What You Don't Know About Soy: The Benefits of Soy

The controversy surrounding soy and soy-based products has been going on for years… and rightfully so. You may find that strange coming from a guy that sells a product made completely from soybeans. But hear me out on this one and I think you will understand why we need to take a deeper look at soy. I can already sense that you are reading this thinking that I have a vested interest in proving that soy is great, and you should eat more. But you may be surprised by my conclusions. 

The question: Is soy good for your health or bad?

The very short and simple answer is: Sometimes, maybe, it depends and yes. 

Not the easy answer you were looking for, I know. Soy is controversial for a reason. How can one side be so convinced that soy is packed full of nutrients and great for your health and epidemiological studies have linked soy consumption to some amazing health benefits, but on the other side there is a group equally convinced that it is harmful to your health and causes many negative health conditions. Well, understanding this would take quite a long time to explain and it would include everything from GMOs to soy farmer lobbyists and the long history of fermentation. Because, I know you would rather not read a 5000-word article so I will break down some of the main things to consider when looking into soy and then at the end I will give studies and examples of possible health benefits of soybeans. 

What makes a soybean so special? 

Soybeans are uniquely packed with many vital nutrients including calcium, magnesium, many B-complex vitamins, iron, zinc, thiamine, niacin, riboflavin. Another important thing to look at are some of the other chemical substances found in soybeans, many of these compounds are believed to play a major role in preventing cancer or retarding cancer cell growth. One of the major rolls they play are as antioxidants, which as you may know, stops the damage of free radicals. Vitamins C, E, and beta-carotene are just some of these antioxidants. There are many other phytochemicals found in soy including isoflavones, protease inhibitors, flavonoids, polyphenols, terpenes, saponins, phytosterols, phytates and more. These phytochemicals are found in some other foods, but soy contains them all. This has made the soybeans a topic of great discussion and the subject of many cancer and immune system studies. 

Another thing to add to the uniqueness of soy are the phytoestrogens. These are plant-based estrogens that are very weak and have an estrogen balancing effect on the body. This has been studied in relation to cancer and even the mitigation menopause symptoms. 

Soy is a power packed bean and it is no wonder that it has been a topic of conversation for many years. Keep in mind that there are over 2200 species of soybean and some will have greater nutritional value than others. 

Why is properly processing soybeans critical?

Fresh raw soybeans have come under fire for their phytic acid content and lectins. Phytic acid is sometimes called an "anti-nutrient" but in recent years these assumptions are coming into questions with many benefits being found including anti-cancer properties. There has been some recent evidence that shows that maybe it is not the phytic acid causing issues but in fact the lectins. Lectins are a common issue in many foods, and many have a hard time digesting and even see increased inflammation with lectin consumption. We will get into how to get rid of lectins in the next section.

So, eating raw soybeans may be an issue. However, we do need to start even further back in the process. I am talking about the bean itself. As I mentioned there are varying qualities of bean. The worst of which are the genetically modified ones. Soy is one of the most genetically modified crops in the business. Therefor it can be covered in toxic chemicals and bred for specific qualities that do not always have nutritional profile in mind. If you are going to add soy to your diet you need to ensure that it is organic. That being said, there are still more things to consider in the process.

Many of the soy-based products are processed in ways that damage and even change the chemical structure. For example, you may think of soybean oil. This oil is processed at high temperatures and with harsh chemicals. This can cause the oil to be very pro-inflammatory. In addition, you do not get any of the other complimentary compounds. In my house you will not find one drop of soybean oil, there are just too many issues with it. Other things like emulsifiers, preservatives and soy protein all go through processing methods that strip out other beneficial compounds and leave very little to be desired. 

How to get the most out of soybeans?   

We have seen that there are many issues with processing soy. You must start with an organic and nutrient rich bean. Then you need to get rid of the lectins. So, how do you properly process soybeans to maximize nutrition and get rid of any "anti-nutrients"? Fermentation! Yes, the age-old process of fermentation. Unfortunately, boiling or cooking alone does not break down the lectins in soybeans. Fermentation is a must. The process of fermentation brakes down the lectins as well as making some of the other great phytonutrients more bioavailable. 

Proper fermentation can unlock the massive potential of the soybean nutrient profile of the whole bean. Also, keeping the whole soybean together allows the natural compounds to work in synergy with each other to protect and heal your body. Some fermentation processes can even brake down the soy protein into amino acids and remove the compound that some people have reactions too.  

Soy: Good news and bad news. 

The good news: Clearly soybeans have a massive potential due to their robust nutritional profile. When you select a nutrient rich, organic species of soy and process it via fermentation, you have unlocked the true potential of soy. With studies on cancer, heart disease, PTSD, menopause, viral loads, fungal loads, detox, malaria, immune boosting, inflammation and much more, soy is a true powerhouse when done properly. 

The bad news: Finding organic fermented soy products is not easy. 95% of the soy on the market today is not organic and or not processed correctly. So, you need to me careful in your selection and read food labels for hidden soy additives as they may be harmful. Unlike the healthy phytoestrogens in soy, pesticides found in genetically modified crops can interact with human estrogen levels and cause major hormonal issues as well as a host of other issues. So, take time to select the proper soy to add to your diet. 

The healing benefits of soybeans:

Do not let this info scare you away from this powerful bean. The healing benefits of fermented soy have been enjoyed for thousands of years. Do not "throw the baby out with the bath water" when it comes to soy. There are some great benefits! Below are just a few of the studies benefits of soybean phytonutrients. 

