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The Risks of Eating Soy Foods: 3 Reasons to Say No

This was originally published at Keeper of the Home on June 28, 2010.

I know it goes against everything we hear these days about healthy eating, but I’m here today to tell you that I don’t eat soy food products, and I don’t really think you should eat soy food products, either.

There.  I came right out and said it.  Might as well get the controversy right out in the open from the start, right? (wink)

Honestly, I’m not looking for a fight.  In my real off-line life, I rarely talk about dietary choices with people unless they flat-out ask me my opinion.  Diet is a really personal thing, and people often feel defensive if their choices are questioned.  But the soy issue really concerns me, so I decided to take this opportunity to talk about the side of soy we don’t usually hear about.

You’re about to read some big, scientific-sounding words, but don’t let it phase you.  I’ve tried to put everything into plain-Jane language,  for me as much as for anyone else – I’m definitely no scientist!  But I believe there are at least three good reasons for avoiding soy, and it’s important to understand them.  Here they are.

1.  Soy Disrupts Our Sex Hormones

Soy is known as a phyotestrogen.  This means that it contains natural compounds that mimic estrogen in our bodies.  This sounds like good news for some people, such as post-menopausal women.  But what are the effects of phytoestrogens on babies, little boys and little girls, young women and young men?

Photo by nerissa’s ring

For babies on soy formula, a 1994 study shows that they are consuming the hormonal equivalent of up to 10 contraceptive pills a day.  Little systems can’t handle that overload; it puts children at risk for everything from early-onset puberty to permanent endocrine damage. This might surprise you: the governments of Israel, Switzerland, the UK, and New Zealand have all issued statements against the use of soy formula for babies.

Little boys who consume soy may have higher risks of testicular cancer, and little girls may face higher risks of breast and ovarian cancers, due to longer exposure to sex hormones.  There is also a possible link between soy and lower sperm counts in young men.

Just 100 grams of soy contains the hormonal equivalent of one contraceptive pill.  Considering all the hormonal diseases that are running rampant today in the West (including infertility), it seems wise to check our consumption of soy.

2.  Soy Disrupts Our Thyroid

The thyroid is part of the endocrine system, just as the sex hormones are, so these two issues are intimately related.  The phytoestrogens in soy also act upon the thyroid to have a goitrogenic effect, which means they depress thyroid hormone production, slow down thyroid metabolism, and potentially cause an increase in the size of the thyroid (known as a goiter, hence the term goitrogenic).  All of that adds up to one thing: hypothyroidism.

I have had hypothyroidism since 2001, possibly earlier.  There are many symptoms of this disease, and it is often overlooked or misdiagnosed as depression (which at first happened to me).  In fact, some experts estimate that there are as many as nine million undiagnosed cases of hypothyroidism in the United States alone.  If you have any hypothyroid symptoms, try to eliminate soy from your diet right away.

3.  Soy Contains Anti-Nutrients

Anti-nutrients are chemicals and compounds that prevent nutrients from being properly used by the body.  Here are two examples of anti-nutrients found in soy:

Protease Inhibitors

Soy contains protease inhibitors, which frustrate the body’s digestion of protein.  Studies show that this could cause the pancreas to be over-worked in the digestion process, and eventually lead to pancreatic dysfunction.   Protease inhibitors are found in especially high amounts in raw soy – one reason raw soybeans are considered toxic.  Heating and processing the soy lessens the amount of protease inhibitors considerably, but it is never completely eliminated.

Phytic Acid (or Phytates)

Soy (and many other grains, as well) contains phytic acid, which acts like a magnet for many important minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, zinc, and iron, therefore preventing their absorption into the body.  Though phytic acid can also help with ridding the body of unnecessary and/or unwanted heavy metals such as lead and mercury, this cleansing effect is bad news for those who rely heavily on soy for mineral content in their diet, such as those in developing nations.

What About Soy in Asian Cultures?

Photo by Janet Hudson

Many people are understandably surprised when they discover the negative effects of soy, and often point out that Asian cultures have eaten soy for thousands of years, with seemingly great health benefits.  There are two important factors to consider here.

1.  Asian cultures have historically eaten soy primarily in its fermented forms: miso, tempeh, soy sauce, and tamari are all fermented soy products.  The fermenting process significantly lessens the protease inhibitors and phytates in soy, almost to the point of elimination.  Tofu is the only non-fermented form of soy that has been historically common in Asian cultures.

