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!


6 Responses to “Soy: A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing”

  1. Corporal Francis March 19, 2013 at 2:01 pm #

    Great stuff Tim!
    I’d love to subscribe to your blog if you can let me know how.

    • Tim Skwiat March 19, 2013 at 10:32 pm #

      Thanks, Sean! I’ll add you to the list. Keep up the great work!


  2. Deena January 29, 2014 at 7:51 am #


    I’m going to stick my neck out here. After reading your article, I find myself confused as a vegetarian. I really enjoy eating tofu but you state that eating any soy and/or tofu is not good for your health. So, what do you recommend to a vegetarian to eat to get enough protein? I do enjoy eating veggie burgers which do have some soy in them. Can you please help. BTW, I am using most of the Bio Trust Products, including the Bio Trust Protein Low Carb Powder.

    • Tim Skwiat July 15, 2014 at 3:57 pm #

      Hi Deena,

      Thank so much for stopping by and for sharing your question. I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to help. With that in mind, you’re on the right track by opting for a high-quality protein supplement like BioTrust Low Carb to help meet your protein needs. Just as a quick refresher as to why a high-protein intake may be so valuable in assisting you in your body transformation goals, you may want to take a moment to view the following thread over at the BioTrust Community Forums:

      How a High-Protein Intake Can Help You Lose Fat

      With that being said, do you consume any other non-plant-based sources of protein (e.g., eggs, dairy, fish)? Seeing as how you include BioTrust Low Carb in your nutrition plan, it seems as though you’re okay with consuming some dairy, which will be helpful in providing you with all of the essential amino acids that your body needs. If you permit eggs, fish, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, etc., then those would also be very good sources of protein to help you meet your needs.

      If you prefer to otherwise maintain a completely plant-based food intake, that’s okay too. In this case, the concern becomes getting adequate amounts of essential amino acids, or those that your body cannot produce on its own. You see, the majority of plant-based foods are technically “incomplete” proteins, which means that they are missing one or more of the essential amino acids.

      For example, rice protein is deficient in lysine, while pea protein is deficient in methionine and cysteine. Contrarily, rice protein is abundant in methionine and cysteine, while pea protein is contains a high amount of lysine. Thus, rice and pea protein are “complementary” proteins, which means that the limiting amino acid of which rice protein is void (e.g., lysine) can be found in pea protein. Combining “complementary” proteins becomes important for plant-based eaters to get all the essential amino acids you need. Along these lines, BioTrust Organic Protein Bars, which combine organic whey, rice, and pea proteins, may also be a suitable, convenient option for you.

      [As an aside, when consuming incomplete proteins, it’s actually not even a necessity to eat complementary proteins at the exact same time. The key would be to consume plant foods from several sources throughout the day in order to provide the essential amino acids in the correct proportions.]

      With that being said, here are some additional plant-based options:

      *Fermented soy products: tempeh, miso, natto (1 – 2 servings per day at most)
      *Vegetable-based protein supplements: brown rice, hemp, and pea (blends)
      *Nuts and nut butters
      *Whole, minimally-processed traditional grains: quinoa, amaranth, teff, and buckwheat
      *Pulses/legumes: lentils, beans, etc.

      Overall, it seems best to avoid consuming heavily processed, non-fermented sources of soy (like those listed in the article) on a regular basis. The health problems associated with processed foods do not start and end with soy (e.g., sugar, wheat, corn, etc.). Thus, this is not meant to isolate soy.

      I hope that you find this helpful, Deena! Please feel free to let me know if you have any additional questions.

      Your friend and coach,


      • Deena Jordan July 16, 2014 at 6:51 am #

        Hi Tim,

        Thanks so much for your response. I do consume some dairy like egg whites, cottage cheese, some cheese. I also consume a lot of the grains you mention as well. Even though I do it a non meat diet, I do strive to be become healthy which means to me to be balanced in my diet. (lots of vegetables, legumes, nuts, almond butters, grains etc.)0 That is sometimes very difficult to maintain. I do struggle with sugar – I crave it. The BioTrust shakes are a lifesaver for me when I do crave something on the sweet side. It is very satisfying!

        Even though I strive to eat healthy and exercise, I still struggle with my weight in that I am post menopause and I am on a medication that I believe is keeping me from reaching my weight goals. I am thinking about looking for alternatives in the one medication that is keeping me from loosing weight.

        Thanks again for your help and in answering my question.

        To Better Health,

        Deena J

      • Tim Skwiat July 17, 2014 at 2:14 pm #

        Hi Deena,

        Thanks so much for sharing the additional information. It’s a pleasure to learn more about you. While it may be beyond the scope of this discussion, I would encourage you to consume whole eggs—at least on occasion. I understand that we have been groomed to opt for egg whites, but in general, this may be a bit misguided.

        In addition to packing 7 grams of metabolism-boosting protein, a single egg is also loaded with several critical nutrients, including: choline, lutein and zeaxanthin, which are potent antioxidants that fight free radicals and help prevent macular degeneration, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, selenium, phosphorus, potassium, and more. What’s more, much of the protein and these nutrients are contained within the yolk.

        I understand the concern about dietary cholesterol, but that may be where we’ve been a bit misinformed. For example, you may want to take a look at posts #6 and 13 of this thread over at the BioTrust Community Forums on the topic.

        It doesn’t necessarily sound like you’re fat-phobic, as you include nuts and nut butters, but it is important to realize the importance of dietary fat in your diet, which I talk about in further depth in post #30 of this thread.

        Kudos to you for discussing your medication with your doctor. There are cases where changing your prescription or lowering your dose can be helpful. Of course, you’ll want to fully discuss this with your physician and not make any adjustments without proper permission. Regarding menopause and balancing female hormones, this can be quite tricky. Flax seeds, fish oils, black cohosh, and calming herbs like valerian are often recommend to address the myriad symptoms of hormone fluctuations.

        Incorporating resistance training in your exercise routine (Critical Elements of Fat Loss Training) becomes increasingly important to help offset any age-related declines in metabolic rate and losses in muscle mass. Likewise, adequate protein intake is also important, which is precisely why we’re discussing this. 🙂

        Keep up the great work, Deena!

        Your friend and coach,


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