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Fermented Soy is the Only Type of  Soy with Health Benefits

Fermented Soy is the Only Type of Soy with Health Benefits

There`s only one type of soy that can be construed as a health food, and that is fermented soy. 
Examples of health-promoting fermented soy foods include: 
 Natto 
 Miso 
 Tempeh 
Natto is actually a phenomenal food. It`s a fermented soy product that can be a bit challenging to locate, but 
you can usually find it in Asian food stores. It`s very high in vitamin K2, which is a phenomenal vitamin, 
much like vitamin D. 

Together, vitamin K2 and vitamin D provide a large number of significant health benefits, such as improving 
bone density and reducing your risk of heart disease and cancer, just to name a few. 
Natto has probably the highest concentration of vitamin K2 out of any food. 

Miso and tempeh do not contain vitamin K2 but they are also fermented forms of soy that are excellent 
sources of health-promoting natural probiotics. 

The fermentation process is what makes the soy a healthy addition to your diet, as it breaks down the 
goitrogens, isoflavones and other harmful elements in the soy. 

It`s important to realize that tofu is NOT a fermented soy product, and should not be consumed if you want 
to avoid the health problems associated with non-fermented soy. 

It is also important to understand that while fermented soy is healthier for you, it is not wise to consume it in 
large quantities because it is still loaded with phytoestrogens, like isoflavones, which can cause detrimental 
feminising effects. 

What`s So Bad About Unfermented Soy? 
One of the primary reasons for avoiding soy products is because the vast majority of soy grown in the US is 
genetically modified (GM) soy. The GM variety planted in 91 percent of US soy acres is Roundup Ready 
engineered to survive being doused with otherwise lethal amounts of Monsanto`s Roundup herbicide. 
Monsanto produces both the Roundup Ready soy seeds and the herbicide Roundup. 
The logic — if you can call it that after all factors are considered — behind GM crops such as soy is that you 
can decrease the cost of production by killing off everything except the actual soy plant. 
Unfortunately, consumers pay a hefty price in terms of health instead. 

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History of the Bean

History of the Bean

Soybeans come to us from the Orient. During the Chou Dynasty (1134 – 246 BC) the soybean was designated one of the five sacred grains, along with barley, wheat, millet and rice. 

However, the pictograph for the soybean, which dates from earlier times, indicates that it was not first used as a food; for whereas the pictographs for the other four grains show the seed and stem structure of the plant, the pictograph for the soybean emphasizes the root structure. 

Agricultural literature of the period speaks frequently of the soybean and its use in crop rotation. Apparently the soy plant was initially used as a method of fixing Nitrogen. Soybean did not serve as a food until the discovery of fermentation techniques, sometime during the Chou Dynasty. Thus the first soy foods were fermented products like tempeh, natto, miso and shoyu (soy or tamari sauce). 

At a later date, possibly in the 2nd century B.C., Chinese scientists discovered that a puree of cooked soybeans could be precipitated with calcium sulfate or magnesium sulfate (plaster of Paris or Epsom salts) to make a smooth pale curd – tofu or bean curd. The use of fermented and precipitated soy products soon spread to other parts of the Orient, notably Japan and Indonesia. 

Although the highly flavoured fermented products have elicited greater interest among scientists and epicures, it is the bland precipitated products that are most frequently used, accounting for approximately 90% of the processed soybeans consumed in Asia today. The increased reliance on bean curd as a source of protein, which occurred between 700 A.D. and the present time, has not necessarily been a beneficial change for the populations of the Orient and Southeast Asia.

Fit for Human Consumption?

The Chinese did not eat the soybean as they did other pulses (legumes) such as the lentil because the soybean contains large quantities of a number of harmful substances. 

First among them are potent enzyme inhibitors which block the action of trypsin and other enzymes needed for protein digestion. These "antinutrients" are not completely deactivated during ordinary cooking and can produce serious gastric distress, reduced protein digestion and chronic deficiencies in amino acid uptake. In test animals, diets high in trypsin inhibitors cause enlargement and pathological conditions of the pancreas, including cancer. 

The soybean also contains hemaglutinin, a clot promoting substance that causes red blood cells to clump together. Trypsin inhibitors and hemaglutinin have been rightly labelled "growth depressant substances." They are deactivated during the process of fermentation. In precipitated products, enzyme inhibitors concentrate in the soaking liquid rather than in the curd. Thus in tofu and bean curd, these enzyme inhibitors are reduced in quantity, but not completely eliminated.

