I’ve always had a problem with soy protein shakes, protein drinks, protein powders, etc.
It just never sounded natural to me to get protein from highly processed powdered soybeans, which are known to be unhealthy anyway. (Read about the dangers of soy, and here’s a simple way to make a REAL FOOD protein shake!) When I brought up my concerns a few years ago to the multi-level marketing company where we get a few supplements, the heat that went flying through the emails was shocking. I never knew that something like soy protein powder could elicit such a strong response from people. They insisted that this company uses soybeans from good sources and that it’s beneficial for you. It still didn’t set right with me, but it’s none of my business what others choose to eat or drink. Then recently I got an email from the same company, citing a study comparing Asian women who ate varying amounts of soy, and it showed that their incidences of cancer dropped. The conclusion: “Soy is a woman's friend – all the way from childhood on.”
Somehow I knew that Dr. Kaayla Daniel would have something to say about this. I emailed and asked if she’d share a response and she replied that there wasn’t enough time to reply to all these type of letters and referred me to the below article with her permission to use it here. After reading, be sure to let us know what you think. 🙂
Dear Dr. Daniel:
I want you to know about the wonderful soy shake product that I use myself and have been selling to my friends. I love that _______ is a whole soy based beverage powder made from organic, not GMO soy. I love this company. There are no health dangers to their soy because it's organic and they use a special process that is different. It's a gentle process that protects the valuable phytonutrients in soy. All the dangers you describe as coming from soy are the result of the poor processing methods other companies use. Please let people know that ______is a good and healthy product. It cures cancer, heart disease, weight loss . . DG
Dear DG: I have received numerous letters such as yours since The Whole Soy Story was published in 2005. Many of these letters are from MLM companies like yours, including ____, _____, ____ and _____. This reply also applies to the assorted shakes powders sold in supermarkets, health food stores, health clubs and so forth. When people contact any of these companies about the dangers of soy, the responses are virtually interchangeable except for the company name. Supposedly their products are processed differently from the competition, using a unique and “secret” process that makes soybeans both safe and healthy. .
Certainly organic soybeans are safer than GMO soybeans, as there are serious dangers to all GMO foods, soy, corn or whatever. GMO soy contains higher and more resistant levels of protease inhibitors, among other toxins. Whole soybeans are also better than soy protein insomuch as this will minimize some harmful processing methods, particularly the use of hexane to split the bean. It is also possible that some of the other processing methods might be gentler. For example, the process might involve alkaline baths with a lower pH than is used by some commercial companies. Gentler processing methods could conceivably result in lower levels of the toxins lysinalanines and nitrosamines.
That said, I find it highly unlikely that your product – or the similarly hyped products — have removed the dangerous estrogenic isoflavones. Unless the companies use alcohol extraction, the isoflavones will not be removed. In fact these companies don't want to remove the isoflavones because they all boast about their “health effects” and claim that their unique product somehow has all the benefits and none of the dangers of isoflavones. Saponins, which can bind with cholesterol and damage cell membranes will also be present in any soybean product that has not been alcohol extracted. Not surprisingly, these are marketed as healthy “all natural” cholesterol lowerers, bile acid reducers and cancer preventers and curers.
In all probability, your product also contains a full complement of protease inhibitors (which interfere with protein digestion), phytates (which inhibit mineral absorption), lectins (which can cause blood cell clumping), and oxalates (linked to a multitude of health problems, including kidney stones and vulvodynia). As far as I know, no modern process yet invented can remove all of these things. What's needed to eliminate or deactivate many of them is old-fashioned fermentation, the traditional method used to make miso, natto and tempeh. Such foods eaten in a richly varied diet are healthy and nutritious. But these are NOT the soy ingredients put in your shake powder.
Please write your company and ask them to send reports from independent laboratories proving that these antinutrients and toxins have been largely eliminated. This is what will convince me, not claims that their “special, secret, patented and unique process” does this work. Over the past ten years, I have reviewed numerous soybean processing manuals and seen many patent applications. I have yet to see any evidence that this can be done. Rather many years of USDA studies show it cannot. I discuss these processing issues thoroughly in The Whole Soy Story, particularly in Chapters 4-12. Given the fact that manufacturers cannot get rid of them, isoflavones, protease inhibitors, phytates, saponins and other antinutrients and toxins have been elevated from devils into angels and are being marketed as health promoting. They are not. In conclusion, I cannot recommend this or similar products based on their “claims.” Show me the evidence.
Dear Dr. Daniel: First, thank you so much for being so generous and sharing your email address with us. I am an Institute of Integrative Nutrition (IIN) student and just heard your talk and Sally Fallon’s talk and I have been so distressed. I mainly eat vegetarian so conversation about vegetarian options is very important to me; especially when it reduces the amount of choices there are.
A few years ago I started hearing about the negatives associated with soy products and switched to almond milk and drastically reduced our consumption of soy products. The one soy product I have been consistently using and loving for years is a powder for a smoothie called _______. I have attached the label and would appreciate your taking a look at the ingredients. It also says on the front label ‘Identity Preserved Soy 24 mg of isoflavones per serving). I don’t know what that means but hope it’s good. I have been a rep for this company for years and have benefited greatly by using their products. This drink makes me feel so good and satisfied every day, and I am really upset at the thought of it not being healthy for me. I have shown it to so many dieticians and nutritionists and have always gotten such positive feedback so I hope you will look and tell me if you think it is bad for me.
