So says Dr. Joseph Mercola, as he reissues, for the umpteenth time, the Weston Price Foundation diatribe against soy. Realize that they are advocates for eating a lot of animal foods: meats, fish, full-fat dairy (including butter, which they consider a premiere health food) and eggs. Even lard is great! They attack soy because soy is often used as a meat-substitute. But, soy is simply a bean, and whatever problems it has, it shares with other beans. Moreover, it shares them with other seed foods, including nuts, whole grains, and oil-seeds. So really, this is an attack on plant foods in general. But, what I would like to do, in a series of short articles to be posted here, is take their highly inflammatory charges against soy and dissect each one in the light of day. And when I'm through, then you can decide for yourself whether soy can kill and whether these people are worth listening to.
This entry will cover their first charge against soy: high levels of phytic acid. First, note that they often fail to mention the fact that many foods are high in phytic acid, that many have as much phytic acid as soy, and that some have significantly higher amounts than soy. Sesame seeds have about twice as much phytic acid as soy, but they're not bellyaching about sesame seeds. Brazil nuts have even more phytic acid than sesame seeds. Almonds have slightly more phytic acid than tofu, which is made from soy, but almonds have 50% more phytic acid than whole soy beans. Even flax seeds and pinto beans have more phytic acid than soy. So how fair is it to attack soy because of phytic acid?
Phytic acid is the primary form in which phosphorus is stored in seeds of all kinds. Undegraded phytic acid cannot release its phosphorus to the human body. Moreover, undegraded phytic acid tends to bind other minerals, including calcium, zinc, and iron. Note that it has been clearly established that the human intestine does produce some phytase enzyme to break down phytic acid. However, it's not much. Relatively speaking, we only produce 1/30 the phytase of a rat. But, you have to look at the big picture.
Under normal conditions, even under ideal conditions, we only absorb a small amount of the minerals in our food. For instance, it's estimated that we absorb about 20% of our calcium. We absorb about 16% of our zinc. And we absorb only about 10% of our iron, but even that gets us into trouble. The RDA for iron for men is 10 mgs daily. However, that assumes a man absorb only 10% which is 1 milligram/day. So, one milligram of iron is all a man has to replace each day- unless he's anemic to begin with. But, it's easy to absorb a lot more than that. In affluent countries, there are more people suffering from excess iron than from too little. Iron is an oxidant. It accelerates free radical formation, and hence aging. It is even considered a cancer promoter. Obviously, you need iron, but you want to avoid an excess. But, it's hard! And that's because it's difficult for the body to excrete iron. Unlike calcium, you don't urinate it out (unless you have urinary bleeding). You only excrete iron in your stool. But, the problem is that the body tends to recycle and reabsorb iron very efficiently, and often, not enough comes out in the stool. That's where phytic acid can help. There are people today taking phytic acid supplements to increase their excretion of iron, and they're doing it to treat or prevent heart disease and/or cancer. It's available on this website. Do a search for IP6. I'm not taking it, and I am not recommending it for general use either. I'm sure I am getting enough phytic acid from my food. But, I'm glad it's in my food.
Let's take me as an example. I include some soy tofu in my diet. As I mentioned previously, in the mornings, I like to make a smoothie with pomegranite juice, tofu, and some fruits, such as bananas, blueberries, persimmons- whatever I have around and feel like having. But, in addition, I eat Brazil nuts regularly because I like them and because I want to obtain their selenium. I also eat sesame seeds regularly as hummus and also as tahini. I also eat whole grains every day. I also eat nuts every day, including almonds which are high in phytic acid. I also eat other legumes, including pinto beans and black beans, which are high in phytic acid, higher than soy. So, how much phytic acid am I getting in total? I don't know, but it's got to be a lot.
So, how am I doing? Well, let's look at my blood work. My blood count is completely normal, and my serum iron last tested was at 112. The normal range for a man is considered to be 40 to 150. The median, therefore, would be 95. So, I am significantly above the median for iron, yet I take no iron supplements, I get no readily-absorbed heme-iron from meat, and I am dependent entirely on these high-phytate plant foods. Well, it's a good thing the phytate is in there because otherwise I could be in serious trouble. Remember, I only need to replace 1 milligram of iron a day. How much iron am I getting? I have seen analyses of the iron content of an unrefined plant-based diet such as mine, and it can be higher than 30 milligrams a day! Imagine if I were absorbing most or all of that iron? I'm 60, and I have been eating this way for decades. If I had been absorbing all that iron all that time, I might have had a heart attack in my 30s! I say thank God for phytic acid!
So, does that mean there is nothing to the clamor about the phytic acid in soy? Yes, that's what it means. Unless you are eating a ton of it, you have got absolutely nothing to worry about. It is a non- problem.
Next time, I'll tackle the next sky-is-falling charge against soy by the ever fear-mongering Weston Price Foundation and Dr. Mercola. So stay tuned!