Soybeans are also high in phytic acid or phytates. This is an organic acid; present in the bran or hulls of all seeds, which blocks the uptake of essential minerals-calcium, magnesium, iron and especially zinc-in the intestinal tract. Although not a household word, phytates have been extensively studied. Scientists are in general agreement that grain and legume based diets high in phytates contribute to widespread mineral deficiencies in third world countries. Analysis shows that calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc are present in the plant foods eaten in these areas, but the high phytate content of soy and rice based diets prevents their absorption. The soybean has a higher phytate content than any other grain or legume that has been studied.

Furthermore, it seems to be highly resistant to many phytate-reducing techniques such as long, slow cooking. Only a long period of fermentation will significantly reduce the phytate content of soybeans. Thus fermented products such as tempeh and miso provide nourishment that is easily assimilated, but the nutritional value of tofu and bean curd, both high in phytates, is questionable.

When precipitated soy products are consumed with meat, the mineral blocking effects of the phytates are reduced. The Japanese traditionally eat tofu as part of a mineral-rich fish broth. Vegetarians who consume tofu and bean curd as a substitute for meat and dairy products risk severe mineral deficiencies. The results of calcium, magnesium and iron deficiency are well known, those of zinc are less so. Zinc is called the intelligence mineral because it is needed for optimal development and functioning of the brain and nervous system. It plays a role in protein synthesis and collagen formation; it is involved in the blood sugar control mechanism and thus protects against diabetes; it is needed for a healthy reproductive system. Zinc is a key component in numerous vital enzymes and plays a role in the immune system. Phytates found in soy products interfere with zinc absorption more completely than with other minerals.

Literature extolling soy products tends to minimize the role of zinc in human physiology, and to gloss over the deleterious effect of diets high in phytic acid.

Milk drinking is given as the reason second generation Japanese in America grow taller than their native ancestors. Some investigators postulate that the reduced phytate content of the American diet whatever may be its other deficiencies-is the true explanation, pointing out that Asian and Oriental children who do not get enough meat and fish products to counteract the effects of a high phytate diet, frequently suffer rickets, stunting and other growth problems.

The current climate of medical opinion in America has cast a cloud of disapproval on tallness. Parents would do well to ask their six-year-old boys whether they would prefer to be six-foot-one or five-foot-seven when they grow up, before substituting tofu for eggs, meat and dairy products.

Marketing the Soybean

The truth is, however, that most Americans are unlikely to adopt traditional soy products as their principal food. Tofu, bean curd and tempeh have a disagreeable texture and are too bland for the Western palate; pungent and musty miso and natto lose out in taste tests; only soy sauce enjoys widespread popularity as a condiment. The soy industry has therefore looked for other ways to market the superabundance of soybeans now grown in the United States.

Large-scale cultivation of the soybean in the United States began only after the Second World War, and quickly rose to 140 billion pounds per year. Most of the crop is made into animal feed and soy oil for hydrogenated fats- margarine and shortening. 

During the past 20 years, the industry has concentrated on finding markets for the by-products of soy oil manufacture, including soy "lecithin", made from the oil sludge, and soy protein products, made from defatted soy flakes, a challenge that has involved overcoming consumer resistance to soy products, generally considered tasteless "poverty foods". "The quickest way to gain product acceptability in the less affluent society," said a soy industry spokesman, " … is to have the product consumed on its own merit in a more affluent society."

Hence the proliferation of soy products resembling traditional American foods-soy milk for cows milk, soy baby formula, soy yogurt, soy ice cream, soy cheese, soy flour for baking and textured soy protein as meat substitutes, usually promoted as high protein, low-fat, no cholesterol "health foods" to the upscale consumer increasingly concerned about his health. The growth of vegetarianism among the more affluent classes has greatly accelerated the acceptability and use of these ersatz products. Unfortunately they pose numerous dangers.

Processing Denatures and Dangers Remain

The production of soymilk is relatively simple. In order to remove as much of the trypsin inhibitor content as possible, the beans are first soaked in an alkaline solution. The pureed solution is then heated to about 115 degrees C in a pressure cooker. This method destroys most (but not all) of the anti-nutrients but has the unhappy side effect of so denaturing the proteins that they become very difficult to digest and much reduced in effectiveness.12 The phytate content remains in soy milk to block the uptake of essential minerals. In addition, the alkaline soaking solution produces a carcinogen, lysinealine, and reduces the cystine content, which is already low in the soybean.13 Lacking cystine, the entire protein complex of the soybean becomes useless unless the diet is fortified with cystine-rich meat, eggs, or dairy products, an unlikely occurrence as the typical soy milk consumer drinks the awful stuff because he wants to avoid meat, eggs and dairy products.

