Soy has always been a polarizing protein. Some people love it; some people hate it. There are even some potentially dangerous health and dietary issues that may be associated with it.
Here at Over Easy, we don’t include soy in our kick-ass bars, so we want to give you all of the facts on why soy might not be the best addition to your diet.
Why We Chose Not To Include Soy In Our Breakfast Bars
When we created our Over Easy breakfast bars, we made the choice not to include soy. After taking the time to stack up all of the potential benefits against the potential drawbacks and speaking with dietitians, we believe that we can get the same benefits that soy provides by including other elements.
The most obvious way that we did that is by making sure our breakfast bars contain enough fiber to be able to mimic soy’s ability to potentially reduce the body’s LDL levels. When you eat enough fiber, especially soluble fiber, it can bind with cholesterol particles and stop them from being able to make their way into the bloodstream. It does this by creating a type of gel, which makes them less able to pass through the walls and into the bloodstream, where it would form plaques commonly found in people with heart disease.
We also made sure to have plenty of protein in our breakfast bars. Instead of soy, we choose cage-free egg whites as our main source of protein. Eggs, and specifically egg whites, are one of the best forms of protein out there, even for all you meat-eaters. When you use just the egg whites, you lose the extra cholesterol and fat, making for an even more nutritious breakfast.
When it came down to it, we wanted to create a breakfast bar that was healthy for you without creating any unnecessary risks with your health. We’d like to think that we’ve been pretty successful while still making a delicious tasting breakfast bar. You shouldn’t have to trade health for taste, so we made a bar that does both. Breakfast and snacking have literally never been easier or more real.
What Is Soy?
Before we can explain why we decided we didn’t need soy in our bars, we have to figure out what it actually is.
Soy is usually shorthand for the soybean plant. It is in the legume family, which means it is grown in a seed or a pod (sometimes known as a “pulse”). Other common legumes include chickpeas, black beans, lentils, and peanuts.
Soybeans are native to eastern Asia and continue to be an important part of the Asian diet, and have since migrated to both North and South America. Soybean crops are now either first or second on the list of the most planted crops in the United States, frequently swapping out with corn. That’s nearly 90 million acres of crops all across the country—that’s a lot of soy.
While soy is a complete protein all on its own (meaning it contains all of the essential amino acids the body needs), it is also used in a variety of different products. Soybeans are the main ingredient of soy milk, tofu, soy sauce, tempeh, edamame, and miso, many of which are fermented. Lots of foods that you regularly eat may have some element of soy in them. It’s incredibly common, both in vegetarian or vegan products and as a supplement for animal protein.
The Benefits of Soy
The biggest benefit of soy comes from its isoflavones, although they do have some potential side effects as well (which we’ll discuss later in this article). Essentially, they are a type of plant estrogen (or phytoestrogen) that can mimic the effects of estrogen in the body. Genistein and daidzein are the two major sources of phytoestrogen in soy.
Because of the way that the isoflavones impact the body, research from the American Heart Association has shown that their inclusion with soy protein may be able to reduce one of the “bad” type of cholesterol, LDL, which can be harmful to heart health. While it isn’t a drastic amount (only around 3%), when it comes to helping lower risk of associated diseases like coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease, every little bit counts. Isoflavones may also be able to help support healthy bones, possibly lower blood pressure, and even potentially help decrease the hot flashes associated with menopause.
Soybeans themselves are also full of fiber, protein, healthy carbohydrates, and various antioxidants, and minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium. When added to the diet in its natural form, soy can be a decent addition to a healthy diet. But most people aren’t eating whole soy foods when it comes to soy consumption.
The Downsides Of Soy
The problem with soy comes in how processed it usually is. This is a major concern for any food, but the way that processed soy foods are prepared is a particular issue.
When food producers process the soybeans, they tend to process out all of the positive benefits. What they get is an end result known as soy protein isolate, a super processed form of soy that keeps the protein but strips out all of the other nutrients. In addition, the process of creating soy protein isolate also often includes a chemical called hexane, which isn’t really something that we should be eating.
Soy protein isolate is also potentially linked to both thyroid function and hepatic genes, although studies have so far only been performed in rats. Cutting soy protein isolate out of the diet may be able to not only help with the symptoms of hypothyroidism but also lead to a reduced risk of developing fatty liver disease as well as obesity.
Soy is also one of the more common food-related allergies out there. It often starts in infancy, with soy-based formula, although most people tend to outgrow it before they reach adulthood. Common effects of soy allergies include things like a tingling feeling in the mouth, swelling of the lips or throat, flushing of the face and chest, and GI issues like nausea and diarrhea. It may even potentially cause an anaphylactic reaction that can be life-threatening.
There are also a few gender-specific drawbacks to soy.
Soy And Men’s Health
While soy intake is safe for men in regular doses, when men eat a large amount of soy, they may notice the potential drawbacks. This all comes down to soy’s estrogen-mimicking effects. Over time, men may notice a change in their hormones as well as a potential decrease in their sperm count.
However, consuming natural soy in its non-processed form may also be linked to a reduction in the risk factors that can lead to prostate cancer. It’s all about finding a healthy balance and choosing whole foods as opposed to overly processed junk.
Soy And Women’s Health
Soy has a variety of potential negative effects on women’s health, as well.
Long-term use of soy supplements (especially in the form of soy isoflavone supplements) may increase risk of developing endometrial hyperplasia because the isoflavones can bind to the estrogen receptors. With endometrial hyperplasia, the lining on the inside of the uterus can grow too thick. With this increase in lining thickness also comes an increased risk of developing uterine cancer, which may be even further increased in people with a family history.
In addition, the research is still out when it comes to women who have either been diagnosed with breast cancer or who have an increased genetic risk for developing it. While most studies have shown that pure soy products are safe, supplements are still considered potentially dangerous when it comes to the risk of breast cancer. This may also include the soy isolate included in a lot of food products.
While research is still ongoing for this health claim, it’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your health, and seek medical advice if you're concerned. And if you ask us, it’s worth it to just avoid soy from the get-go.
While soy can be safe in moderation, if you’re eating organic, pure soy products instead of the overly processed soy protein isolate in many of today’s ready to eat foods, we chose not to include it in our Over Easy breakfast bars. There are plenty of ways to get the health benefits that soy provides by including other products while reducing any potential risk. We don’t think that you’ll be able to taste the difference (unless you think our bars taste better, that is).
Soy protein diet alters expression of hepatic genes regulating fatty acid and thyroid hormone metabolism in the male rat - PubMed (nih.gov)