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Does eating Soy harmfully increase estrogen in your body?

Does eating Soy harmfully increase estrogen in your body?

Article by Andrea Cole, Registered Holistic Nutritionist

There is plenty of controversy over Soy and Soy-based foods in the media and depending where you look or who you ask, you can find just as much information and studies relating to how Soy is a protein-rich, healthy superfood as well as it being an endocrine disrupting, anti-nutrient danger.  These opinions and the findings of studies vary greatly depending on who is conductingor funding the studies and differing interests (omnivores vs. vegetarians, medical doctors vs. nutritionists, etc).  The majority of “studies” on humans have been observational, and therefore not scientifically valid.  One of our biggest questions at The Healthy Butcher and RealFoodToronto.com is around Phytoestrogen.  Specifically, do the Phytoestrogens in soy cause hormonal issues in our bodies? I’ll explain what Phytoestrogen is and why there is a cause for concern.

A Phytoestrogen is defined as “any group of non-steroidal substances found in plants, including Isoflavones, that are structurally similar to estrogen and can mimic or modulate the action of endogenous estrogen when ingested by humans and other animals”(1).   It is the Isoflavone content in soy that constitutes it being a Phytoestrogen, specifically Genistein, Daidzein and Glucitein.  These Isoflavones are similar in molecular structure to the hormone Estrogen and as a result they have effects of stimulating the estrogen receptors in human cells (called the “estrogenic effect”) (2).   Bottomline, they can disrupt your body’s normal function.  Just how much they disrupt your bodily function depends on a host of factors, including the amount of Phytoestrogen already in your body and a slew of genetic factors (3).  I should note that the majority of external estrogen is consumed from milk and factory-farmed meat (where it is common to feed GMO Soy as a major part of their diet).

Historically, Isoflavones first came to the attention of scientists in the 1940’s because of breeding problems in female sheep in Australia grazing on a type of clover rich in Isoflavones.  Twenty years later, it was established that isoflavone-rich soy fed as part of the diet to cheetahs in North American Zoos was a factor in the decline in their fertility (4).   In the 1950’s, Isoflavones were being studied by the animal feed industry as possible growth-promoters because of reported estrogenic effects.  In the 1960’s, soy isoflavones were established as Phytoestrogens because of their binding affinities to estrogen receptors (5).

On the positive side, some studies have found that consuming phytoestrogens can have protective factors including reducing symptoms of menopause and hormone-sensitive cancers and some studies have found possible cholesterol-lowering effects.  The Soy industry has largely promoted Soy as a health food as it is high in protein, low in fat and containing the full amount of amino acids making it a complete protein as well as containing Iron, Vitamins B and C, Magnesium, Folate, Niacin and Zinc.  Now, there is an issue with absorption of these nutrients due to the Phytic acid content like in many nuts, seeds and legumes, but that’s a whole other article.

On the negative side, according to the Weston A. Price foundation, the negatives outweigh the positives when it comes to Soy.  They list a myriad of health issues including the potential to reduce fertility, promote breast cancer, accelerate brain decline, contribute to hypo-thyroid and thyroid cancer, trigger early puberty, disrupt development of fetuses, affect erectile function and depress the immune function (6).  They also state that in infants fed soy milk formula there is a link to auto-immune and thyroid disease as well as early puberty and fertility issues later in life (7).  A recent article in Scientific American compares the main isoflavone in soy, genistein to BPA’s which are known xenoestrogens found in plastics that are linked to brain harm and reproductive disruptions (8).  There is controversy over the validity of these statements, and the Soy industry spends money on debunking these studies and funding ones with more positive outcomes.  Make no mistake about it, the Soy industry is a massive one and Soy is found in more foods than you think (9), so the economic impact is significant.