2.  Traditionally, Asian cultures have eaten these soy products in small amounts, more as sauces and condiments than main dishes.  A typical starter of soup with three cubes of tofu is very different from a tofu-based entree where tofu is acting as a meat substitute.  The average Asian diet in China, Indonesia, Korea, Japan, and Taiwan includes between nine and 36 grams of soy per day.  Compare that to a cup of tofu (252 grams) or soy milk (240 grams).

In our home, we do occasionally eat small amounts of fermented soy, such as tamari and miso.  But we completely avoid the newer forms of highly processed soy products such as soy milk, soy protein isolate (common in protein and energy bars), soy protein powder, and soy cheese.  These products are outside the realm of historical understanding and consumption of soy in Asian cultures.  In addition, some of them, such as soy protein isolate, contain much higher concentrations of phytoestrogens than less-processed, more traditional soy forms.

A Few Last Things To Consider

The soy industry is exactly that – an industry, with the goal of making money.  They want to convince us that soy is a miracle health food, and they have invested millions of dollars in marketing to do just that – quite successfully, I would add.  For every risk I mentioned above, there is another study that contradicts that risk and wants to call me crazy.

Soy is not without its benefits, I admit.  But I encourage you all to check out the facts for yourself.  There is just too much evidence of unnecessary risk for me to consider soy products to be an acceptable food source in our home.  What about you?

Learn more about soy from these sources, which I used in writing this article:

Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon
The Whole Soy Story, by Kaayla T. Daniel, PhD
Whole Soy
Soy Online
Soy Alert: Health Food or Danger?
Natural Health News: Be Aware of Soy Risks
Do Soy Foods Negatively Affect Your Thyroid?
Wikipedia: Soybean

Have you ever heard about these risks associated with soy? What do you think?

Reading Time:

5 minutes





  1. rachel whetzel

    I’ve been wanting to blog about this for a long time. It’s so important for people to KNOW what they are eating!! Soy is in SO MUCH of our food… even in forms that aren’t immediately recognizable as soy… it’s not right.

  2. JRFrugalMom

    This was very interesting. My two older sons loves soy milk, as they are both lactose intolerant, but I have been trying to switch them to lactose free milk only, and your post gave me more reason to do so.

    I just posted a review/giveaway of Eating Animals, I think it is a book you would find very interesting.

    I would like to invite you to the Follow Us Monday Morning @ Frugality Is Free @ Frugality Is Free.a cutie he is!

    • kaola mama bear

      Soymilk given to baby boys can cause their reproductive anatomy to be small. It can also give baby girls too much estrogen which can cause early puberty and disrupt the function of the thyroid gland. Soy mimics estrogen which is a female hormone. It can also increase risk of breast cancer in women.

    • Katie

      Yep! I debated whether or not to bring that into this post but it was already getting too long. 🙂 Thanks for pointing it out, Julie!

      • Denise

        Katie, I ran across you posting about soy while looking for some info. I’d like to correct you on a couple of things. Soy milk contain 6 gm. soy protein in 1 C. not 240 gms. (I believe you were looking at the liquid wt. of the soymilk. Remember, most of that wt. is water.)
        Then tofu has 20 gms. soy per 1/2 C. servings, not 252 gms.(another wt. for the 1 C. of tofu) as you had stated.
        The producers of soy are no different than the producers of dairy products & meat products! Just be an informed, health conscious consumer. 🙂

    • Lois

      Julie, I was going to make that same comment. I choose not to do anything that supports the soy industry for this reason.

  3. Paula

    I have been avoiding soy since being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and Graves’ Disease, but I worry about my oldest son, who consumed soy formula after I stopped nursing (and was supplemented with it while I was nursing). He was extremely colicky and lactose-intolerant, but at the time lactose-free formula wasn’t on the market. I am the daughter of a soybean farmer, but I also realize that there are plenty of ways to use soy besides in our diet. Great article!

  4. Kara @Simple Kids

    Katie, thank you so much for this post. I had no idea about much of this! We don’t consume a lot of soy in this house, but we do from time to time. I feel much more informed now and will be doing as you suggest and researching this more on my own.

    Thank you!

  5. Kara

    You had my attention at “mimics estrogen”. I don’t eat much soy, but I can’t say I avoid it completely when occasionally eating processed foods (it’s like corn, in everything). I’m going to work on learning how to identify it better.

  6. sarah

    Wow, it’s so exhausting trying to figure out what on earth I should be eating. My son loves edamame. And I’ve been drinking soy milk for years (not a lot, really, but I don’t like milk much). Sometimes we eat tofu, and we definitely use soy sauce (son loves that, too).

