Friday, March 23, 2012

Soy Part II: Fermented vs. Unfermented

Unfermented Soy products.

  After I published my Dangers of Soy blog in October (suggested we should steer clear of all soy products), I got a lot of questions: What about the Japanese diet, don't they eat a lot of soy? So I can't have soy sauce? I'm a vegetarian, what about tofu? How much is too much?

  Being the curious person that I am, I wanted to know the answers! I'm definitely not an expert, but I am willing to do a little research.

  The most important thing I discovered is that fermented and unfermented soy products are VASTLY different foods. So here's exactly what that means, along with a few other highlights:

The Japanese/Asian Diet:
  Soy farming originally started in China, where it was used to build soil fertility and feed animals. Soy beans were not considered fit for human consumption until the Chinese learned to ferment them (which makes soy digestible). Asian diets now include mostly fermented soy beans in the form of natto, miso, tamari, and tempeh.

  Here's the important part: most soy foods that Americans consume on a regular basis are unfermented soy products: tofu, soy milk, soy ice cream, soy burgers, edamame, etc...

Soy sauce as a condiment.
  In today's world, the people who promote soy as a health food are quick to point out that Asians, who consume a diet higher in soy (30 times greater than North Americans), have lower rates of breast, uterine and prostate cancer.

  Those statistics comes with a caveat, however. Asians, especially the Japanese, also have a much higher risk of developing cancer of the esophagus, thyroid, stomach, pancreas and liver.

  Hard to say which is worse, isn't it?

  Usually, it's safe to say, anything in MODERATION is okay for you. It's when you go overboard, where it becomes a problem.

  Going overboard is where the American diet continually runs into problems. We don't understand what 'in moderation' means.

  In the Asian diet, roughly 10 grams of soy is consumed per day (or two teaspoons, usually as a condiment). But a soy manufacturer recommends that Americans should eat as much as ten times that (100 grams of soy per day)!

  Fermented Soy is ONLY type of soy that offers any health benefits, as fermentation takes care of many of the dangers of soy (but not all).
     -Tempeh is a type of fermented soybean found in solid, cake-like sheets that can be cut into any size you'd like.  
     -Natto is another type of fermented soybean that shaped in smaller, bite-sized chunks.
     -Miso is a thick, fermented paste that can be made from soy beans (but read the label carefully as it is sometimes made from barley or rice)
     -Pickled tofu which can also be called tofu cheese. You may be less likely to find this product in grocery stores but look for it at Asian foods market or a large-scale natural foods stores.  
      -Keep in mind that tofu is NOT on the fermented soy list. Most of the tofu available in supermarkets has been coagulated into its thickened, moist, cake-like form, but it has NOT been fermented. Pickled tofu is the exception. Like other fermented soy products, it makes a great addition to soups.
     -Most soy sauces you find in the supermarket have NOT been fermented, and you should look specifically for tamari if you want the full benefits of a fermented soy product.

Natto on rice.
What Does Fermentation Do?
  After a long fermentation process, soy becomes more easily digestible for the human body. The phytate and 'anti-nutrient' levels are greatly reduced. It is ONLY after this fermentation process that soy's beneficial properties become available to our bodies.

  One of the main benefits of fermented soy is that it's a great source of vitamin K2. Vitamin K2 is essential to preventing osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, and diseases of the brain such as dementia, and protecting you from various cancers including prostate, lung, liver cancer and leukemia.

  But again, this is ONLY after the soy bean has been fermented.

  Unfermented Soy (tofu, soy milk, soy ice cream, soy burgers, edamame) SHOULD be avoided. Unfermented Soy provides us with no nutritional benefit, and in many cases, causes us more harm. These products are the ones I previously wrote about in October.

  Aside from being a genetically modified and a heavily-sprayed (with pesticides) crop, unfermented soy also contains natural toxins ('anti-nutrients'), hemagglutinin, goitrogens, phytates, isoflavones, toxic levels of aluminum and manganese, and is extremely high in estrogen. For a more in-depth explanation, I suggest: What Makes Soy a Risky Food to Eat?

One Last Tidbit
  One final piece of information to keep in mind: BOTH fermented and unfermented soy are goiterigenic (thyroid suppressing). This means that all forms of soy "contain hormonal mimics in the form of isoflavones which can not only disrupt delicate hormone systems in your body, but also act as goitrogens, substances that suppress your thyroid function".

  When the thyroid is suppressed, a host of health problems result, namely:

     -Anxiety and mood swings
     -Difficulty losing weight
     -Difficulty conceiving children
     -Digestive problems
     -Food allergies

Edamame - popular side dish in the US.
  If you do choose to consume any soy products, they should ALWAYS come from organic soybeans.

  As previously mentioned, in North America, soy crops are one of the most heavily-sprayed crops, and are mostly grown using genetically modified seeds (91% of soy grown in the US is genetically modified).

  So, should ALL soy be avoided? Unfortunately, there is no 'one size fits all' answer. I think that is a personal choice. Since I have found out the negative effects of soy, I have done all I can to steer clear of it, whether it's fermented or not. Sure, I'll occasionally have soy sauce when I have sushi. But that's about it.

  If you have questions, or are confused, do your own research. More information, and better understanding is never a bad thing. Ultimately take responsibility of your own health, and keep in mind: everything in moderation!



  1. " Those statistics comes with a caveat, however. Asians, especially the Japanese, also have a much higher risk of developing cancer of the esophagus, thyroid, stomach, pancreas and liver." when you wrote such information maybe first check them? why Japanese have this cancer (and yet lower than other nations) becasue they have genetic variants in alcohol-metabolizing genes.
    Liver cancer? again study conducted in Japan found that people who eat miso or tofu have lower risk of hepatic cancer
    "Asian diets now include mostly fermented soy beans in the form of natto, miso, tamari, and tempeh." This only show you never be in Japan or China, people who visit this nations know that contrary to popular opinion, the soy products regularly consumed in these countries are not all or even mostly fermented. In Japan, about half of soy consumption comes from the fermented food miso and natto and half comes from tofu and dried soybeans. In Shanghai, most of the soyfoods consumed are unfermented, with tofu and soymilk making the biggest contributions. In fact, even in Indonesia, where tempeh is a revered national food, unfermented soy products like tofu account for around half of soy intake. Some studies from soy and brain:

  2. P.S I forgot in my country I hold MD in neurology and toxicology.

  3. This post is written in a very good way and entails a lot of useful information for me. I am glad to find a good way of writing the post.
    Adisoy provides Milsoy which is flavoured soy milk in five different yummy flavors and Plain and Spiced Tofu as Yobite in special packaging available at

  4. Tanie damskie zegarki, łączący elegancki styl i najnowocześniejszą technologię, różnorodność stylów Tanie audemars piguet damskie zegarki, wskaźnik przechodzi pomiędzy Twoim ekskluzywnym stylem smaku.