Of main concern to me as a Nutritionist, and us here at The Healthy Butcher and RealFoodToronto.com is the large amount of soybean oil and soy protein isolate in our food system today.  Soy ingredients are in more than 60% of processed and packaged foods and in nearly 100% of fast foods (10).  These ingredients are things like flavourings, preservatives, emulsifiers and sweeteners and are found in things like meal replacement bars, chocolate bars, soups, sauces, meat alternatives, cereals, bullion, ice cream, bakery products and bread and are also called Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP), Lecithin, “Natural Flavour”, MSG and Mono and Diglyceride.  These processed “foods” with heavy marketing lead to overconsumption of something that isn’t meant to be consumed at all.

So I arrive at my conclusion, which is the same conclusion I come to in most of my articles.  Eat real, whole foods and don’t worry about over analyzing the nutritional content!  Traditional ways of consuming soy, like organic whole soybeans (edamame) or fermented soy like tempeh, miso, natto and soy sauce have been consumed as part of a healthy traditional Asian diet for countless years and the consensus from many doctors and nutritionists is that these are a safer, healthier choices.  In general, it’s hard to go wrong with whole, organic, unprocessed foods in balanced amounts.  Problems typically occur with processed food in all forms, including Soy.



(1) The American Heritage Medical Dictionary.  Houton Mifflin Company, 2007.  http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/phytoestrogen
(2)   Andrew, Ryan.  Precision Nutrition Inc. Soy:  The Latest Research.  Web. Nov 2016. http://www.precisionnutrition.com/soy-latest-research
(3) Ibid.
(4) Mesina, Mark.  The Journal of Nutrition:  A Brief Historical Overview of the Past Two Decades of Soy and Isoflavone Research.  California, 2010.  J. Nutr. 140: 1350S–1354S, 2010.
(5) Ibid.
(6) Nienheiser, Jill.  The Weston A. Price Foundation.  Studies showing adverse effects of Soy, 1939-2014.  August 2003.  Web. Nov. 2016.  http://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/studies-showing-adverse-effects-of-dietary-soy-1939-2008/
(7) Ibid.
(8) Konkel, Lindsey.  Environmental Health News.  Could Eating Too Much Soy Be Bad For           You?  Nov 2009.  Web.  Nov 2016.  https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/soybean-fertility-hormone-isoflavones-genistein/
(9) The US is one of the largest producers of soy worldwide (55%) and 90% of soy crops are GMO.  Andrew, Ryan.  Precision Nutrition Inc. Soy:  The Latest Research.  Web. Nov 2016. http://www.precisionnutrition.com/soy-latest-research
(10) Daniel, Kaayla.  The Weston A. Price Foundation.  Response to Dr. Mark Hyman.  Soy:       Blessing or Curse? Sept. 2010.  Web.  Nov 2016.  http://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/response-to-dr-mark-hyman/

Sprouted Nuts and Seeds


Article by Andrea Cole, Registered Holistic Nutritionist

Nuts and seeds are a spectacular food. Not only do they taste great, and not only are they packed with vitamins, minerals, protein and healthy fats, but they are also convenient to carry on the go. There are unhealthy food choices everywhere around us, so I always recommend packing a healthy snack to avoid succumbing to junk food. In this article, I’m going to explain the concept of “sprouting”, where these already healthy foods becomes super charged. Raw, organic, non-irradiated nuts and are not cheap by any stretch, so you want to get the most out of them, and sprouting is definitely the answer.

When nuts and seeds are raw they have a protective phytic acid coating as well as enzyme inhibitors, both of which combine to prevent rotting and allow them to stay alive and viable until they are ready to germinate in the spring. As a result of the enzyme inhibitors, much of the nutrient value is not extracted during our digestion process; even worse, raw nuts and legumes can actually destroy some enzymes in our digestive tract and can be very hard for many people to digest as it forces our Pancreas to release large amounts of enzymes to compensate. Sprouting replicates the natural germination process and thereby releases the enzymes, fats, vitamins and minerals. It also adds flavour. If you find raw nuts bland, you will be pleasantly surprised with their enhanced flavour after sprouting.