    • Ali

      There are several soy milk alternatives:
      coconut milk
      almond milk
      hazelnut milk
      rice milk

      Pacific Natural Foods makes an organic almond milk I enjoy during goats’ dry season (winter).

      • Keilah

        Braggs Amino Acid is a good soy sauce replacement, it is gluten free too!

  7. Aimee @ Simple Bites

    Thank you for this helpful post, Katie. We consume very little soy in our house and I try to encourage others to do the same. But you are right, no one wants to feel preached at!

    Sharing this on my Facebook page.

  8. Shauna

    I appreciate this post, Katie, and the dialogue it’s prompted already. My husband, Scott, is lactose intolerant and had switched from lactose-free milk to soy milk on his cereal until our nutritionist alerted us to the health risks. Happily, we’ve found almond milk to be a very satisfactory alternative.

  9. Kristina

    Is this information only in regards to GMO soy? What about non-GMO soy protein in weight loss shake mixes?

    • Katie

      Unfortunately, this applies to any soy, not just GMO-soy. GMO soy is, of course, worse, but it’s simply because it’s GMO. Soy protein powder is one of the worst forms of soy because it’s so highly processed.

  10. Elizabeth

    One more scary fact to add to the pile in regards to soy milk – the amount of bleach used to get it to the standard ‘soy milk colour’ is scary.

    Great post, thanks for getting the information out there in a helpful manner!

  11. Pamela

    I used to drink soy milk until I read about its downside. Now I drink almond “milk” which is delicious and free from phytoestrogens. Anything you know about almond milk that I should be aware of? Thanks. Pamela

    • Katie

      Hi Pamela,

      I would say in general that almond milk is OK – much better than soy but not totally awesome. 🙂 Do you have a dairy allergy that prevents you from drinking cow’s milk? I use almond milk as a low-sugar, high-protein liquid for smoothies sometimes, but in general I don’t really consume much of any kind of milk, actually. Almond milk is very yummy, though, as you say!

      • Pamela

        No, not an allergy to cow’s milk, but I try to avoid dairy for other reasons (hormones, creates phlegm). The only time I ever “drink” milk is on my cereal, so I consume very little as well. It’s a good way to get a little extra protein as I’m not a big meat eater. Thanks for your response!

        • Cheryl Arkison

          You might try Goat Milk. From a natuopathic and Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective it has different qualities than cow milk. My girls drink it because cow milk makes their eczema worse, but goat milk keeps it under control.

  12. Christina

    I’ve never commented before but feel compelled to do so…soy is the enemy at our house! A year ago my son tested positive for a soy allergy. We went in to the allergist’s assuming he was allergic to peanuts after an eczema outbreak. But soy? Well, we thought we would just eliminate soy sauce and edamame. Looking back now, I wish it had been that easy. SO MANY cereals, breads, snacks (even organic) contain soy lechitin or a protein derived from soy. Our pantry looks radically different — and our family eats radically different — now than it did a year ago primarily because of my son’s soy allergy. Thank you for this post!

    • Katie

      Yes – if someone has a true soy allergy, it can change everything!! Thanks for sharing, Christina.

  13. Rebekah Randolph

    Thanks for this post! More people need to learn about the dangers of soy– it’s so heavily marketed as a magical health food. My husband seems to break out in hives whenever he eats it– that’s enough reason to avoid the stuff, and besides, I have funky hormones and don’t need to confuse them even more. 🙂

  14. Heather

    We have been concerned about some of the downsides of soy consumption, too. But in a house where our child is allergic to dairy, wheat, barley, eggs, nuts, sesame, flax, and other things besides, soy has often been a substitute for the dairy products that he can’t have. I personally prefer rice milk, but dietitians have been after me to give him something with a higher fat content. It’s a balancing act.

    Thank you for your informative article.

    • Sam

      You might look into trying coconut milk. 🙂

      • Sam

        I should add if that’s not on the allergy list.

        • Heather

          That’s a thought worth considering. My son has never tried coconut, so I don’t know if it will be on the allergy list or not. The trick is to get him to try anything new; He’s extraordinarily picky! (a defense mechanism, I think.) Thanks for the idea.

          • Katie

            Heather, I was going to suggest coconut milk, too. Very nutritious and plenty of healthy fats. Good luck!

