Kaayla T. Daniel is a clinical nutritionist with a PhD in Nutritional Sciences and Anti-Aging Therapies. She is a popular speaker on the subjects of nutrition and longevity and she advises clients on a wide range of nutritional health issues. The subtitle of this book, The Dark Side of America’s Favorite Health Food, describes its purpose perfectly… to counter the exaggerated health claims about soy and soy products and to provide a more balanced view based on facts and science.
The book is divided into seven sections:
- Part One, “A Short History of Soy,” disputes the myth that soy is an ancient food that has always comprised a significant percentage of Asian diets. To quote from the book, “The ancient Chinese valued the soybean as a national treasure and honored it with the name ‘the yellow jewel.’ Yes, the Chinese revered the soybean — but they did not eat it.” Soybean was originally considered to be “green manure,” a cover crop that could be plowed under because it held valuable nitrogen in the soil. Since soybeans are toxic unless they are processed in a special way, they did not actually become a food item until comparatively recently when people discovered ways to neutralize the toxins (usually by fermentation). Other chapters describe the rise of soy in Western society and how different modern forms of soy are from the traditional soy foods of Asian cultures.
- Part Two, “Types of Soy,” details how soy is transformed from a bean that humans can’t actually digest into the wide range of additives and processed foods that are so promoted today. It divides soy-based foods into “first generation” (foods that contain recognizable soy like soy flour, soy nuts, and soy grits) and “second generation” (what the book calls “analogues,” foods like Harvest Burgers where hidden soy is made to look, smell, and taste like something else). The book also explains how soy oil is manufactured (“The only economical way to obtain it is to use a complicated high-tech process that includes grinding, crushing and extracting, using high temperature, intense pressure and chemical solvents such as hexane.”) and describes how waste soybean sludge replaced eggs as the primary source of commercial lecithin.
- Parts Three, Four, and Five examine the nutritional claims made by the soy industry about soy being a healthy food and conclude that almost all of those claims are not backed up by fact. Another conclusion… soy in food poses many potential health risks that the author feels are not being adequately investigated. For example: “Even the small quantities [of soy] used as extenders in meat products, bakery goods and other ordinary supermarket products can adversely affect people whose digestive capabilities are already compromised by low hydrochloric acid levels, pancreatic insufficiency, bowel diseases and other health challenges. It may not be coincidental that these problems are on the rise even as ‘hidden’ soy has been slipping into more and more food products.” The book suggests possible links between soy and thyroid disorders, kidney stones, infertility, and various types of cancer. One sidebar even describes a study that suggested that men and women who ate tofu at least twice a week experienced shrinkage of the brain!
- Part Six, “Soy Allergens: Shock of the New,” describes the relatively new phenomenon of the soybean allergy, which can be quite severe, and accuses the soy industry of adding to the danger by misleading labeling even though soy is one of the top five food allergens. The author also explains something I had never heard of before, that children who already suffer from peanut allergies can develop sudden (and sometimes deadly) soybean allergies. Another direct quote: “If your child is allergic to peanuts, you must eliminate all soy as well as all peanuts from your child’s diet. Your child’s life may depend upon it.”
- The final part, “Soy Estrogens: Hormone Havoc,” goes into even more detail about soy’s interaction with body hormones, with particular emphasis on soy’s effect on cancer, the reproductive system, and the thyroid. The author is very concerned about soy-based baby formulas and their effects on young children at the most formative and vulnerable time of their lives: “Parents who feed their infants soy formula are unwittingly giving them the hormonal equivalent of three to five birth control pills per day.”
This extremely well-researched and sometimes quite technical book is very interesting reading. The author obviously shares my feeling that the explosion of soy in the food supply is not as wonderful and healthy as the advertisers would lead us to believe. The Whole Soy Story ends with these questions: “What will the coming years bring? More false claims for soy protein — and new claims for soy oil — as the healer of everything from cancer to ingrown toenails? Or a genuine, consumer-driven, grassroots movement demanding honesty, integrity, common sense and ‘real food’? The challenge and choice is ours.”
The Whole Soy Story: The Dark Side of America’s Favorite Health Food, by Kaayla T. Daniel, PhD, CCN. Hardcover, 457 pages (including end notes and index). Published by New Trends Publishing. Ironically, like most books these days, this book is printed with soy ink.