Over the past few weeks, I’ve been taking a closer look at some of the most common additives in processed food, such as aspartame and “natural flavour”. This week I want to tackle one of the most widespread additives around: soy lecithin.
Where is it found?
Soy lecithin is an emulsifier – it prevents the separation of water and fat. It is found in thousands upon thousands of manufactured products, from baby formula, chocolate, coffee cream and margarine to cosmetics. It’s even sold as a nutritional supplement, boasting claims from increased metabolism and athletic performance to controlling dandruff.
Thanks to a multi-billion dollar marketing campaign spanning almost a century, soy byproducts now reside in up to 70% of the food products on your supermarket shelves.
Where does it come from?
It’s not a pretty picture. Virtually all soy beans grown today are genetically modified varieties, engineered to withstand massive doses of pesticides and herbicides. Oils are extracted from soy beans for commercial use via processes that leave traces of solvents and pesticides in the residual sludge.
Soy lecithin is made from that toxic industrial sludge. As the waste product of soy oil extraction is not fit for livestock consumption, the soy industry has been aggressively seeking other ways to sell the stuff.
What does it do to your body?
Numerous studies have found that soy products may have some pretty nasty side effects. Thyroid dysfunction, kidney stones, suppression of the immune system, increased risk of breast cancer and potentially fatal food allergies, to name just a few.
In addition to being linked with serious health problems, compounds found in soy have significant anti-nutritional properties:
- Lectines compromise immune system functioning and upset the healthy balance of gut bacteria.
- Phytic acid suppresses nutrient absorption by bonding to the nutrients you need, like calcium, magnesium, zinc and copper.
- Haemaglutten causes blood cells to clump together and inhibits oxygen uptake.
- Phytoestrogen mimics the female hormone estrogen.
- Enzyme and trypsin inhibitors impede protein absorption and pancreatic functioning.
Even if all the claims made by the soy industry about the health benefits of soy lecithin and soy byproducts were completely true, it would still be pretty clear that the bad outweighs the good.
If, after reading this, you’re looking to avoid soy byproducts, you’ve got your work cut out for you! If you eat any processed food at all, odds are it contains products derived from soy. You’ll find soybean oil, soy flour, soy formula, soy lecithin or hydrolyzed soy protein on one label after another.
The good news is lowering the load of soy in your diet is easier then you think!
Action Step: Over the next 24 hours take a look at the food in your cupboard. Do you see any items with soy in the ingredient list? Maybe a chocolate bar, box of crackers, some cookies or salad dressing? On your next visit to the grocery store, take a look at a few other products on the shelves related to the item you want. If it has no soy in the ingredient list, it automatically is a better choice. They are out there, you just need to take a few minutes to look.
Remember, the best way to avoid soy products is to get in your kitchen and make your favourite foods yourself. Here is one recipe to help get you started. It is for my delectable Guilt Free Chocolate Bars. This is the silkiest, smoothest chocolate you have ever tasted. Give it a try and let me know how it goes.
Is there anything GOOD about soy?
Fermented soy products like miso, temeph and natto are safer to consume because the fermentation process blunts the activity of phytic acid on your nutrient absorption and creates probiotic activity for gut health.
Now go take a look in your kitchen cupboard and see what you find!