    • Shawn

      We have kids that are lactose sensitive and soy sensitive. We give them fortified rice milk (which has added vitamins and fat and stuff… yes, we are probably evil for that too…) but when our boy needed added fat, a nutritionist recommended a few drops of Udo’s Oil (or canola if you don’t have the cash for Udo’s Oil). If it makes the milk taste too weird, add it to some smoothies. Then you get the added benefits of fruit and all that.

  15. susanintexas

    wow. i remember reading this before but kindof forgot about it. so glad you brought it up again as we are using soy milk on our cereal–organic but still. i don’t like rice or almond milk… not sure what we’ll do. I can just use yogurt but my kids really like soy milk for the taste. do we go back to cow milk now after getting rid of it for other health reasons? or just do like the french and have bread for breakfast? I’ll be doing some exploring now!

    • Sam

      I’d look into coconut milk or raw milk personally. But the milk depends on the reason for elimination in the first place 🙂

    • Katie

      Yes – coconut milk is a good alternative. Is there a dairy allergy involved? If you haven’t looked into raw milk, you might want to check that out, too. will help!

  16. Sandra Lee

    I completely agree with you. I’m so delighted you are educating people on this topic. I never eat soy!

  17. Kathie Rytenskild

    I am so relieved that I detest the taste of soy, tofu, etc. However, I really feel for people who have allergies to other foods and find it difficult to find alternatives that do not contain soy. While testing my son on a gf diet, it was almost impossible to find a gf bread that did not contain soy flour. It is soooo pervasive – and that in itself should give an indication that all is not as it seems……

    • Katie

      We are also GF – have you tried Udi’s Bread? It’s excellent! And in addition to being GF, it’s also dairy-free and soy-free. Highly recommend it. Also, you can buy a bread mix and make your own, such as Pamela’s GF Bread Mix – they are soy-free and GF. Good luck. 🙂

  18. Sam

    We try to avoid soy in our house as well. About 8 years ago I was consuming a lot of soy plus being on contraceptive pills and it really messed up my hormones and the amount of estrogen my body was getting and since then I’ve tried to avoid it. Thanks for this great post!

  19. Katie

    When my son was a baby he was allergic to milk so he started drinking a soy formula and many eczema breakouts later we found out he was also allergic to soy. It is really true as other people said, you don’t realize how pervasive soy is in our culture until you look at every cracker, cookie, cereal, bread etc. and realize it is in everything!
    It certainly has been a challenge to pack a snack for my son.
    Luckily he has outgrown his dairy allergy and is back on whole milk.
    Thanks for the post!

  20. Anne Marie

    My concern is, after not being able to breastfeed due to a medical issue, and with my son sick from any milk based formula, I only had Soy formula available for him. What do you do to avoid soy in that case?

    • Katie

      Anne Marie, that is a tough situation and I feel for you. There are dairy-free and soy-free formulas, but I understand they are pretty expensive. Is your son lactose-intolerant or actually allergic to dairy? There are also lactose-free formulas if it’s not a true dairy allergy. I have also heard of an oat formula that some moms have made at home – here are some recipes: and also (some of these are soy-based but some are not). I would say that as a mom, I’m sure that you do your best, and once he turns one and he can stop drinking formula, then eliminate the soy at that time and don’t worry about it anymore. The body has an amazing ability to recover and heal, especially if given plenty of healthy, nutrient-dense foods. Good luck. 🙂

      • melissa

        i’m with anne marie in a way… i am breastfeeding, and i have been for 8 months, but my milk supply is slowly dwindling, and i have had to start supplementing w a scoop of formula for the 1 bottle my son gets a day (in the evening when i’m at work).

        My son has pretty bad eczema, and just all around sensitive skin. I have had to change my diet a bit, but not everything helps. When I first started w the formula supplement, my husband called me freaking out bc my son had broken out in hives from head to toe. That’s when i decided to go with soy.

        I’m only using 1 scoop (2 oz) of soy formula per day (in the aforementioned bottle) and only 1 scoop any time we are out & he is staying w a relative- i am able to pump the rest, but just can pump enough to supply the full amount for all. I looked at the formula recipes in the links you have provided, but I care for my son and work from home during the day, and i have a part-time job at night- I already feel like i’m swamped enough + a lot of them have soy milk and ingredients i wouldn’t know where to begin to look for.

        ugh. 🙁

        • Cheryl Arkison

          Ugh indeed! If your son has eczema, when it comes time to introduce milk, consider goat milk. it has done a world of good for my girls. Soy and Cow milk are essentially the same when it comes to a naturopathic/traditional chinese medicine perspective. And both are typical triggers for eczema. But on goats milk my girls eczema is almost nothing.

