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December 12, 2010 at 1:00 PMComments: 2 Faves: 0

Vegetarianism: Dangers of Overdoing Soy

By Helen More Blogs by This Author

Vegetarians must often walk a thin line when it comes to nutrition. Some foodstuffs have an abundance of vitamins and some foodstuffs have very little. Also, foods that may be good for you in small doses may be bad for you in large doses. In order to get enough nutrition and not allow too much of a good food to bring on a bad reaction, vegetarians must be aware of what they're putting into their mouths and how much of each item. Soy is one vegetarian product that should be monitored.

Since soy has been used as a culinary product in Asian countries since time unknown, it's safe to say that soy, in small doses is acceptable. But when vegetarians turn to soy in large amounts problems can arise.

Roundup Ready Soy

First of all, most soy today is genetically modified. Genetically modified (GM) means man has manipulated the nucleus of the seed to make it compatible with Roundup, a chemical sprayed in crop fields to kill weeds. Because the product is not damaged by Roundup, large doses of Roundup are often used on soy bean fields, which means Roundup residue often ends up on your plate. To compound matters, when GM crops are presented to the public, as long as the vegetable looks the same as the original crop, the company that grew the vegetable does not have to label it as a GM product.

Since about 90 percent of the soy in the United States is now Roundup ready, unless a customer is purchasing organic soy he or she will be ingesting GM soy. Current tests show that Roundup causes liver and kidney problems in rats and birth defects in amphibians. Further testing has shown that infants born near GM soy bean fields have a higher incident of certain birth defects and children fed soymilk products in the first year of their life have lower bone density. While further testing is needed, consumers should take precautions until conclusive information is available.

The Disadvantages of Soy

Soy is filled with phytoestrogen, which is a form of plant estrogen, similar to a woman's own estrogen, and because some tumors in breast cancer grew more rapidly when exposed to estrogen there is a chance that even the mild estrogen soy adds to a daily diet may be a precursor to breast cancer. Soy has also been linked to male infertility.

Soy is one of the foods that are called goitrogens. Goitrogens are foods that can promote goiter formation or an enlarged thyroid. Soy can slow down thyroid function and also help promote thyroid disease in individuals who are already prone to developing this type of disease.

Another concern is that soy can inhibit iron absorption. This should be well noted by vegetarians and vegans. Because people that eat no meat or animal products significantly reduce their iron intake, they need to be sure not to inhibit the absorptions of the iron they do eat.

Bottom Line?

Rather than making soy products their only source of protein, vegetarians should incorporate eggs, nuts, beans, spinach, and oatmeal into their diet. Additionally, it helps to pair some sort of vitamin C with iron, as it encourages iron absorption.


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  • Eek! This is scary stuff, but it's great information to know. Is there any way to tell the difference between GM and non-GM soy products? Should I just look for items that specifically state that they're non-GM?

    All I know is, I'm glad I've made the switch from soy milk to almond milk!

  • Hi Laura,

    The only way to easily know if the product contains GM ingredients or not is to purchase USDA Certified Organic as this label will not allow for genetically modified foodstuffs. One more reason to go organic when you can :)

    - Jessica

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