ENZYME INHIBITORS The Chinese did not eat unfermented soybean products. They recognized that they were quite toxic, unlike the other legumes such as lentils, 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. You do find inhibitors in all seed foods, grains and legumes, but the problem with soy is that these anti-nutrients are very resistant to the types of cooking techniques and preparation techniques that we have traditionally used for our seed foods. They are not completely deactivated during ordinary cooking and can produce serious gastric distress, reduced protein digestion and chronic deficiencies in amino acid uptake. In precipitated products like tofu, 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 they are not completely eliminated. In test animals, diets high in trypsin inhibitors cause enlargement and pathological conditions of the pancreas, including cancer, and this includes the very large study on soybeans sponsored, actually, by Ralston Purina who makes soy protein isolate. Along with enzyme inhibitors, soy contains a number of substances that are goitrogens, that is, they depress thyroid function. Soy beans also contains hemoglutinen, a clot-promoting substance that causes red blood cells to clump together. Trypsin inhibitors and hemoglutinen have been rightly labelled growth depressant substances. They are deactivated during the process of fermentation.

PHYTATES Soybeans are also high in phytic acid or phytates. Scientists are in general agreement that the high phytate content of legume, soy and rice-based diets prevents the absorption of calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc present in the foods. The soybean has a higher phytate content than most other grains and legumes, and it is highly resistant to the phytate-reducing techniques used in traditional cultures such as soaking or 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 relatively easy to assimilate. But the nutritional value of tofu and bean curd, both high in phytates, is questionable. When precipitated products like tofu are consumed with meat, the mineral blocking effects of the phytates are reduced. The Japanese traditionally eat a small amount of 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 mineral that soy blocks the most is zinc. Zinc is called the intelligence mineral because it is needed for optimal development and function of the brain and nervous system.

SOY PROTEIN ISOLATE The growth of vegetarianism among the more affluent classes has greatly accelerated the acceptability and use of these ersatz 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. To produce the isolate, soy beans are first ground up and subjected to high temperature and solvent extraction processes to remove the oils. The resultant defatted meal is then mixed with a very caustic alkaline solution and sugars in a separation process to remove the fiber. Then it is precipitated and separated using an acid wash. Finally, the resultant curds are neutralized in another caustic alkaline solution and then they are spray-dried at high temperatures to produce a high protein powder. Soy protein isolate is not something that you can make in your kitchen. It is made in great big factories, chemical processing plants. This is a highly refined product in which both the vitamins and proteins are denatured. Even so, some of the trypsin inhibitors remain, even after such extreme refining. The trypsin inhibitor content of soy protein isolate can vary as much as five-fold. In rats, even low level trypsin inhibitor soy protein isolate feeding results in reduced weight gain and stunted growth compared to controls. These anti-nutrients are also called protease inhibitors and the soy industry has cleverly packaged them up as a cure for AIDS.

TEXTURIZED VEGETABLE PROTEIN A final indignity to the original soy bean is high temperature, high pressure extrusion processing of soy protein isolate to produce textured vegetable protein (TVP). Numerous artificial flavourings, particularly MSG (MSG is an extremely toxic neurotoxin) are added to TVP to mask their strong beany taste and impart the flavour of meat. Soy protein isolate and textured vegetable protein are used extensively in school lunch programs, commercial baked goods, diet beverages and fast food products. They are heavily promoted in Third World countries and form the basis of many food give-away programs. These soy products greatly inhibit zinc and iron absorption. In test animals they cause enlarged organs, particularly the pancreas and thyroid gland and increased deposition of fatty acids in the liver.

SOY MILK is another popular product and it is instructive to compare traditional production of soy milk with modern production methods. In China, traditional preparation of soy milk begins with soaking the beans until they become soft and partially sprouted. The softened beans are ground into a mush on a stone grinder using copious amounts of water, then put into a cloth bag and placed under a weight or a heavy rock so that all the liquid is squeezed out. A lot of the anti-nutrients come out in the liquid. The resultant soy paste is then cooked in fresh water. Large amounts of dirty scum that rise to the surface are carefully removed. A lot of anti-nutrients come out in the scum. To serve, raw egg or dried shrimp (animal foods) are placed in a bowl along with scallions, soy sauce flavourings and vinegar, and the scalding soy milk is poured over these. The vinegar causes the soy milk to curdle slightly. In traditional times homemade soy milk was consumed by the elderly and by nursing mothers, but it was not normally used for feeding infants, nor as an everyday food. Industrial methods for the production of soy milk leave out the all-important squeezing and skimming step, the steps that the traditional peoples use to get out all these anti-nutrients. In order to remove as much of the trypsin inhibitor content as possible, the beans are first soaked in an alkaline solution. The puréed solution is then heated to about 115C in a pressure cooker, a much higher temperature than we could ever get by cooking something on the stove. 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. The lysine is almost completely denatured by these processes they use to get rid of the anti-nutrients. The phytate content remains in soy milk and blocks the uptake of essential minerals. In addition, the alkaline soaking solution produces a carcinogen called lysinolene and reduces the cysteine content, which is already low in the soy beans. Lacking cysteine, the entire protein complex of the soybean becomes useless unless the diet is fortified with cysteine-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. Various refined sweeteners, preservatives and stabilizers are then added to soy milk products. It is then packaged and sterilized at very high temperatures so it has infinite shelf life.

SOY SAUCE When you buy a soy sauce, you want to buy the very expensive soy sauce. It comes in glass bottles and says "traditionally brewed" and it is worth the extra price. This traditional soy sauce is made by a fermentation process that takes six to eight months to complete. It is an artisanal process developed over many years; it is a great tradition in Asia. This long and careful procedure creates a mixture of phenolynic compounds including a natural form of glutamic acid. The natural form is the L-, or left handed form that contributes to the unique taste and aroma of traditionally brewed soy sauce.

NEUROTOXIC MSG IN SOY The modern bioreactor fermentation method produces a product by rapid hydrolysis in the space of two days, rather than by complete fermentation, and uses the enzyme glutamase as a reactor, so that the final product contains large amounts of the unnatural form of glutamic acid, the D- or right handed form that is found in monosodium glutamate (MSG). Basically, what they produce in this quick bioreactor method is MSG. MSG, of course, is a potent neurotoxin that causes everything from seizures and lack of coordination to brain cancer, Alzheimer's, vision disorders and violent behaviour. MSG and related substances are found in all modern (non-traditional) soy products. I received a letter recently from a man who was losing his vision after eating soy powders for a year.

ALUMINUM IN SOY There are high amounts of aluminum in soy foods. All this adds up to a product that is very bad for the nervous system. In fact, tofu made from soy beans has been implicated as a contributing factor in Alzheimer's Disease. A recent study of Japanese men who migrated to Hawaii found that the men who ate the largest amount of tofu had the most severe cases of Alzheimer's.

NITROSAMINES are potent carcinogens and these are often found in soy protein foods. They are formed when you spray things out of a nozzle into the air at high temperatures. They are found in things like powdered eggs, powdered milk and soy products. These highly carcinogenic substances are also in baby formulas.

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Jun. 6, 2008 at 5:51 PM So it sounds like tempeh is ok... as well as edamame?

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Jun. 9, 2008 at 9:05 AM I think both are good. :)  I really feel like an idiot though...kind of like I didn't see the forest through the trees.  I hardly (and I mean hardly) eat processed foods.  All this time, I completely overlooked soy products.  They are so terribly processed, it is scary.

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