Archive | February, 2013

Soy: A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

21 Feb

Soy: A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

by Tim Skwiat, MEd, CSCS, Pn1

Nary has something undeservedly received such applaud as a “health food” as soy. As your resident myth-buster and resource for honest nutrition, I think it’s time once and for all to put the soy debate to rest.

Next time you walk through the store, take a look at all of the soy products on the shelves. You’ll find soy milk to soy burgers to soy ice cream to everything in between. You all know how much I like ice cream, and I wouldn’t touch that version with a 10-foot pole.

So, what’s the deal with soy? Why is it marketed as such a health food?

Soy: What’s the Whole Story?

Dr. Kaayla Daniel, author of The Whole Soy Story, is an expert on the hidden dangers of soy. In her book, she references myriad studies demonstrating that soy consumption is associated with thyroid problems, growth retardation, amino acid deficiencies, malabsorption of important body minerals, endocrine system malfunctions, and carcinogenic effects.

Most commercial preparations of soy — like those listed at the beginning of this article — are downright unhealthy. Let’s review some of soy’s blatant problems:

  • Soy impairs Thyroid function. Thyroid hormones are key to obtaining and maintaining the lean body that you desire. Soy contains substances called goitrogens that block the synthesis of thyroid hormones. A drop in thyroid function means weight gain, depression, lethargy, and a whole host of other negative symptoms.
  • Soy lowers Testosterone levels. Guys, you know this is a huge deal in all aspects of your life — body composition, feelings of well being, energy levels, and libido. Soy contains phytoestrogens called isoflavones that have been shown to lower Testosterone in humans (as well as animals).
  • Soy may cause female reproductive issues. The isoflavones in soy can mimic and sometimes block the effects of estrogen. Soy phytoestrogens are known to disrupt endocrine function, may cause infertility, and may promote breast cancer in women.
  • Soy is genetically modified (GM). Experts estimate that over 90% of the soy grown in the United States is GM. Essentially, GM crops are like a pesticide factory that are resistant to herbicides, thus loaded with toxic pesticides. Recent research from Sweden shows that animals fed a GM diet got fatter quicker than animals fed a non-GM diet.
  • Soy damages your gut health. If you’ve been reading my newsletters for any period of time, you know exactly how important the good bacteria in your gut are to your overall and digestive health, as well as your immune system. GM soy contains altered genes that are transferred to your gut bacteria. This poses a huge potential problem to the proper functioning of your gut flora.
  • Soy contains phytic acid. Phytic acid is known as an “anti-nutrient.” When it reaches the gut, phytic acid prevents the absorption of vital and valuable minerals by binding with calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc, as well as the vitamin niacin.
  • Soy may cause gastric distress. Soy contains substances that inhibit proteases, enzymes that digest the proteins that we eat. This can lead to GI distress, poor protein digestion, and an overworked pancreas.
  • Soy is an allergen. Soy is one of the top 8 allergens that the FDA requires food manufacturers to list on ingredient labels.

What about the Chinese and other Asian cultures?

Marketers and soy proponents would certainly like for you to believe that soy is a staple in these cultures. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Soybeans were first grown in Asia to be used as a crop fertilizer — not eaten. As a matter of fact, soy was commonly called “green manure” and was used to enrich the soil between the planting of crops. Soybeans were known for their ability to replenish the nitrogen supply in soil, which improved the harvest of crops that were consumed as food.

The Chinese later began introducing small amounts of heavily fermented soy into their diets in the form of miso, tamari soy sauce, tempeh, and natto. Contrary to popular belief, the Chinese only consume about an ounce of soy per day and only of this fermented variety.

The fermentation process destroys nearly all of the toxins and anti-nutrients listed above. What’s more, the fermentation process yields probiotics (i.e., good bacteria) that can have a very beneficial effect on your gut flora.

Tips for Reducing Soy

Overall, you’re best off avoiding most commercial soy products. Here is a list of soy foods I recommend that you avoid:

  • TVP (texturized vegetable protein)
  • Soy protein isolate (any soy protein powders)
  • Soybean oil
  • Soy milk
  • Soy cheese, soy ice cream, soy yogurt
  • Soy “meat”
  • Soy infant formula — the estrogens can have a very harmful effect on your baby’s sexual development reproductive health.

What soy products are good for you?

Occasional consumption of soy from whole food sources would be the best options, if you choose to include it, for the reasons outlined above.

  • Miso
  • Soy sauce — choose organic Tamari
  • Tempeh
  • Natto
  • Edamame

Take note that tofu does NOT make this list. Tofu is not a fermented soy food and thus should be limited.

Overall, your best bet is to avoid processed foods — soy is hidden everywhere — and focus on whole, minimally processed foods that you prepare yourself.

In short, soy is NOT a health food. If you include it regularly in your diet, it could very well be holding you back from the progress you deserve and, in many cases, causing you to store belly fat. Worse yet, it could be damaging your metabolism, hormones, and overall health.

Eat More Protein

If you rely on soy for a source of protein, hopefully I’ve convinced you that the negatives far outweigh the positives. That being said, you also know that protein is a critical component of optimizing your health, fitness, and vitality.