Most soy products that imitate traditional American food items, including baby formulas and some brands of soy milk, are made with soy protein isolate, that is the soy protein isolated from the carbohydrate and fatty acid components that naturally occur in the bean. Soybeans are first ground and subjected to high-temperature and solvent extraction processes to remove the oils. The resultant defatted meal is then mixed with an alkaline solution and sugars in a separation process to remove fibre. Then it is precipitated and separated using an acid wash. Finally the resultant curds are neutralized in an alkaline solution and spray dried at high temperatures to produce high protein powder. This is a highly refined product in which both vitamin and protein quality are compromised-but some trypsin inhibitors remain, even after such extreme refining! 

Trypsin inhibitor content of soy protein isolate can vary as much as 5-fold. In rats, even low-level trypsin inhibitor soy protein isolates feeding results in reduced weight gain compared to controls. Soy product producers are not required to state trypsin inhibitor content on labels, nor even to meet minimum standards, and the public, trained to avoid dietary cholesterol, a substance vital for normal growth and metabolism, has never heard of the potent anti-nutrients found in cholesterol-free soy products.

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Myths & Truths About Soy

Myths & Truths About Soy

Myth: Use of soy as a food dates back many thousands of years.

Truth: Soy was first used as a food during the late Chou dynasty (1134-246 BC), only after the Chinese learned to ferment soy beans to make foods like tempeh, natto and tamari.

Myth: Asians consume large amounts of soy foods.

Truth: Average consumption of soy foods in Japan and China is 10 grams (about 2 teaspoons) per day. Asians consume soy foods in small amounts as a condiment, and not as a replacement for animal foods.

Myth: Modern soy foods confer the same health benefits as traditionally fermented soy foods.

Truth: Most modern soy foods are not fermented to neutralise toxins in soybeans, and are processed in a way that denatures proteins and increases levels of carcinogens.

Myth: Soy foods provide complete protein.

Truth: Like all legumes, soy beans are deficient in sulfur-containing amino acids methionine and cystine. In addition, modern processing denatures fragile lysine.

Myth: Fermented soy foods can provide vitamin B12 in vegetarian diets.

Truth: The compound that resembles vitamin B12 in soy cannot be used by the human body; in fact, soy foods cause the body to require more B12

Myth: Soy formula is safe for infants.

Truth: Soy foods contain trypsin inhibitors that inhibit protein digestion and affect pancreatic function. In test animals, diets high in trypsin inhibitors led to stunted growth and pancreatic disorders. Soy foods increase the body`s requirement for vitamin D, needed for strong bones and normal growth. Phytic acid in soy foods results in reduced bioavailabilty of iron and zinc which are required for the health and development of the brain and nervous system. Soy also lacks cholesterol, likewise essential for the development of the brain and nervous system. Megadoses of phytoestrogens in soy formula have been implicated in the current trend toward increasingly premature sexual development in girls and delayed or retarded sexual development in boys.

Myth: Soy foods can prevent osteoporosis.

Truth: Soy foods can cause deficiencies in calcium and vitamin D, both needed for healthy bones. Calcium from bone broths and vitamin D from seafood, lard and organ meats prevent osteoporosis in Asian countries?not soy foods.

Myth: Modern soy foods protect against many types of cancer.

Truth: A British government report concluded that there is little evidence that soy foods protect against breast cancer or any other forms of cancer. In fact, soy foods may result in an increased risk of cancer.

Myth: Soy foods protect against heart disease.

Truth: In some people, consumption of soy foods will lower cholesterol, but there is no evidence that lowering cholesterol improves one`s risk of having heart disease.

Myth: Soy estrogens (isoflavones) are good for you.

Truth: Soy isoflavones are phyto-endocrine disrupters. At dietary levels, they can prevent ovulation and stimulate the growth of cancer cells. Eating as little as 30 grams (about 4 tablespoons) of soy per day can result in hypothyroidism with symptoms of lethargy, constipation, weight gain and fatigue.

Myth: Soy foods are safe and beneficial for women to use in their postmenopausal years.

Truth: Soy foods can stimulate the growth of estrogen-dependent tumors and cause thyroid problems. Low thyroid function is associated with difficulties in menopause.

Myth: Phytoestrogens in soy foods can enhance mental ability.

