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Part 1: Does Soy Make You Fat?

You probably don’t even think you eat soy. But once you start paying attention, you realize there’s soy in practically everything: bread, cereal, energy bars, even rice. But is it good or bad? Even those who study soy seem to be divided on its pros and cons. And despite thousands of studies on the topic, it seems like the jury is still out. As a personal trainer, a former competitive bodybuilder and someone who lives and breathes health and fitness, I have my own opinions on soy. But before I go there, here’s a bit of background.

A little background on soy:

Soybeans were initially used in the U.S. as a commercial crop during the early 1900s, and it wasn’t until fat and oil imports were blocked during World War II that we started to eat the beans. The FDA approved a health claim in 1999 that consuming 25 grams of soy protein could reduce the risk of heart disease, and almost immediately soybean production and consumption blossomed.

Now, soy is the U.S.’s second largest crop in cash sales, making America the leading soybean producer and exporter in the world, according to the American Soybean Association. And soy has become the basis for many of the additives you find in processed foods, from artificial flavoring and hydrolyzed vegetable protein to soy lecithin and soybean oil, among countless others.

What’s the big deal, you say? Well, did you know that 10 percent of your total calories are most likely coming from soy that’s hidden in processed and fried foods? And since all of us are eating soy, we want to know if it’s a protein-packed, cholesterol-lowering, heart disease- and breast cancer-preventing superfood, or a genetically modified, testosterone-lowering, fertility-decreasing, man-boob-producing toxic health risk.

We talked about the role of inflammation, and soybean oil is a huge part of it. When it comes to weight gain, this fat is a big problem because it’s used in so many processed foods. Another reason soy is inflammatory is because it’s genetically engineered. It’s the number one genetically modified crop in the world! Genetically modified foods are concerning due to the long-term health effects such as antibiotic resistance and increased allergenicity.

A whopping 94 percent of soybeans are genetically engineered in the US, according to the Center for Food Safety, and are designed to be “Roundup ready,” meaning they’re engineered to withstand heavy doses of herbicides that basically kill any and every unwanted vegetation without killing the soybean plant itself. And after the FDA classified the main active ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, “carcinogenic to humans,” this means some seriously bad news for your health.

Partially hydrogenated soybean oil should be avoided at all costs. The hydrogenation process helps to extend shelf life, and results in the formation of trans fatty acids, which have been linked to heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Soybean oil is also high in Omega-6 fatty acids which is another reason it has an inflammatory effect and contributes to chronic disease over time.

I will discuss how soy can make you fat in my next blog, but for now, take a look at what you have in your pantry that has soy or soybean oil in it. You will be surprised as even that can of tuna on your shelf is often floating in soy broth.

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