For my regular visitors, if you find that this blog hasn't been updating much lately, chances are pretty good I've been spending my writing energy on my companion blog. Feel free to pop over to Home is Where the Central Cardio-pulmonary Organ Is, and see what else has been going on.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Book Review: The Whole Soy Story Part One: an overview

My review of this book ended up being quite long, so I'm splitting it up into two parts. This post will be an overview of the book itself, with my opinions of it in the next post.

The Whole Soy Story: The Dark Side of America’s Favorite Health Food
Author: Kaayla T. Daniel, PhD, CCN

Copyright 2005
Introduction by Sally Falon, President, The Weston A. Price Foundation

Before I start this review, I wanted to write a bit about what I knew – or thought I knew – about soy before I started reading this book.

First off, I knew that soy beans were toxic. This, in itself, is not that unusual. Plants need to protect and propogate themselves and, since they can’t get up and run away, they often do so chemically. The plants we eat are filled with chemical pesticides and potential toxins, including carcinogens. While these may be enough to protect them from insects, or their seeds from premature germination, etc., they are often harmless to humans. At least from a practical perspective; the amounts of cabbage or broccoli we’d have to eat for these chemicals to be ingested in harmful quantities are so great, we’d make ourselves sick just trying to eat that much. Other toxins are easily neutralized by cooking, while some require greater processing for them to be safe for human consumption. Some, of course, are simply poisonous to humans.

Soy is one of those plants that I knew required greater processing for safe human consumption. I knew that fermented soy products such as soy sauce were safe, even beneficial, for consumption. I also knew that soy products, such as tofu were, of concern as the processing wasn’t enough to render the product completely safe. Of particular concern to me were the phyto-estrogens. I was under the belief (which I now know to be wrong) that fermented soy products did not have the phyto-estrogens that non-fermented products, such as tofu, had. In looking at phyto-estrogens, I had already come to believe at non-fermented soy products should be avoided by males of all ages, and by pre-pubescent girls.

I was also aware that Asian cultures historically did not actually eat as much soy as has been claimed. I understood that, for the most part, tofu was basically poverty food, eaten when people had little choice. Even as tofu became more acceptable as a food, it still wasn’t eaten as much as we’ve been lead to believe - at least not until fairly recently.

That is about the extent of what I knew about soy products before reading this books.

So, on to the review.

First, a bit about the author.

The author has a PhD in Nutritional Sciences and Anti-Aging Therapies from the Union institute and University in Cincinnati. She’s a certified clinical nutritionist, and “The Whole Nutritionist” (registered trademark). She has a site at The Whole Soy Story. The site includes free excerpts from the book.

An interview with Dr. Daniel is available here.

Another interview is here.

The author is very clear that she not only does not see soy food as a health food, but that she does not believe it to be safe at all. She proceeds to very thoroughly make her case throughout the book.

The book is divided into parts. They are: A Short History of Soy (three chapters), Types of Soy (nine chapters), Macronutrients in Soy (three chapters), Anti-nutrients in Soy (five chapters), Heavy Metals (three chapters), Soy Allergens: Shock of the New (two chapters), and Soy Estrogens: Hormone Havoc (five chapters). Each chapter is littered with reference numbers leading readers to the end notes. Here, we have 44 ½ pages of references in a tiny font – I was tempted to find a magnifying glass to make them easier to read! Most importantly, the references are quite detailed and useful, with each chapter having its own section. If you want to follow up any of her claims, it would be easy to find her sources yourself.

The author begins Part One with discussing the role soy played in Asian cultures, beginning with how it came to be included among
China’s “Five Sacred Grains” (soy is actually a legume, and was planted as a nitrogen-rich green manure to be tilled back into the soil, not eaten). It discusses the first fermented soy products (such as chiang in China, an early variant of the Japanese miso), and the development of tofu. Among the interesting details the author describes is how tofu (Meat without a Bone) was eaten the most by celibate, vegetarian Buddhist monks, as they recognized that tofu reduced libido. In chronicling soy’s introduction to the West, it was interesting to read that Henry Ford was a great supporter of soy products, industrially. He apparently believed soy plastics were the “material of the future” for everything from car bodies to refrigerators. He even made a public appearance wearing a suit made of soybean fibre cloth. A suit which turned out to be “itchy when dry, smelled like a wet dog when damp, and was so prone to ripping that he could not bend over or cross his legs.” Interestingly, several days after I finished reading this book, I was talking to a knitting friend who described her experience with soy fiber yarn. I’ve been tempted to try the yarns myself, but I’ve been looking to make items that will be worn, and I felt the texture was too scratchy for the purpose. After hearing her experience with the yarns, I’m glad I didn’t waste my money.

As the history of soy is chronicled, the author shows how soy products have come full circle, beginning with soy first being used in the East, imported to the West, Western usage far exceeding Eastern usage, and now being imported from the West, with Eastern usage of soy as a food increasing to levels today that it has never enjoyed in the past.

In Part Two, the author discusses original types of soy, the “Good Old Soys” (early fermented soy products) and the various incarnations of soy developed over the centuries and in modern times. This section is of particular interest when it comes to the differences in how soy products are procured today, vs. the old, time consuming methods of the past, and the use of things like solvents, high heat and pressure to shorten production time and separate compounds.

Part Three deals with proteins, fats and carbohydrates. The author explains why these macronutrients are important, how they are used by the body, and how soy sources of these macronutrients differ from those in other foods.

Part Four dives deeper into the anti-nutrients of soybeans, what the soy industry is doing to get around them, and how successful (or not) they’ve been. Here, the reader learns how the various chemicals in soy, such as protease inhibitors, phytates and saponins, affect the body.

Part Five deals with metals, with special attention to manganese, fluoride and aluminum toxicity. The author describes how soy chemicals often prevent the absorption of necessary trace minerals such as zinc, while enhancing absorption of other metals, and how those metals (or lack of them) affect our bodies. She particularly discusses in the effects between adults and infants or children.

Part Six discusses soy allergies, showing how those allergic to milk are more likely to develop allergies to soy – ironic, considering how soy is often given as an alternative to dairy for those who are allergic. She also discusses the difficulty in identifying products that contain soy, since it is often used as filler in foods like ground meats, or soy additives are found in so many products.

Finally, in Part Seven, the author discusses phyto-estrogens. More specifically, she discusses the effects of these estrogens on the thyroid, the reproductive system, and its role in cancer, both as potential cause and potential cure.

See part two for the rest of the review.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Drop me a line...