    • Ali

      This is not exactly an easy formula to make (has many ingredients), but the WAPF says it is a good well-rounded substitute for human breast milk if needed. Have a look and see what you think:

  21. Julia

    What about the unprocessed edamame beans? Are they as harmful as other forms of soy?

    • Katie

      They would still carry the same risks, but at lower levels than the highly processed and concentrated forms of soy.

  22. Jessica

    It is so great that you posted this. My doctor advised me a long time ago to avoid soy because I have a hormone imbalance that is similar to PCOS (Poly-cystic Ovarian Syndrome) and the phyto-estrogens are a huge problem for me. It is an interesting dilemma because so many people have suggested that I would be better on a vegetarian diet and I do have issues with the sustainability and humane-ness of meat production but replacing my protein intake with soy is also out of the question. At the moment, I try to consume less meat and what I consume is farmed in sustainable and humane ways to the best of my knowledge. I just appreciate the tone of your blog because you are right, people do get pretty judgmental about others’ dietary choices. This issue is an important one to be aware of IMO.

    • Katie

      Hi Jessica – I am in a similar boat with some health issues and I need a lot of protein. Soy is out of the question, so I try to make sure I eat a lot of eggs and that all the meat I consume is hormone-free (at minimum!) – preferably local, grass-fed or pastured, etc. Thanks for your comment!

  23. Kelly

    I have two comments/questions.
    1. As you briefly mention at the end of your post, the phytoestrogen question is still wide open. Studies have shown that it can have harmful effects on people with hormone imbalances, but it does not affect others – I wish you had dealt with that point more evenly. I do agree that we should limit children’s intake because there hasn’t been many studies done.
    2. I realize this only came up in the comments, but I feel I have to reply: Why do you oppose GMO crops? Genetically modified crops are rigorously tested and safe for consumption – the benefits far outweigh the scare-tactics about ‘franken-vegetables’. Insect-resistant GM crops use zero pesticides, crops genetically modified to use nutrients and water more efficiently do not have to be watered as frequently, can be grown in less-than-ideal growing conditions (i.e. closer to the consumer and in poorer countries) and use little to no fertilizer, which decrease the fertilizer run-off into our waterways…. Organic farming is great, but there is no way that will scale-up to feed the world population. Organic produce is a wealthy person’s luxury. The only choices for the future are 1. more fertilizer, more pesticides and higher water-use while cutting down pristine rain forest for more farm land or 2. better utilization of the farm land currently in cultivation, and the only way to increase yields on current farmland to keep up with growing populations is to include GM crops. I apologize for sounding preachy, but I am a research scientist at an academic institution that directly studies the health, economic and environmental impacts of crops, so I this topic is very close to home for me. I appreciate your blog, and I’ve been a long-time reader, please don’t begin propagating scare tactics.

    • Katie

      Hi Kelly,

      I appreciate your thoughtful comment. I would like to address the GMO question – based on the reading and research I have done, I personally don’t believe GMO foods are safe and/or healthy to consume. Even mainstream science seems to suggest that the verdict is still out. Here is one article that contains a lot of sources and research on the subject: Since I am not a scientist, I must research and draw my own conclusions based on other’s research, as must most of the world. But right now, it seems like jumping the gun to say that GMO foods are safe. I don’t consider it a “scare tactic” when I am actually rather scared of GMO foods myself. Thanks again for your comment and for reading.

    • JM

      Organic farming can produce very large yields. Balanced soil fertility, earth worm castings and microbial tea will get the job done. There are natural limits however. Overly large yields are more prone to fungus and would not normally survive natural selection and would require spraying or other unnatural methods of preservation. Personally I think it makes more sense to recognize the natural limits of our planet than to adopt these unhealthy methods.

    • JM

      Insect resistant crops have pesticides built right in (BT corn for example uses Bt delta endotoxin). Water efficiency is increased with healthy organic soil thanks to the action of microbial populations. High levels of microbial activity in the soil also increases fertilizer efficiency. It is the microbially-dead, pertrochemically fertilized soils that waste water and fertilizer and produce vitamin and mineral deficiencies. The only difference between human technology and evolution’s technology is that ours is unsustainable and poisonous.

