A Tofurkey Thanksgiving: Friend or Foe?

Whether you skipped the turkey and opted for a soy-based protein during yesterday's holiday meal, or if you sat silently judging your millenial niece as she refused a serving of the feature dish, you might be wondering: "what's all the fuss about soy?"

Even if you aren't able to keep up with the latest health food trends, you’ve probably heard about soy and its reported health benefits and concern about its potential dangers. Depending on who you ask, you can hear vastly different opinions about the effects of soy on brain and overall health. Some might point out that soy is an incredible superfood packed with protein, micronutrients and amino acids and can replace meat in your diet. Others might describe soy as a dangerous legume filled with brain-killing isofavones that cause cancer, hypothyrodisim and Parkinson’s Disease.

So, what is it?

Nutritional studies in general are really difficult to conduct. With all of the genetic diversity, and the wide ranges of lifestyles and environmental exposures, things that any single person eats will vary in how it interact with other things that you eat and will be used by your body differently depending on a number of factors. While it’s much easier to make the assumption that we’re all lab rats who eat the same diet, exist under the same environmental conditions and share identical genetics, this is not the case.

When dealing with soy, study results differ widely depending on the source of the soy and the type of soy-based product that study participants eat. Plants grown under different conditions (conventional vs. organic, till vs. no-till, monoculture vs. polyculture, etc) can have vastly different nutritional values. The majority of soy grown in the US today is genetically modified to be able to survive being sprayed with the herbicide glyphosate, meaning that the beans are directly sprayed with a chemical that has a wide range of negative effects on your health, especially brain health. So when you eat conventionally grown soy, you’re also eating glyphosate, and the effects of the two aren’t separated out in study analysis. Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that fermented vs. unfermented soy products can affect you differently, and yet this difference rarely noted in study results.

All of this considered, how do we know which study results are correct? One option is to test it out yourself. Because soy is such a complicated topic and because the reported associated dangers are so severe, why take a chance relying on unreliable large-scale nutritional studies with conflicting results? You could just pick the side of the issue that you want to believe and pick and choose your evidence to make yourself feel good about your dietary choices, but what if that choice is the wrong one? It doesn’t matter what the average effect of eating soy is on the general population, it matters how YOUR specific dietary intake (quantity, source, form) of the product affects YOU specifically.

A Step-By-Step Guide to Evaluating the Effects of Soy on Your Brain Health:

Note that soy products are used in the vast majority of processed foods! When going through the below steps, make sure you stay aware of all forms and sources of soy in your diet.

Regardless of whether soy is currently a part of your diet, test your brain health with your Brain Gauge. Try to keep other significant parts of your diet and lifestyle consistent through the next steps (sleep, supplements, exercise, etc).

  1. If you are currently eating soy as a normal part of your diet, stop eating it for 1-2 weeks, then retest with your Brain Gauge and compare results.
  • If your results improve, you should probably consider cutting soy out of your diet or test other forms/sources of soy than what you were previously eating (try an organic source if you were eating conventional before, or try fermented soy if you were eating a non-fermented product before).

  • If your results worsen, add soy back into your diet. You could still experiment with different sources, forms and quantities to see what optimizes your personal brain health.

  1. If you are not currently consuming soy on a regular basis, start eating it for 1-2 weeks, then retest with your Brain Gauge and compare results.
  • If results improve, great! Continue to incorporate soy into your diet. Or continue to experiment with different quantities/sources/forms to see what optimizes your personal brain health.

  • If results worsen, cut soy out of your diet. You can continue to experiment with different quantities, sources, forms to see what optimizes your personal brain health.

As you experiment with different quantities, sources and forms of soy, continue to monitor by testing with your Brain Gauge every week or two, noting any significant changes that occur (positive or negative) and what quantity, source and form of soy that is associated with.

Let us know what you find out!

The above steps are applicable to any food, supplement and lifestyle change that you may what to experiment with. The point of this article is not to persuade you that you should or shouldn’t be eating soy. We can’t spoon-feed you the answer to how you can optimize your own personal brain health, but we can provide you with the tools to figure that out for yourself. Human health is an extremely complicated topic, especially when dealing with the brain, and as much as scientists and doctors want to reduce it down to a simple answer, a one-size-fits-all solution is never going to work for everyone. Your brain health is too important to blindly follow “expert” advice, especially when different experts have completely opposite opinions, so we encourage you to take your health into your own hands and invest the time and energy necessary into helping your brain and body function at their maximum potential.

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