There is some confusion around the terminology for soaked and dehydrated nuts and seeds. The terms “activated”, “germinated” or “soaked” are often used to describe the process of soaking for a period of time and then dehydrating at a temperature below 110F. Temperature is key because higher temperature would damage the oils in nuts and turn them rancid and will also destroy the natural enzymes that help with digestion and absorption. The term “sprouted”, which applies more to legumes and grains, is not really applicable to most nuts and seeds because you don’t produce a root or sprout, nor do you want to for most types (see the chart below). Nonetheless, the end result is the same – the goal is to “wake up” the nut and end its period of dormancy, thereby inactivating the enzyme inhibitors.

I often buy a few different kinds of my favourite organic raw nuts and seeds combine them in a bowl and soak them overnight with some sea salt then put them in the oven on the lowest setting for the whole next day and overnight again. The end goal is the nuts have a nice crunch, and this may take anywhere from 12 to 36 hours, depending on the types of nuts and the temperature. Many people use a dehydrator for this as your oven may not go as low as 110F and it’s a long time to leave your oven on. My preferred choices for nutritional benefit, good fats and lower carbohydrate nuts are Almonds, Walnuts, Pecans, Brazil Nuts and Pumpkin Seeds.

This process is time-consuming, I agree. I don’t always have time or forget to get them soaking. Thankfully there are more and more quality products on the market that have the time and work of soaking and dehydrating done for us. Living Intentions nuts and seeds are a great time-saver for me. Organic Traditions has sprouted flax and chia seeds which are great for baking. Always store your nuts in the fridge, they can become rancid quickly when exposed to heat because of their high fat content.

Organic Sprouted Nuts - Activated AlmondOrganic Sprouted Nuts - Spicy Cocktail BlendOrganic Sprouted Pumpkin Seeds with Himalayan Crystal Salt


Axe, Josh Dr. “Sprout Guide: How to Sprout Grains, Nuts & Beans”. Web. Sept 22, 2016. https://draxe.com/sprout/

Organicconsumers.org. “What’s Wrong with Food Irradiation?” Feb. 2001. Web. Sept. 22, 2016. https://www.organicconsumers.org/old_articles/Irrad/irradfact.php

WebMD. “Should You Sprout Your Food? What to know about sprouting grains, nuts and legumes”. Feb, 2014. Web. Sept 22, 2016. http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/sprouting-food#1

NutHut.ca. “Is There a difference between Soaked and Sprouted?”. March 2016. Web. Oct 20, 2016. http://www.nuthut.ca/blogs/information/99899654-is-there-a-difference-between-soaked-and-sprouted



Probiotics: The Key to Your Health

Andrea Cole, in-house RHN - holding probiotic-rich Yoghurt and Kombucha

Andrea Cole, in-house RHN – holding probiotic-rich Yogurt and Kombucha

Article by Andrea Cole, Registered Holistic Nutritionist

Having just attended the Canadian Holistic Nutrition Conference, where the topic for this year was “Uncovering Autoimmunity” – all distinguished speakers agreed on this point: All health and disease stems from intestinal health. “Probiotics” has been a buzz word in the food and supplement industries in recent years – let me explain what they are and why they are important.

The root of the word “probiotic” comes from the Greek word “pro” meaning “promoting” and “biotic” meaning “life”. Our bodies have millions upon millions of bacteria throughout it, many good, and many bad. The good ones in our gut serve many purposes and have a symbiotic relationship with our bodies. They produce antimicrobial substances helping fight off pathogens from adhering to our mucosa and causing illness. They produce lactase for lactose breakdown (makes sense they’re in yoghurt then, doesn’t it?), they metabolize cholesterol, preventing re-absorption that increases cholesterol in our blood. They manufacture Vitamin B’s and K and produce lactic acid which stimulates part of our digestion. They stimulate part of our immune system (IgA protection) reducing immune responses to antigens and prevent and decrease inflammation. In addition to adding bulk to the stool and helping eliminate toxins they can help normalize bowel movements and reverse diarrhea. They help reduce acne, skin problems and halitosis. (2) And many recent studies have linked our moods and mental health to the health of our digestive system.