      There are many examples of harmful engineering with good intentions. Sun tan lotion that blocked UVB but allowed UVA causing an increase in cancer, margarine replacing butter with trans fats, lead water pipes, asbestos insulation, vegetable cooking oil etc. In 1900 only 1 in 30 got cancer. Despite spending billions on research every year, now 60% of us will get cancer. Armed with those facts you can draw your own conclusions.

  24. Courtney

    I feed our family so very carefully – but my toddler son (who breastfed until 2) drinks a lot of soymilk at breakfast and a before bath snack. I am really disheartened as I have been meaning to check into the soy debate earlier and have not. I will be making changes and hope that I haven’t already done harm. Everything in moderation but I am afraid I let this get out of the moderation zone. Thanks for the info.

    • Katie

      Courtney, see my reply to Anne Marie above re: formula. Good luck! 🙂

  25. Alexis R

    Thank you for the soy post. I knew women should have soy products but I guess it is the same for males. My husband is lactose intolerant and has been drinking soy and we, including our two boys, munch on dark chocolate edamame. So what I hearing is that soy shouldn’t even be consumed by anyone?

    • Alexis R

      Never mind, I must of read too fast…found my answer!

  26. Christine

    I appreciate this post and agree with your points, but I’m wondering what you would suggest for those with a dairy-allergy.

    My son loves soy milk. We weaned him onto soy formula after months of feeding refusal and screaming bouts that the gastroenterologist diagnosed as a dairy allergy. He would vomit if given straight dairy and developed painful intestinal problems. I wasn’t able to continue nursing him on a dairy free diet myself (long story, although was later able to nurse my daughter through her dairy allergy that way). In the US there is only cows milk or soy based formula. Then there are hypoallergenic formulas that cost a small fortune and, I have been informed, generally taste like something akin to wall paper paste. And then there is elemental formula, which is even more expensive and prescription only.

    Are there any other non-dairy formula alternatives on the market that you’re aware of? Some people have suggested goat milk in the past. It has potential, but there’s a strong overlap of the two allergies. Not true with camel milk – but who has that?!

    • Katie

      Christin, see my reply to Anne Marie above re: formula. I hope that helps. 🙂

      • Katie

        ooops, typo – I meant, Christine!

  27. alison chino

    I’m so sad from reading this that I might need to take a nap.

    We use tons of soy milk and tofu at our house as part of an effort to eliminate animal products, especially dairy.

    It feels overwhelming to keep adding to the list of foods we need to avoid.

    Dairy allergies and a lack of proteins make soy products such a good option for us.

    Now, what to do?

    I know almond milk is a possibility but between using almond butter and eating raw almonds, we already consume a ridiculous amount of almond products.

    • Katie

      Alison, please don’t be sad! I want to try and encourage you – you are obviously trying to make good and healthy choices for your family and that’s the best place to be – many moms aren’t even trying to do that. I am wondering, why are you trying to eliminate animal products? Is it allergies, ethics, etc? Are you trying to eat a vegan diet or just vegetarian? I know this is controversial, but I would like to gently suggest that a vegan diet is not a healthy choice. Are there egg allergies at play? Eggs are a great source of protein. Coconut milk is a good milk alternative if you have dairy allergies. Buying locally-raised eggs from happy pastured chickens is an ethical choice as well as a healthy one. Hope some of this helps!

    • Ali

      Hi Alison,

      Please consider, for additional non-animal protein sources, wild mushrooms which have amazing health-giving properties, in addition to protein. Look for ones like shiitake, porcini, oyster and morel mushrooms. Also quite helpful from a health / immune system standpoint are maitake, reishi and cordyceps. All mushrooms contain protein, but the more you can get wild mushrooms, the better. You can even get shiitake or maitake to taste like bacon, if you’re a former bacon lover:

      Beyond the mushroom kingdom, consider adding quinoa into your diet as it’s high in protein. If the flavor is too earthy, use spices / sauces to flavor.

      Coconut, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds are also excellent sources of protein for various health-supporting reasons. Consider cooking your grains (rice, quinoa, etc.) in coconut milk for added protein. I’ve also read (but haven’t verified) that raw kale is better than a chunk of meat for protein, but it must be macerated (like when part of a fruit smoothie) to absorb the nutrients. Soaked cashews can be made into a delicious hummus.

      I hope you find this expands your horizons rather than feels more limiting. It is possible to be both soy-free and vegetarian.

