Overall though, at a time when our bodies are forced to deal with excessive toxins and pollutants, soy phytoestrogens may play a beneficial role too. They attach to estrogen receptor sites in the body, blocking the ability of harmful xenoestrogens to bind to these sites. Xenoestrogens are chemical estrogen mimickers that are found in many foods, plastic substances, and household items and are known to cause serious hormonal imbalances. You may have heard about bisphenol A (BPA) and its worrisome prevalence in the manufacture of plastic water and beverage bottles, as well as in other consumer products. BPA is just one type of damaging xenoestrogen to which we are exposed.
Most xenoestrogens found in plastics and other sources are roughly 100 times stronger than human estrogens. The natural estrogen found in soy is extremely mild and closer to human estrogen than xenoestrogens. For many people, the addition of phytoestrogens (plant estrogen) found in soy can be beneficial, both to block xenoestrogens and also to help balance potentially low levels of human estrogens. But any amount of phytoestrogen can be too much in someone with already excessively high levels.
People with low thyroid functioning need to limit their soy consumption since soy contains substances called goitrogens which can slow the production and/or release of thyroid hormones in the body. Most people with hypothyroidism, as this common condition is called, can tolerate up to about 1 cup of organic soy milk daily without negative consequences on hormone production. But itís best to consult with your doctor or natural health practitioner if you have any concerns about eating soy products.
Fermented soy products are actually the easiest to digest and the best tolerated by people. Traditional Asian diets typically contain more fermented soy products like miso than non-fermented forms of soy. Some fermented soy products include tamari, fermented tofu, natto, tempeh, cheonggukjang, chunjang, doenjang, doubanjiang, gochujang, and tauchu.† Many of these fermented soy products contain valuable nutrients and enzymes that can help protect the body against disease.
If you choose to eat soy, itís best to choose only non-genetically modified, unsprayed, sustainably harvested organic soybeans, free of sugar, artificial sweeteners, or other additives.
Whichever side of the debate youíre on, itís also wise to remember the old adage ďone personís food is anotherís poison.Ē Soy can be beneficial for some and harmful for others.