In the world of fitness and nutrition if there is a source of proteins, which has been a topic of controversy in terms of the health effects, then it is Soybean. There are people who go so far as to compare it with anabolic steroids when it comes to the side effects of ‘high’ intake of the food. On the other hand, it is also highly recommended to vegans, as they have a limited number of choices among protein sources.
Raw soybeans have around 36% of proteins, 30% of carbohydrates and 20% of fats, along with 5% of minerals. The proteins attained from soybeans consist of all the essential amino acids required to build muscle unlike other vegan sources.
Why is there so much debate about such a good protein source?
Soybeans contain a high amount of anti-nutrients such as trypsin inhibitors. This means, the proteins that we get from them will not be absorbed by the body, all thanks to the inhibitors present in them. To top that, it also contains a considerable amount of isoflavones such as Daidzein and Genistein. On an average, every 100gms of raw soybeans contain up to 10mg of isoflavones. Sufficient quantities of isoflavones can and will affect the hormone levels, especially testosterone and estrogen. The horror of low testosterone was enough for the entire bodybuilding community to take it upon themselves to wipe off the planet of this abomination called soybeans.
“But I am a woman with hypothyroid issues, and I only want to know if soy will worsen my condition”. This is another point where soy gets a bad rap. Across the country, majority of the doctors recommend against having ‘high’ amounts of soy based foods as that will worsen the thyroid issues.
The soybeans go through a number of processes before we get them in the form of soy chunks or soy granules. The beans are defatted, milled, toasted and then we get the end product in the form of soy chunks. With each stage of processing, the amount of trypsin inhibitors and isoflavones goes down drastically. This results in better absorption of not only the proteins, but also the minerals found in the beans. Also, the isoflavone content which was at 10mg/100gms in the raw soybeans comes down to around 3-4mg/100gms.
Did you know, for our testosterone content to get affected, we need close to 100mg of isoflavones from the diet?
Shocked? Let me give you another one.
Did you know even the milk that you drink has isoflavones in it?
So just like everything in life, with food, it’s all about the dosage. There is no food which you can eat endlessly and still expect to stay healthy.
The whole debate about the ‘feminizing effect’ of soy was sparked by a case where a certain individual developed feminine traits in his physiology after he consumed soy milk for more than a month. Yes, he got boobs. He drank close to 3liters of soy milk every day. That accounts to 300mg of isoflavones.
If you want to get so much of isoflavones, you need to eat 3kgs of raw soybeans. If you eat that much, then you have bigger problems to worry about.
Don’t take my word for it. There are studies that have been done to prove that soy does not affect the testosterone levels. This particular study fed resistance trained men with soy proteins and whey proteins. Both groups saw increases in their lean body mass and no difference in their testosterone or estrogen content . Another study gave 24 men soy foods for 3 months and tested their testosterone levels. The end result was the same; no change in testosterone levels .
It is also recommended against having any soy based food for hypothyroid patients. All the research studies which prove that soy is bad for thyroid patients were done on animals and none of them were later replicated in humans. The only population which was affected were the people who had non-autoimmune hypothyroidism, whereas the majority of the population with auto-immune hypothyroidism (Hashimoto’s) stayed unaffected.
Besides, all the bad effects that soy can possibly have on our health, come from raw soybeans. Fermentation, cooking, washing, boiling or any other processing that it goes through, will degrade these harmful effects to a negligible level.
But I’m not your mom to tell you what to eat and what to avoid. I’m here to tell you that if you are scared of soya chunks, then don’t be. Cheers!
Author credits – Nachiketh Shetty