A high-protein diet:

  • Increases your metabolic rate and satiety.
  • Improves your weight loss profile while dieting.
  • Decreases body fat.
  • Increases or helps maintain lean body mass while dieting.
  • Reduces cardiovascular risk.

In addition to focusing on lean meats (grass-fed when possible), poultry (free-range when possible), eggs, fish (wild), and small amounts of dairy, I highly recommend that most folks invest in a protein supplement to optimize their protein intakes and overall nutritional profile.

My recommendation is BioTrust Low Carb™. BioTrust Low Carb is 100% all-natural, which means no artificial sweeteners, flavors, preservatives, or ingredients of any kind. The proteins are Farmer Certified Growth Hormone-Free, which means that you will not be exposed to potentially dangerous growth hormones or antibiotics.

What’s more, BioTrust Low Carb is a true time-released protein blend of both fast- and slow-acting proteins, which provide sustained nutrition for up to 8 hours. This makes BioTrust Low Carb the perfect protein supplement for:

  • Post-workout, as recent research shows that a combination of fast- and slow-acting proteins are superior to whey (a fast-acting protein) alone for optimal recovery.
  • Meal replacement, as the blend will provide sustained nutrition and appetite suppression for hours.
  • Before bed, as casein (a slow-acting protein in BioTrust Low Carb) has been shown in research to provide optimal recovery benefits while sleeping.

Best of all, BioTrust Low Carb™ tastes GREAT!


Saturated Fats: Why the Stink?

7 Feb

Saturated Fats: Why the Stink?

by Tim Skwiat, MEd, CSCS, Pn1

If you rely heavily on the mainstream media for your health information, you have undoubtedly heard some recommendations along this line: “You should limit (or eliminate) your intake of saturated fats, which have been shown to elevate your cholesterol and risk for heart disease.”

As your caped crusader for honest nutrition and health information, I’m here to share with you the truth about saturated fats, and how they can actually increase your overall health and decrease your waistline.

Why the stink about saturated fats? Indeed, a diet with high amounts of saturated fats can lead to increased cholesterol levels, and certain saturated fats have a positive correlation with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

HOWEVER, this is only the case when saturated fats are consumed in excess and out of balance with other unsaturated fats.

That’s right, recommendations to avoid saturated fat are misguided. Problems associated with saturated fat intake aren’t necessarily because of that type of fat by itself. As a matter of fact, excess body fat, a poor cholesterol profile, and increased cardiovascular risk all seem to occur when saturated fat intake is high and two other dietary conditions are present:

1. when the diet is also high in sugar and processed/refined carbohydrates; and

2. when the saturated fat intake is out of balance with unsaturates (i.e., monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats).

Saturated fat appears to be fine when processed carbohydrate and sugar intake is low and when you also consume a healthy intake of unsaturated fat.

As a matter of fact, in his book “The 6-Week Cure for the Middle-Aged Middle,” well-respected nutritionist Michael Eades states that humans need saturated fats for the following reasons:

• Saturated fats reduce levels of a substance called lipoprotein (a), which is strongly correlated with heart disease. In essence, saturated fats can potentially lower your risk for cardiovascular disease in a way that no medication can.
• Saturated fats are required by your body to absorb calcium into your bones. If you’re struggling with bone density, and you’ve been told to follow a low-fat diet, there’s a good chance your bones are actually becoming more brittle.
• Research shows that including saturated fats in the diet encourages the liver to decrease its fat content. This is a huge physiological step in the blasting of belly fat. What’s more, saturated fats can protect the liver from toxins like alcohol and acetaminophen.
• Your lungs require adequate saturated fat for proper functioning. The lining of your lungs — called lung surfactant — is ideally composed entirely of saturated fatty acids.
• Here’s a real kicker. Your brain is predominantly made up of fat and cholesterol, and the majority of that fat is actually of the saturated variety. Skimp on the saturated fats, and your brain health will be compromised.
• Saturated fats, especially those found in butter and coconut oil, play a huge role in your immune system health. These fatty acids fortify your white blood cells, which are your army against foreign pathogens like viruses, bacteria, and fungi.

If you need one final example of the significance of saturated fats, let’s turn to human breast milk. Human breast milk is plentiful in saturated fats — especially myristic and lauric acid, which play a critical role in immune function — and cholesterol. What’s more, research shows that the longer a mother lactates, the higher the amount of fat and energy content.

That’s all fine and dandy, but will any ol’ source of saturated fat do the trick? Most folks can get the proper balance of saturated fats by included portions of beef, butter, ghee, and cream (preferably from grass-fed sources), eggs (omega-3 enriched), and coconut oil.

Remember, it’s about balancing our fats. We have to balance our omega-3s and 6s (which are polyunsaturated fats) because too much of the latter — which is highly common in the Western diet — throws our body into inflammation overdrive. We also have to balance our polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, and saturated fats for optimal function. Just like with anything, extremes are no bueno in the world of dietary fats.

At the end of the day, it appears that saturated fats are necessary to obtain and maintain your ultimate body and health. Just don’t combine a diet low in unsaturated fat with one high in saturated fat, sugar, and refined carbohydrates…unfortunately, that recipe sounds exactly like that of our modern North American diets.