I will also tell you that I have a low thyroid and have been taking 90 mg of Armour Thyroid for the last 40 years. It has helped but not as much as when I add these juice and juice plus soy products.
I do want to be healthy and help others improve their health, so I am open to your honest opinion.
Also, and very important, are plant milks (i.e. almond, hemp, oat, etc). I’ve tried finding if there is any negative information out plant milks but aside from rice milk, I haven’t found any negative. Are they healthy? Thank you, thank you for your help. To your best health, NP
Dear NP: Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but I can't drink to this product! I have serious concerns about this juice drink for anyone, but especially for someone with thyroid problems. My first concern is with 24 mg of isoflavones per serving. A Japanese study at the Ishizuki Clinic found that just 35 mg of isoflavones per day caused thyroid suppression in healthy individuals in just three months. If you drink just one serving per day, you will come in under that, but that too would be a high level in susceptible individuals. It is also highly likely that you are getting soy isoflavones or other phytoestrogens in other products as well. This will definitely be the case if you follow the manufacturer's suggestion of taking the product mixed with one cup of soy milk. Isoflavone content varies from glass to glass to glass of soy milk, depending upon the brand, the year, the growing conditions of the crop and other factors, but the likelihood is high that a glass of soy milk contains about 45 mg.
Boosting the thyroid (with Armour) while also depressing it (with soy isoflavones) has a strong “push me, pull me” effect that puts stress on the thyroid. Environmental scientist Mike Fitzpatrick PhD points out this is the classic way that researchers induce thyroid tumors in laboratory animals. The fact that soy is “natural” does not make it safe or weak. A single serving of a drink such as this has several times the goitrogenic potency of the pharmacetuical thyroid-inhibiting drugs methimazole and 6-propylthiouracel. Knowledgeable physicians now recommend taking thyroid medications separately from drinking soy milk or other products. Christiane Northrup, MD, author of Women's Bodies/ Women's Wisdom and other books, and a longtime proponent of soy consumption, makes this recommendation.
I must also object to an unwarranted – and probably illegal – health claim on the label of the product you are taking. It says that one scoop of the product “contains 24 mg of isoflavones, regarded as essential to today's women's health issues.” Essential? One scoop puts a woman's thyroid at risk, as stated above. One scoop stirred into soy milk and drunk by a woman of reproductive age could alter her menstrual cycles and hormone patterns in ways indicative of infertility. One scoop every day would also be risky for a woman who has been diagnosed with – or has a family history of – breast cancer. So many studies have linked soy breast cell proliferation, (a well known marker of breast cancer risk) that warnings have been issued by the Israeli Health Ministry, French Food Agency, German Institute of Risk Assessment and Cornell University's Center for Breast Cancer and Environmental Risk Factors. As for this product helping a woman sail through menopause, the evidence on soy and menopause is inconsistent and contradictory, according to a review by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
Please visit the website www.soyonlineservice.co.nz, where you will find numerous letters from people whose thyroid problems have developed or been worsened by eating or drinking soy products. This website also includes many abstracts of studies involving soy and the thyroid. More than 70 years of studies, after all, link soy to thyroid dysfunction. I'd also recommend that you read my book The Whole Soy Story, particularly chapters 26 on soy isoflavones, chapter 27 on soy and the thyroid, chapter 29 on soy and the reproductive system and chapter 30 on soy and cancer.
In addition to the isoflavone danger, I have other concerns with this product's fructose content. Though not as bad as High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), the evidence is mounting that it is addictive and more harmful than sugar. For more information, search this website and also www.mercola.com.
Reviewing the label, I must also point out that much of the high vitamin content comes from added supplements and not from the powdered vegetables and fruits. That's to be expected given that true Vitamin A and D3 do not occur in any plant foods. This means your “healthy” green drink is actually a rather incomplete multi in a overpriced package loaded up with fructose and soy isoflavones. I do not know why you feel better taking it. With any such product, risk is not certainty. Perhaps you are getting a sugar hit. Maybe you are so protein deficient that your body responds positively even to inferior soy protein. Another possible explanation is the soy isoflavones stimulate the thyroid, giving you more energy for the time being. Sadly, this daily “whipping” is likely to lead to thyroid exhaustion and slowdown over the long term. You may also just need the vitamins and minerals because of overall deficiencies in your diet.
Since you are mainly vegetarian, I would recommend you go to the Home page of this website and take our “vegetarian tour.” If you intend to remain vegetarian, I would suggest eating lots of free-range eggs and a raw dairy products to get much needed fats, fat-soluble vitamins, cholesterol and high-quality protein. For more info on safety and availability of raw dairy, visit www.realmilk.com. If you cannot tolerate any form of dairy, I recommend a coconut tonic drink as described in the book Eat Fat/Lose Fat by Dr. Mary Enig and Sally Fallon.
I cannot recommend rice, almond, oat or hemp milks. These highly processed products are often sold as “equivalents” of dairy milks but only because they are propped up with cheap, poor quality and hard-to-absorb calcium, Vitamin D2 and other vitamins and minerals. They also tend to contain poor quality vegetable oils, either intrinsic to the beverage as soy oil or hemp oil, or added such as canola oil. Better to supplement with high-quality supplements than to drink these beverages for the supplements they contain. Many also contain high levels of sugar in order to be palatable.
- Try making a Real Food protein shake instead!
- Where to buy cod liver oil, and read why cod liver oil is the main supplement I try to be consistent with, even though it’s actually a food, not a supplement. 🙂
- Is edamame good for you?!