    • Jennifer

      I love soy and have for years. Tho just recently when enjoying edamame more frequently did i start to notice that i was becoming more and more emotional. Now that i’m taking a break i’m feeling much more stable. I plan to use soy within reason. and simply not over do it. Instead of milk I’ve switched over to oat milk. I’ve tried everything Hemp, Soy, Almond, coconut, rice, and oat just has the smoothest best flavor. tho rice and coconut are great too. I actually work in the natural food field so helping people with great choices is what i’m all about. loves

  28. Maryann


    Thanks for bringing up an important topic. From what I’ve read, most of the negative studies with soy have been done on animal studies. Mark Messina, PhD, RD discusses this topic on Vegan Health
    I would love if you could send me the research you used to draw your conclusions. Being a dietitian, I’m always interested in learning more from people.



    • Ruth Lawler

      Did you know that certain acupuncturists can cure allergies in 24 hrs.? Not all can, they have to be trained in it. Now some alternative medicine doctors are trained in it also, and use lasers instead of needles. My children and I have used it successfully with needles and a friend recently had laser treatments to cure her seasonal allergies.

  29. Krista

    Thanks for writing this! A friend sent me here via facebook. I knew most of this, but you’ve laid it out so succinctly that I can now share it with family members who don’t understand my concerns (nor why I refuse to let my son drink soy milk!).

  30. tavia

    Eeek ! I didn’t know all that – thanx for the information ! How on earth I am going to wean Ginny off of soy milk is beyond me though …..

  31. Fiona

    Asian cultures do consume soy milk. At an open air market in Thailand, I was able to buy a bag of soy milk warm from the vat. It tasted heavenly, way better than soy milk we get in cartons.

    I highly suspect it’s not a coincidence that the negative claims about soy started appearing as soon as vegetarianism or at least cutting down on red meat was gaining ground as a mainstream trend. I’m sure this was very alarming to the meat industry, which is much bigger and more powerful and vested than the soy industry. These days it’s easy to create an alarmist food scare, or, alternately, convince people that a certain food is a superfood, and then ten years later, it’s the poison of the day. If you look hard enough into the components of any food, you can find trace amounts of something to support either of these claims. but in both cases it is usually highly overblown and based on misinterpretation of science.

    I feel sad that people are getting turned off a healthy, cheap, high protein food.

  32. Tonia

    Thanks so much for this great article. I have PCOS & avoid all soy products. It’s definitely not the cure-all that some would have us believe.

    I was lactose intolerant as an infant & was on a soy-based formula. I often wonder if that plays a role in developing hormonal problems such as PCOS & hypothyroidism.

    I do miss eating edamame though…

    Take care,

  33. Kesha

    This is my opinion, so let us all play nice. Soy, meat, sugar, or wheat, there will always be health pros and cons. Moderation is the key. We are not all “cookie-cutter” beings, we are individuals. One person’s body may react differently from another person’s body. So pick your poison and enjoy it in moderation!

  34. Susan

    My mom had a recurrence of breast cancer after 25 years. At the recurrence new testing revealed it was a type of cancer that is an estrogen receptor cancer. She was told to eliminate all phytoestrogens from her diet (not easy but she did it). Interestingly her gynecologist had moved her almost completely to soy based products years before the recurrence – thinking it was safer.

  35. Gayle Cameron

    Re ; hormone imbalance and soy.
    It doesn’t have to be a HUGE reaction to soy that makes one not want to eat it.
    I just get really bad period pains, and a worse period, and a headache when I have eaten soy products. I also have a “sore tummy”, bloated and “hot”. Now, try to find a packaged food that DOESN’T have it on their list……….
    Is it true that the soybean industry, when they found they had a pile of toxic soybean waste product left over from soybean oil production, set a group of scientists to try to find out a profitable use for it? Soy lecithin is now in everything- even chocolate…………..We need to stand up and not be dominated by a $ driven industry that does not give a continental about our health, or about test results etc.. I could go on about live animal testing with products too- another area we can tell these companies that we will not buy their unethical products. Come on- it’s the power of consumerism! The yinvented it- we can use it.

  36. diane wilson

    Thanks for the heads up on soy, I never liked it anyway. But don’t turn to animal (cow or goat) milk either – they have just as many hormones as soy and, unless they are organic, they are full of other toxins as well. Many other milk substitutes are available: oat, rice, almond, coconut, etc. just make sure you get organic.