It seems what’s old is new again; looking back two or three generations, our grandparents and great-grandparents inherently knew the benefits of probiotics. They made fermented vegetables (preserving the harvest) and their own fermented dairy products like yoghurt. But those traditions in large part have disappeared today. What’s worse, is the added environmental factors our bodies have to deal with, like antibiotic use, chemicals in our food, altered fats, chlorine in water, overeating, stress, too much sugar, and drugs such as NSAIDs – all of which mean if you want to stay healthy you must actively take steps to ensure your digestive system stays healthy. Lucky, it’s not that difficult!

The easiest way is to buy the probiotics in pill form. Of course, not all probiotic supplements are created equal. Stick with the probiotics that are sold refrigerated – they are activated by our body heat once absorbed. I’m a big fan of the Progressive brand, with their HCP 30 (at least 30 billion active cells) being more than sufficient for the average person, and their HCP 70 (at least billion active cells) being supercharged for people with compromised immune systems.

Supplements are certainly easy, but it’s important to absorb probiotics from real food. The best sources are raw, unpasteurized sauerkraut, fermented vegetables, kimchi, organic yogurt and organic kefir. My favourite Kefir (which is, essentially, fermented yoghurt) is the full fat Kefir by Pinehedge. Make sure to get plain with no sugar, as sugar not only negatively affects the bacteria you’re trying to build up, but also feeds the bad guys.

Another great summertime treat that’s fermented and a good source of probiotics is fermented tea called Kombucha. Kombucha comes in refreshing flavours like Essence of Lemon from Kombucha Wonder or Ginger Rapture from Tonica, both made here in Toronto. It’s great fun and really easy to make these things at home too if you have time to wait, the prep is easy they just have to rest a while to ferment. All in all, we want to make friends with our gut bacteria, nurturing and feeding them in the best way possible which includes a balanced, whole foods organic diet free on chemicals, pesticides, hormones and antibiotics and low in processed foods and sugars. If we treat our guts well, they’ll return the favour helping us feel and function better every day!


Real Recipe: Moroccan Lamb Burgers with Yogurt Mint Sauce

Original article published by Davida Kugelmass for The Healthy Maven
For more recipes, inspiration and events, visit www.thehealthymaven.com

Moroccan-Lamb-Burgers-with-Yogurt-Mint-Sauce_The-Healthy-Maven_001-SMALLThese Gluten Free Lamb Burgers have just the right amount of  spice, which is complimented by the creamy texture of the Yogurt Mint Sauce. Insanely flavourful!

Like any great dish; it all starts with great ingredients. For this recipe, we chose Ground Lamb from The Healthy Butcher via RealFoodToronto.com – either Certified Organic or locally-raised without the use of Hormones or Antibiotics are both great options!
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Real Recipe: Lamb Kofta Balls, Spiced Yoghurt & Cucumber

Original article published by Chef Mike Ward
For more recipes, visit www.chefmikeward.com

ChefMikeWard-2015-RESIZEMike has prepared meals for many A-list celebrities including; Julia Roberts, Tom Cruise, Bruce Willis, and Nicole Kidman. He has cooked in some of Sydney and Toronto’s most acclaimed restaurants (Zigolini’s and The Basement in Australia, Prego Della Piazza and Shark City in Toronto). He has also owned and operated small boutique catering companies over the years. He developed catering firms to offer clients and in-home cook-and-learn experience allowing foodies to cook along and eat their creations.

Mike also appears on-camera and contributes to several magazines and online outlets in his capacity as an ever-hungry chef-at-large.

RealFoodToronto-Chef-Mike-Ward-Recipe_Lamb-Kofta-Balls_03-SMALLWhether it be a quiet night at home teaching his 2 daughters how to use the “grown up” knifes, in a foreign country directing a cooking series, or flying his beloved 2-seater aerobatic aircraft, Mikes insatiable appetite for food and adventure continues to drive him to explore and create.

This is a super tasty journey for your guests tastes buds in under 15mins…

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