The humble soybean, a staple of
Asian cuisine for centuries, has made
significant inroads among health conscious
consumers in the West.
Soy food products also form the
nutritional foundation for many
vegetarians who have ethical
qualms about eating flesh or who
simply wish to spiritualize the body.
Soy is a nutrient-rich food that contains all of the essential
amino acids required by our bodies, making it a complete
protein. Soy foods are high in fiber with no cholesterol.
In addition to the many vitamins and minerals, soy foods also
contain phytochemical compounds (such as isoflavones) that
have been linked to numerous health benefits.
Notably, the isoflavones in soy lower LDL (bad) cholesterol
and decrease blood clotting which decreases the risk of
heart attack and stroke. Research at the University of Illinois
suggests that soy consumption can help prevent two of the
biggest complications facing people with type 2 diabetes (kidney
disease and heart disease). Soy foods are thought to
enhance the body’s ability to retain and absorb calcium in the
bones, helping to prevent osteoporosis.
One of the popular uses for soy foods and supplements in
recent years is the alleviation of menopausal symptoms. The
isoflavones in soy may help regulate estrogen when this hormone
is fluctuating and declining. There are reports that soy
may also decrease PMS symptoms.
Soy-based foods have been extremely
helpful for persons with lactose intolerance.
Lactose intolerance results from
the inability of the body to digest a sugar
called lactose that is present in milk and
dairy products. The American Dietetic
Association estimates that between thirty
and fifty million Americans are lactose
intolerant. Symptoms of this common
malady include abdominal gas, bloating,
stomach cramps, and diarrhea. Since soy
does not contain lactose, soy-based dairy
substitutes prevent these annoying digestive
The soy-foods’ bandwagon has hit a
couple of road bumps lately. Research
at the University of Illinois suggests that
the well-documented health benefits of
soy consumption in Asian cultures may
be largely lost by processing techniques
used in the West.
In particular, the cancer-fighting qualities
of soy may not only be absent in
Western soy-based foods and supplements,
but the highly processed soy products may actually stimulate the growth
of preexisting estrogen-dependent breast
tumors. The troubling research was performed
on mice and is therefore inconclusive
with regard to humans.
Previous research by a team of Dutch
scientists also highlighted the differences
between highly processed soy foods and
more natural dietary soy foods that are
traditionally consumed in Asia. The
Dutch study did not go as far as suggesting
that processed soy products could be
a risk factor for tumor growth.
Edgar Cayce on Soy
Edgar Cayce discussed soy-based
foods in fifteen readings given for individuals
of all ages. The readings affirm
that soy is the best substitute for meat
One of the prominent themes in this
group of readings is the importance of
each individual’s response to soy. For
example, when asked whether a thirteen year-
old girl should drink soy milk and
not cow’s milk, Cayce stated that this
should be governed by the child’s own
appetite. He noted that at times soy milk
“does not work well with other influences.”
He went on to say that if there
was a desire for soy milk in preference
to cow’s milk, the system would balance
itself out (1206-9).
A nine-year-old girl was told that soy
milk was not preferable to cow’s milk.
Follow-up readings one and two years
later were more favorable toward soy
milk, eventually stating that drinking soy
milk “part of the time as we find is excellent.”
(1179-7) Perhaps the girl’s digestive
system had changed during that
span so as to better assimilate the soy
milk. The theme of individuality was
also present in readings for an eight-year old
boy who was told that, “For this
body, it would be very well” to substitute
soy milk for cow’s milk (1188-7, italics
added). Two other readings for children
(2153-2 and 1206-11) recommended
A couple of curious readings for adults
suggest another peculiar aspect of soy
food digestion related to lifestyle. A
forty-eight-year-old woman struggling with menopause asked if she should drink
soy milk. Cayce responded, “This will
depend much upon the activities of the
body. If there is sufficient of the energies
used for physical activities to make
same more easily assimilated, it is well.
If these energies are used for activities
which are more mental than physical, it
would not be so well.” (1158-18) Clearly,
this reading may be relevant to women
considering soy products for relief of
A similar sentiment was present in
reading 340-31 given for a forty-seven year-
old woman who asked whether she
should alternate soy bean bread with
whole wheat. Cayce replied, “Soy Bean
bread is wholesome for certain characters
and conditions; provided the body is
to be out in the open, very active, fiery
or dictatorial, then eat Soy Bean bread!
But if it is to remain indoors, with more
of the normal temperamental reactions,
leave it off!” This woman had a longstanding
problem with “spastic colitis”
which we now call irritable bowel syndrome.
These two latter examples suggest that
being physically active may be essential
for the proper assimilation of soy foods
for some individuals.
If including soy foods in your diet
makes sense to you, here are some soy
choices that you can consider:
- Choose natural soy products that are processed as little as possible.
- Pay attention to your body’s individual response to soy foods.
- Include soy as part of a broadly balanced diet with emphasis on fruits and vegetables.
- Make outdoor exercise a part of your lifestyle as much as reasonably possible.