SOY: Healthy or Not?

There is so much controversy out there about soy. Even medical professionals have vastly different views on soy. It’s hard to know what’s true and what’s not true when there is so much contradictory information out there.

So, I wanted to share with you my thoughts on soy. Based on all my research and education, this is the information I found to be true.

Eat it ORGANIC or don’t eat it at all

Only eat soy if it is organic and non-GMO. Conventionally grown soybeans (meaning non-organic) are grown with herbicides and pesticides and often genetically modified. The soybean plant readily absorbs these herbicides and pesticides. If you eat soy non-organic, you will also be readily absorbing those herbicides and pesticides into your body. Herbicides and pesticides are literally created to kill cells. So by eating soy that is rich in herbicides and pesticides, you are directly inviting something into your body that is going to create inflammation and kill your own cells. YIKES! Look for soy to be organic and non-GMO before you put it into your grocery cart.  

Whole foods > Processed Foods

The best way to eat soy is in its whole form, such as soybeans or edamame. When we start looking at processed forms of soy, they often contain a lot of added and inflammatory ingredients. Examples of these processed forms of soy are soy milk, tofu, miso, natto, soy sauce and tempeh. That’s not to say you can’t eat soy in these forms. Just look at the ingredient list and if you see ingredients you can’t pronounce, added sugars, carrageenan, or natural/artificial flavors, then don’t eat it. Here are a few brands of soy products that I like based on their ingredient list: Miso Master Organic Miso, Trader Joes Brand Organic Soy Milk, House Foods Organic Tofu. There are many more out there, this is just a small list of organic soy products I like the ingredient list of.

Nutritious and Delicious

Soy is nutrient dense. It contains a great macronutrient profile being rich in protein, has a good ratio of healthy fats, contains both soluble and insoluble fiber, and contains a decent amount of carbohydrates to fuel our body while also balancing your blood sugars. Unlike most other plants, soy is considered a complete protein, meaning it gives us all 9 essential amino acids (essential amino acids are the building blocks of protein that our body itself cannot create). Micronutrient wise, it contains potassium, vitamin K1, folate, copper, manganese, phosphorus, calcium, vitamin B1, molybdenum and magnesium. Soybeans also contain isoflavones which makes it a wonderful antioxidant reducing inflammation in your body.

Benefits of Soy

Along with being a nutritious powerhouse, soy has been studied to have significant health benefits.

  1. Lowers LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol levels. This helps to keep our blood vessels healthy to prevent cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.
  2. Helps support a healthy gut microbiome by feeding the good bacteria in our intestines
  3. Balances estrogen levels
  4. Reduces menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes, night sweats, mood changes/irritability, and vaginal dryness
  5. Supports healthy bones
  6. Improves memory and overall cognitive functions
  7. May reduce the risk of both prostate and breast cancer

Phytoestrogens to the Rescue

For estrogen to create any effect in the body, it needs to first bind to its receptor. These estrogen receptors in your body can be bound by ENDogenous estrogen (estrogen your body creates), EXogenous estrogens found in birth control pills and IUDs, xenoestrogens (basically fake, harmful estrogens found in our environment), and phytoestrogens (found in some plants). Once bound, these different forms of estrogen create a varying degree of an estrogen response. For example, ENDogenous estrogens bind to estrogen receptors and creates a medium estrogen response. EXogenous estrogens, either from birth control measures or xenoestrogens, create a higher, more harmful estrogen response. On the other hand, phytoestrogens create a lower estrogen response.

So, if you have a high level of estrogen in your body, are exposed to a lot of xenoestrogens (which most of us are), or are on a hormonal birth control, you likely have a high estrogen response in your body. To help dampen that estrogen response down, we can eat foods rich in phytoestrogens. These phytoestrogens bind to your estrogen receptors, decreasing the ability for all other forms of estrogen to bind, which ultimately creates less of an estrogen response.

On the flip side, if you have low estrogen in your body (maybe you are post-menopausal or have ovarian insufficiency), phytoestrogens are also helpful! In this scenario, there is too little estrogen in the body that not all the estrogen receptors can be bound. This means there are empty receptors which means there is less of an estrogen response. If you eat phytoestrogens, these phytoestrogens come in and bind to the empty receptor. What would have been no estrogen response from that estrogen receptor is at least now a low estrogen response in the body.

Hopefully that all made sense!

So what foods are rich in phytoestrogens? Soy, flax seeds, and legumes/lentils are our main dietary source of phytoestrogens. Eating any of these foods will help to decrease your estrogen response if you have excess estrogens in your body OR will help increase your estrogen response if you have a low amount of estrogens in your body.


