklee protein options out here (100% guaranteed):

Integrity is everything when it comes to our health choices .  I will always look beyond the claims made to see the real science behind a product.  This is especially important in light of all the politics and billions of dollars spent trying to get us all to buy into someone else’s agenda.

So, if you are finding your way on your own health journey and have felt lost in the “research”, know that everyone has to come to their own personal conclusion based on the data they have in front of them.  I hope this information has been helpful & wish you the best of health!






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  1. Great Stuff! So Proud Of You SiS! :)

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