  37. Cali_HEALTHGAL

    **I’m devastated. I am pretty much like the person above who said she needed a nap after reading this. 🙂 I am vegetarian and probably 98% vegan..[except some shoes..I’m learning to shop vegan, as well.] I’m also venturing off into the Raw diet or way of eating. I have consumed Soy for years. I drink chocolate soy daily or a vanilla chi soy drink from Bolthouse farms which is to die for. I just ate an entire bag of edamame last night. But, I have been hearing for the longest that soy is not good for you so I wanted to sit down and study this to find out for myself. I am horrified to find out about it being like taking contraceptives. I am 40’s female & still want to try somehow to have a child…-I may need help like fertility treatments- but, it’s a chance I still have some eggs left LOL so, I don’t need anything hurting my sex hormones, or anything harming what I have left of my fertility.
    I HATE how the FDA or companies are allowed to tell us Any damn thing and act as though it’s from the bible & truth, making us believe in what they say..and in the’s doing nothing but harming our health.
    I will be tossing out all of my soy drinks and bags of edamame that I have.

    Ok, I love this info but, I have a problem with the, “Vegans don’t have a healthy diet and dairy is good for you comment.” That is incorrect. How is eating from the earth and saving all the nutrients in your food, cutting out things that have enormous fat with the potential to cause heart attacks, cancer & more… How is eating that way NOT HEALTHY?
    If you haven’t researched the dangers of DAIRY, please do so. I loved cheese, creamer, yogurt just like anyone else..but the research taught me better.
    I’ve read that food designed for the health of other species is not meant for Human consumption. [Also, there are statements that Breast Milk is better for humans] Ok, now, I find that absolutely gross. Might be better for you but I would, why on earth would I want to consume the milk of some filthy animal’s teat?]… Think about it! So, go research more about the risks of dairy and see if that is still something you want to do to yourself, especially on a daily basis.
    *I’m not trying to tell anyone what to eat..Do what you want..I’m just trying to get as much info as possible and eat as clean as possible.
    It seems that those who speak negatively about the vegetarian or vegan way of eating, are always the meat lovers. I’ve not seen any Fat vegans or Raw Dieters EVER..!

  38. Julie

    We have a lot of food allergies in our family. The foods we can eat tend to contain quite a bit of soy. I am very nervous about the amount of soy my children consume. I do my best to give hormone free, antibiotic free, organic foods. I have noticed that many of the organic meats that we eat are from animals on a soy diet. Do we need to avoid these meats too? Is there an organic lactose free milk option available?
    Any advice would be wonderful.

  39. ryan

    so a couple thousand years as a staple protein source in asia, p.s. before we brought mcdonalds over asians were fit as a fiddle. I’m just not buyin it. probably propaganda distributed by scientists working for a beef company

  40. ryan

    i also noticed at the top about asian cultures using it as a side dish. literally a few cubes is all you need due to the high protein content

  41. Belinda Fenby

    I am post breast cancer. My doctor has advised me to avoid soy. It’ in almost every item that’s edible! In addition, my dog’s vet has said not to feed my dog food with soy products in! My horse’s vet has told me to avoid feeding horse feeds which contain soy! How can such an unacceptable product have been cleared for consumption and put into everything? Is the FDA truly this incompetent and/or corrupt?

  42. Monique M.

    I decided to stop eating soy a long time ago. It was mostly because I have issues with hormones and I knew that this affected it. I’m now studying in college about nutrition and this hits it right on the head. Holy COW! My daughter is having some dietary issues and I feel like its the dairy products so I have been experimenting. Our family doesn’t get it and wants to push soy on her. It makes me cringe. Thank you for your amazing article about this topic I will be sharing it. Also, thank you for your references! People really do need to open their eyes. Whole foods people, whole foods!

  43. kabeer

    i dont think so this article is right.
    i m completely disagree with this article

  44. christina

    what if that soy is dried, granded and used as tea drink?

  45. C. Ford

    Training bra at 2nd grade, menses at 11, nasty case of PCOS, horrible weight issues and INFERTILTY…I was on soy milk from 6mo. to 9 yrs due to milk allergy and ignorant doctors. It’s been a nightmare. NO SOY!!

  46. Carmen Z. @problems with soy

    The soy plant itself contains lots of natural toxins that are linked to several health conditions, including potentially screwing up your hormonal balance.
    For example…Natural toxins: Impair your digestive system. Phytates: Prevent you from absorbing certain minerals. Enzyme inhibitors: Hinder protein digestion.
    Goitrogens: Interfere with your thyroid function and metabolism. Phytoestrogens: (Isoflavones) genistein and daidzein, which mimic and sometimes block the hormone estrogen. Also 91% of soy products in this country are GMOs…Another reason to stay away!

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