(This info is from a previous article: Five Superstar Anti-Cancer Compounds: And Where to Find Them in Food)

ISOFLAVONES

One isoflavone that gets a lot of attention, and rightfully so, is Genistein. It is a hormone-like substance that has been the subject of numerous studies. It has been studied for its ability to inhibit the initialization of cellular pathways that lead to cancer and stop Notch signaling, the Notch pathway is a regulator of natural immunity and inflammation. Genistein is a phytoestrogen and antioxidant. This powerhouse isoflavone is still being studied for the many anticancer, anti-inflammation, antioxidant and various other implications.

Researchers in Finland came to the conclusion that areas of Japan have lower rates of breast, ovarian, and prostate cancer due to the dietary absorption of genistein. Genistein is a weaker estrogen that binds itself on estrogen receptors in cancerous cells that need this hormone to grow. Genistein is also great at depriving cancer cells of tyrosine protein kinase, which is necessary for them to flourish, and disrupting enzymes that allow cancerous tumors development.

This is all pretty a pretty fancy way of saying that the isoflavone genistein is a power player when it comes to fighting cancer. It is a massive anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2359677/

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1534735419835310

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4791423/ 

PROTEASE INHIBITORS

Protease inhibitors have been widely studied for their ability to combat cancer by preventing the synthesis of key proteins required for cancer cells spread. By destroying premalignant cells they block the initiation of the cancer process. One specific protease inhibitor that has been specifically studied for its implications with cancer is the Bowman-Birk inhibitor. In vitro and in vivo studies have shown that the Bowman-Birk inhibitor can exert a protective and/or suppressive effect on cancer development. It has also been studied for its anti-inflammatory effects and immune boosting properties while reducing auto-immune responses.

The Bowman-Birk inhibitor has shown some pretty incredible results when tested against numerous human cancer cell lines and animal-based cancer models. All this and it does not interfere with function and replication of normal, healthy cells.

Yet another powerful compound on our list that helps destroy cancerous and precancerous cells, but not normal, healthy cells. 

http://meschinohealth.com/nutritionmedicine/nutrition-natural-medicine-update-no-25/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4130838/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2723951/ 

SAPONINS

Saponins are plant steroids that foam when mixed with water. This is where their name comes from. In Latin the word “sapo,” means soap. But, these little guys are much more than just the cleanup crew. They have been studied for their ability to induce cancer cell death, improve immune function and fight free radical damage. Lab studies also show these compounds can destroy leukemia cells and keep them from potentially spreading throughout the body.

By affecting cell morphology, proliferation enzymes, and growth, saponins may also be effective in preventing colon cancer. There are also studies that show saponins can block certain signaling pathways in colon cancer cells. These pathways are crucial for the survival of the colon cancer cell. These implications also may apply to other types of cancer.

Whether you are a scientist or not, this all sounds like a good thing when looking for natural compounds that fight cancer. Saponins help fight inflammation, free radical damage and improve immune function. 

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0367326X10001346

https://academicjournals.org/article/article1416585618_Barbosa.pdf

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25286183

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2904882/ 

PHYTOSTEROLS

Plant sterols are compounds found in plants that are structurally related to cholesterol. Phytosterols have been studied for their well-known effects on cholesterol levels. There is increasing evidence that adding phytosterols into the diet can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. However, there is also research into the potential role it can play in mitigating cancer risk. Their cholesterol modulating actions may actually overlap with anti-cancer actions.

Researchers at the University of Manitoba in Canada have reported evidence that phytosterols can help prevent ovarian, breast, stomach and lung cancer. One of the reasons this is believed to happen is due to the high antioxidant levels and their anti-inflammatory effects. This like the other compounds mentioned before will fight free radical damage that produces unhealthy cells. They also have been found to inhibit proliferation (multiplication of cells) and induce natural apoptosis (cell death). There is much to be learned about phytosterols and their role in the body.

Plant sterols are yet another anti-cancerous, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compound that we need to pay attention to. Early human diets were rich in phytosterols whereas the current typical western diet is relatively low. 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3635199/

https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/dietary-factors/phytochemicals/phytosterols

https://www.livestrong.com/article/26224-benefits-phytosterols/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19491917 

PHYTIC ACID

Aside from cancer prevention, dietary phytates been reported to help protect against diabetes mellitus, dental cavities, heart disease and prevent kidney stone formation. Phytates have shown a targeted approach in attacking cancer cells. In studies on colon cancer and leukemia, only the unhealthy cells were killed off and the normal healthy cells were left alone. Much like the other compounds in this list, a combination of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting activities, detox, differentiation, and anti-angiogenesis are the methods of targeting cancer cells. These are all the principal pathways needed to fight cancer.

Phytates have the ability to act on immune function to augment NK (Natural Killer) cells to hunt and dispose of cancerous cells. One remarkable quality of phytates is their ability to make a cancer cell stop acting like a cancerous cell and return normal functioning cell. This is pretty amazing. They have also been studied for their ability to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy.

Phytates have been looked at as an “anti-nutrient” in the past due to their ability to bind minerals in the digestive tract, making them less available to our bodies. However, these same properties are what help in the prevention of chronic disease. Phytic acid binds with various metals and suppresses damaging oxidation. 

https://nutritionfacts.org/2015/05/26/how-phytates-fight-cancer-cells/

https://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-phytates-phytic-acid

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8383315 

These are just a handful of the compounds that make soy so powerful. 

Final thoughts:

Here at Haelan Products we grow a very nutrient rich species of organic soy. Production involves a very specific growing process and a proprietary microbial nitrogen fermentation process that breaks down the beneficial soybean nutrients into bioavailable compounds that can be assimilated into the blood and tissues resulting in health benefits at a cellular level. With all this evidence pointing to the benefits of properly grown and processed soybeans, we invite you to give Haelan 951 a try and see for yourself.