Table of Contents
The Quick Answer
No. Soy isn’t paleo.
Why Isn’t Soy Paleo?
There has been a lot of controversy surrounding soy for some years now because it’s believed to have a negative effect on people’s health for a few reasons. The main reasons are that it negatively affects hormone levels, it can rob the body of certain nutrients, and it often causes digestive distress. However, the extent to which consuming soy leads to these issues depends on the quantity of soy eaten, the quality of the soy, and your personal (in)tolerance to soy.
Soy beans contain estrogen-like molecules that are called isoflavones. While some nutrition experts think these molecules can be beneficial when consumed in appropriate amounts in the form of quality, unprocessed, and ideally organic foods, many others feel they soy products are more harmful than good, especially when consumed in large quantities or in processed forms.
Soy is believed to cause many people digestive problems including bloating, gas, and constipation. It can also stop you from being able to interpret signs of hunger properly. On top on this, soy can lead to even more serious reactions, such as the disruption of hormone levels and thyroid function.
Because of certain chemical properties that soy products contain (phytates, phytoestrogens, and lectins), it is thought that soy decreases the body’s ability to absorb certain nutrients. The double whammy of soy both causing digestive issues and potentially disrupting hormone and nutrient levels is the reason it is not paleo.
Another important thing to note is that soy is thought to be one of the leading allergen foods and one of the most processed and genetically modified (GMO) crops in the world today. It is estimated that around 91% of the soy crops in the US today are GMO. Much of the soy produced and consumed today is very processed and hidden in all kinds of unhealthy packaged foods in the form of ingredients like “soy lecithin” and “isolated soy protein.” All experts (both paleo and not) agree that it’s best to completely avoid these kinds of modified soy ingredients whenever possible.
Is There Any Confusion When It Comes To Soy Being Paleo?
In the paleo world, there is not much debate about soy. Soy is not paleo and neither are other legumes. But in the general world of nutrition, there is confusion and debate when it comes to soy. There is still no consensus on whether soy is good or bad, how much should be consumed, what risks soy carries. What we do know, however, is that the quality of the soy in question is very important.
Traditional, unprocessed soy products like tofu have been eaten for thousands of years in Asian populations and other parts of the world. Some populations that have eaten soy as part of their traditional diets are considered to be extremely healthy and free from many diseases (the Japanese being one example).
The differences between the soy that was traditionally eaten in Asian populations and the soy that’s consumed today relate to both quantity and quality. Traditional Asian populations ate small amounts of soy, relatively speaking (because they didn’t eat processed foods containing modified soy), and the forms of soy they ate (like miso, soy sauce, and fermented tofu) were much less processed and much more easily digested than the forms of soy eaten today.
If you do choose to eat soy products, eat them in moderation and try to avoid consuming soy in processed products such as veggies burgers and soy ice cream. Also, look for organic forms of soy to ensure that it is not genetically modified and that it is free from lots of chemical additives. The most digestible and beneficial kinds of soy are those most similar to the traditional types of soy (small amounts of fermented, organic, and unprocessed varieties of soy).
So, Is Soy Paleo?
No. Soy is not paleo. The risks of eating soy outweigh the rewards, so it is not part of the paleo diet.
How To Know What Is And Isn’t Paleo
Check out Paleo.io, the mobile app that answers the question, “is __ paleo?” Paleo.io comes with the most comprehensive paleo diet food list out there, so no matter which food you’re confused about, you’ll always be able to find out whether or not it’s paleo.
Photo credit: T. Hagihara
Download Your FREE Paleo Starter Kit Today!
- 3-Day Paleo Diet Meal Plan
- Comprehensive Paleo Diet Shopping List
- 5 of Our Favorite Paleo Diet Recipes