Need some recipe ideas to get the ball rolling with adding soy into your life? I got you! Here are a few of my favorites:


Organic Food as Medicine

Is organic food more powerful medicine than conventionally grown food??

This may get a bit “science-y” but bear with me.

Plants contain nutritious and healing compounds called primary metabolites and secondary metabolites.

Primary metabolites, we are often more familiar with. These are our proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and nucleic acids.

Secondary metabolites, although less known are just as important, if not more important! Plant’s secondary metabolites are the compounds in plants that give the plant medicinal properties. These secondary metabolites protect the plant from pests, drought, other dominating plants around them, etc. Just like how humans and animals have an immune system to protect them from viruses and bacteria, plants have secondary metabolites to protect them. And when we eat plants, we get the healing properties of those secondary metabolites. Examples of these healing properties include antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, bitter to stimulate digestion, and adaptogenic (helping you adapt to stressors).

So, how does this relate to organic vs conventionally grown foods?

Conventionally grown foods are sprayed with pesticides and herbicides that protect the plant from insects, microbes, weeds, etc. Since the plant doesn’t have to protect itself from these pests and weeds, it doesn’t have to create as many secondary metabolites. Another reason why conventionally grown foods are very low in secondary metabolites is because they are typically grown rapidly, with a controlled amount of water, sunlight, and nutrients. They haven’t had to struggle and adapt to their environment to build up their secondary metabolites.

On the other hand, organically grown foods have to adapt to pests, microbes, draught, weeds, etc. These foods have to build up their own defenses in the form of secondary metabolites to these stressors. The more secondary metabolites, the more medicinal the plant is for you.

Because organically grown foods contain more secondary metabolites than conventionally grown foods, they are more medicinal. Every time you eat an organic plant, you are gaining their powerful defense and healing properties. Plants are our ultimate healers so don’t let a day go by where you aren’t eating plants, drinking herbal tea, applying a botanical lotion to your skin, or spending time with plants outdoors.


What You Aren’t Missing on a Whole Foods Plant Based Diet

Many more people are choosing to seek out a whole foods, plant-based diet to support their overall health, increase their energy, decrease inflammation, and prevent chronic diseases. A whole foods, plant-based diet is eating a diet of fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts, and whole grains and excluding processed foods, meats, dairy, and eggs. Living in a culture that emphasizes meat and dairy as prime sources of calcium, protein, and iron, I often get the question of, “where do you get all the necessary nutrients you need on a whole foods plant-based diet?”. This article is meant to help you navigate how to ensure you are getting the necessary amount of protein, iron, and calcium you need on a whole foods plant-based diet because it is certainly achievable.


Protein plays an instrumental role in the structure and function of every single cell in our body as well as being a building block for making hormones and enzymes. If you are an adult, it is vital to eat 0.8g of protein per kg of body weight per day, with a slightly higher goal if you are pregnant, lactating, or an athlete. Eating a variety of beans, lentils, nuts and nut butters, seeds, amaranth, seitan, and tempeh will allow you to get all the necessary protein and essential amino acids you body needs to thrive. You could use an app like myfitnesspal to help determine how much protein you are getting in your diet now and then increase or decrease your protein intake to achieve the 0.8g/kg/day.


Dietary intake of iron is so essential because we use iron to transport oxygen throughout our body on our red blood cells. Plant-based sources of iron rich foods include sesame seeds, dark chocolate, black strap molasses, leafy green vegetables, fortified oatmeal or cereal, soybeans, white beans, lentils, tofu, spinach, dried peaches, prunes, or apricots, pumpkin/squash seeds, chia seeds, amaranth, and sorghum. Eating these iron rich foods with vitamin C rich foods, such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, berries, bell peppers, and cruciferous veggies will help increase the absorption of iron up to 5 times. Also, it is best to avoid high oxalate foods, drinking tea or coffee with your meal, and avoid high calcium containing foods as these inhibit the absorption of iron. According to the Institute of Medicine, the required amount of iron intake for adult women is 18mg/day and for adult men is 8mg/day.


Eating enough calcium in our diet is crucial for the health of our bones, along with getting enough physical activity and vitamin D to form strong bones. Since calcium is a mineral that resides in dirt, plants are a lovely source of calcium. In fact, cow’s milk only has calcium within it because cows eat plants that contain calcium! Some of our best whole food plant-based sources of calcium are collard greens, turnip greens, kale, rhubarb, tempeh, soy beans, bok choy, mustard greens, tahini, navy beans, squash, almond butter, almonds, broccoli, dates, sesame seeds, amaranth, nettle, and black eyed peas. The Institute of Medicine recommends adults consume 1000mg/day of calcium.