Truth: A recent study found that women with the highest levels of estrogen in their blood had the lowest levels of cognitive function; In Japanese Americans tofu consumption in mid-life is associated with the occurrence of Alzheimer`s disease in later life.

Myth: Soy isoflavones and soy protein isolate have GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status.

Truth: Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) recently withdrew its application to the FDA for GRAS status for soy isoflavones following an outpouring of protest from the scientific community. The FDA never approved GRAS status for soy protein isolate because of concern regarding the presence of toxins and carcinogens in processed soy.

Myth: Soy foods are good for your sex life.

Truth: Numerous animal studies show that soy foods cause infertility in animals. Soy consumption enhances hair growth in middle-aged men, indicating lowered testosterone levels. Japanese housewives feed tofu to their husbands frequently when they want to reduce his virility.

Myth: Soy beans are good for the environment.

Truth: Most soy beans grown in the US are genetically engineered to allow farmers to use large amounts of herbicides.

Myth: Soy beans are good for developing nations.

Truth: In third world countries, soy beans replace traditional crops and transfer the value-added of processing from the local population to multinational corporations.

Thanks to The Weston A Price Foundation for this article


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Soy Intolerance / Allergy

Soy Intolerance / Allergy

The most common food allergies people suffer are Milk, Eggs, Peanuts, Soy, Tree Nuts, Fish, Shellfish, and Wheat. Proteins in these eight major foods are estimated to cause 90 percent of the allergic reactions in the developed world. Of all of these, Soy is one of the most under diagnosed of allergies. Soy products have health benefits and are a great alternative for non-soy allergy sufferers.

Here is a list of seven symptoms of soy intolerance provided;

  • Vomiting, nausea, bloating, cramps, diarrhoea.
  • Difficulty breathing, speaking or a drop in blood pressure.
  • Heart palpitations, loss of consciousness.
  • Anxiety, faintness, distress.
  • Hives or a rash, red and itchy skin, flushed face.
  • Swelling of the eyes, face, lips, throat, and tongue.
  • Weakness, paleness, or sense of doom.

Accurate assessment of your food intolerances/allergies is important. Your Naturopath can thoroughly assess your symptoms, diet and use testing for confirmation. All of this information can be cross-referenced for an accurate assessment.

Naturopathic treatment may include supplementation of deficiencies, homoeopathic desensitisation and diet.

Alternatives are helpful when altering the diet for continued optimal nutritional and health resolution. 

Some alternatives that may help are;





Protein rich vegetables

Protein rich fruit

Alternative milks

(taking into consideration other food allergies)

Here’s a fun recipe idea. Use Kylie’s Pancake Mix to make pancakes with grated Zucchini. Then make the pancakes part of a grilled veggie stack with a great peso sauce.

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The History of Tofu

The History of Tofu

Tofu is a high-protein, soy-bean product which originated in the Orient centuries ago. According to history, tofu production was started in China during the Hang dynasty. It was discovered by Lord Lui Anot Huai-nan in about 164 a.c. Lui An was a famous scholar, philosopher, ruler and politician.  

In Japanese history, tofu appears to have begun during the eight century. It was probably brought from China by Buddhist monks who were travelling back and forth between the two countries. The evolution of tofu into Japanese culture is thought to have entered through the upper classes, including the Buddhist monks (vegetarians) who probably used tofu as a main staple in their diets. 

The five major Kamakura Zen temples each opened Buddhist vegetarian restaurants which included tofu on their menus.  The common people apparently learned how to prepare it from the monks. Although indigenous to the Chinese, Japanese and Korean cultures, tofu is quickly breaking those boundaries. 

Even though tofu is centuries old, it is fairly recent to the Western world. Benjamin Franklin introduced soybean seed from France that a century later became a major oil seed. The first tofu shops in America began in about 1900. Henry Ford, auto maker, experimented with soymilk in the 1930`s and was producing several hundred gallons of soymilk a day for friends and co-workers. 

Until recently, tofu, if known at all, was perceived to be an Oriental dish. Now it is being recognised for its outstanding nutritional values. 

The Nutrition of Tofu

Soybeans and soybean products such as tofu can be recognised as a nutrient source for the world. 

Protein Source

Pounds Protein Per Acre

    Beef Cattle     058

    Wheal            180

    Corn              323

    Soybeans       500

Another important aspect of tofu`s nutrition is its amino acid profile. Tofu by itself is considered an incomplete protein, like all simple protein sources. However in combination with complementary protein sources such as grains or legumes, it becomes a very high quality source of usable protein or NPU (Net Protein Utilization). In the following comparison, amino acid content is expressed as gram/16 grams nitrogen.

