Food Controversies: Why You Might Want to Think Twice About Dairy, Soy and More

image: GETTY

image: GETTY

You'd think the hard part would be committing to a healthful diet, but with all the marketing gimmicks, lobbyist and major food brands who don't have our best interests in mind, the hardest part is often trying to figure out what exactly is healthy. Sure, we all know that processed foods are bad and that it's best to stick to things with as few ingredients as possible (i.e. an apple or kale chips) and have all those ingredients be easily identifiable (i.e. spinach vs. sodium citrate), but what about soy? Or dairy? Some experts say that many of the items we've long been told are beneficial may be doing more harm than good. Here's a look at both sides.


Those who advocate a gluten-free diet say that it's a hard-to-digest protein, so the body is forced to spend a great deal of energy in the digestive process, causing many to experience fatigue along with a host of aches and pains. It's also very high in sugar (Dr. Lipman notes that eating two slices of whole wheat bread is like eating two tablespoons of sugar) and gluten is a common inflammatory. The most disturbing part about gluten, however, is that recent scientific evidence has shown that these negative effects aren't only experienced by people with celiac disease, they're experienced by people with a mere sensitivity, which by some accounts is as high as 1 in 20. Unfortunately, the rise in gluten awareness has caused countless brands to come out with overly processed gluten-free products that consumers are buying under the false pretense that they are healthy (like these cookies). It's also been noted that those who follow a gluten-free diet are likely to eat too much fat and too little fiber, and there are some theories that people are experiencing negative gluten-related symptoms because they believe these foods will make them sick.


Three years ago, it was confirmed in a paper in Clinics in Dermatology that dairy can cause acne — but that's not the worst of the supposed negative effects. Milk contains lactose and casein, two ingredients which many people have a hard time digesting. Moreover, many dairy cows are injected with a genetically engineered hormone, rbGH, to artificially increase their milk production (rbGH has been linked to heart disease and cancer). Some theories also suggest that dairy may actually weaken bones. Others, however, like Dr. Perricone, say that the negative effects of dairy have been grossly overstated and that dairy is an essential part of a healthy diet.


The problem with soy, many experts say, is that most of it is genetically modified and has been linked to a slew of ailments including cancer, thyroid disorders, impaired fertility and mood swings. There are also a number of theories that the estrogen-like substances in soy may cause cognitive impairment, hair loss and a host of other issues in both men and women. Those who advocate that soy is a safe part of our diet, however, point to the limited amount of scientific evidence and that most of the studies have been done on animals. Dr. Weil, one of the world's most highly regarded holistic health experts, refutes the claims that soy is bad for us claim by claim here.

With so many conflicting opinions from reliable sources on both sides, the wisest course of action seems to be to go on an elimination diet to find out exactly what is best on an individual basis.