Amino Acid Comparison

Amino Acids     Soybean    Tofu    WholeEgg

Isoleucine          4.2          4.9         6.3

Leucine              7.4          8.0         8.8

Lysine                6.4          5.9         7.0

Methionine          1.2          1.4         3.4 

Cystine              0.9          1.7         2.4

Phenylalanine     4.5          4.8         5.7

Tyrosine             3.4          3.7         4.2

Total Aromatic     8.0         8.5         9.9

Threonine           3.6          3.7         5.1

Tryptophan         1.7          *            1.5

Valine               4.3           4.7          6.8 

The Processing of Tofu

The process of making tofu is relatively simple. The only `difference between the way tofu was made centuries ago and today is that modern machinery has sped up the process. It is still made with the same ingredients and techniques.

First, soybeans are soaked in water then ground to a fine puree with a small amount of water. This mixture is called slurry. The slurry is then boiled and strained to produce soy milk (this is not the same as soy milk` sold commercially). The soy milk then simmered for a short time before a coagulant is added which causes it to separate into curds and whey. Calcium sulfate seems superior to other calcium or magnesium salts. Other coagulants may be lemon juice or vinegar. The curds are then pressed into moulds and the process is complete. Fresh tofu has the appearance of a light cheese and the consistency of a firm custard. It has a very plain,bland flavour which readily absorbs the flavours with which it is prepared.

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Allergies to Soy, Soy Products and Other Legumes

Allergies to Soy, Soy Products and Other Legumes

Prevalence of Soy Allergies

Allergies to soy and soy products are most prevalent in infants and children rather than adults.  It is the second most prevalent allergen worldwide after peanut.  It is a transient allergy in childhood, like milk and egg, with researchers being unsure how common it is that children will or when they will grow out of them (1). As with peanut there is a geographical variation of soy allergy and is more prevalent where the food is a staple.  In Spain legume allergy is the fifth most prevalent food allergy within children and is more common than allergy to peanut (1).  In India, the major cause of allergy is lentils and chickpeas.   In France, lupin allergy is becoming more common, with the lupin seed flour being used in wheat flour (1).

Foods and Allergens

Legumes are dicotyledonous plants, belonging to the order of Fabales (1).  Many of the allergens in legumes are found in the vicilin superfamily, with the allergen structure dictating the cross reactivity between legumes.  Clinical cross-reactivity appears to be extremely rare (1).  Recent research has identified a 44% cross-reactivity between peanut and lupin flour.  Research has also shown 70% of children with lentil allergy also are allergic to chickpea (1). 

Food processing can also influence the allergenicity, with the high refinement of oils believed to remove all proteins within soybeans (1).  The fermentation of soy products does not alter the allergenicity of the soybean product (1).

Diagnosis of Soy Allergy

Skin prick testing appears to provide only a 50% predictive value when diagnosing soy allergy, hence diagnosis in adults and children relies on a good clinical history and medically supervised oral food challenge when clinical history is inconclusive (1).


At present the only effective and proven management of any legume allergy is the total avoidance of the offending allergen (1).

Table: Foods likely to contain legumes


Foods Involved



Textured vegetable protein (TVP), vegetable burgers, tofu (soya-bean curd) tempeh, tamari, miso, soy sauce, pre-packaged Chinese meals, soya milks, soya yoghurts, soya desserts



Lupin flour is often used in mainland Europe in pastries, breads and pizza bases, and lupin seeds are sometimes used in seeded breads



Indian dishes, especially vegetarian, e.g. chana dhal; added as flour to some French breads, hummus



Gram flour, chapattis, puri, dhal, vegetarian dishes



Used as a thickening agent and stabilizer in food products, e.g. salad 
dressings, ice cream; used medicinally for digestive disorders (laxative effect) and coughs, so may be found within cough syrups and lozenges



Used as a thickener and emulsifier in foods, e.g. yoghurts, fruit juice drinks, ice creams, salad dressings



Curry Powder





1.     Tanya Wright and Rosan Meyer., Dietary Management of Milk and Eggs -Food Hypersensitivity: diagnosing and managing food allergies and intolerances.  Edited by Isabel Skypala, Carina Venter; Wiley and Blackwell 2009, Part 2, p 117- 128. 
2.    Consumer Information: Information for Allergy Suffers: Food Standards Australia New Zealand, April 2010.

Submitted by: Julie Albrecht Consultant Dietician -Nutritionist A.P.D.

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