Soy sauce has an earthy, salty, slightly sweet flavor that perfectly complements a myriad of dishes, from rice to barbecued chicken, though it’s probably best known for flavoring Asian food. While the taste can be hard to describe, it actually has a name: umami. It’s known as “fifth taste,” as it’s distinct from salty, sour, sweet and bitter. But the problem is, soy sauce isn’t a healthy food. Most brands contain wheat along with genetically modified ingredients – plus, just one ounce delivers more than half the recommended daily serving on sodium.
Soy sauce has changed significantly over the years. Initially, it was created in the 7th century by Japanese cooks who fermented soybeans to make miso, and they called the flavorful liquid that was produced in the process tamari. That was the original version of today’s soy sauce. As it became increasingly popular and demand grew, manufacturers began using a blend of half wheat and half soybeans to make something known as shoyu. That blend is the most popular type of soy sauce sold today.
The Dangers Of Soy Sauce
Unfortunately, soy sauce is considered one of the “dirtiest” sauces there is, due to its wheat content as well as being contaminated with other allergens. Americans are consuming soy products at record levels despite the fact that countless studies have associated soy consumption with a whole host of health problems. While you may have heard that Eastern cultures consume copious amounts of soy products, the soy in those countries is typically not genetically modified. In the U.S., that’s certainly not the case, with a whopping 93 percent of soy here not only genetically modified, but containing a host of unknown components.
Soybeans contain phytoestrogens that act as hormone disruptors that interfere with the body’s endocrine system. Soy has been associated with the growth of breast cancer tumors in some animal studies and has also been linked to heart disease, allergies, early puberty, brain damage, osteoporosis, and hyperthyroidism.
And that’s just a start. All legumes contain phytate, but the soybean is chock-full of it. Phytate from unfermented soy products works in the gastrointestinal tract to tightly bind minerals like calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, and copper, which is one of the primary reasons it’s been linked to osteoporosis. Pytate really seems to love zinc, a mineral that’s essential for avoiding breast cancer. It also supports wound healing, protein synthesis, reproductive health, nerve function, and brain development.
In most legumes and other varieties of beans, soaking is enough to break down most of the phytate content, but soybeans require enzymes that are released in the fermentation process to lower the phytate content to the point where it becomes fit for consumption. All foods, including soy milk, edamame, soy flour, soy protein isolates and other products made from soybeans all contain an incredibly high level of phytate.
Then there are the digestive problems. When you eat something, digestive enzymes like lipase, amylase and protease, are secreted into the digestive tract to help break it down and free nutrients for assimilation into the body. The high content of enzyme inhibitors in unfermented soybeans interferes with that process and makes carbs and proteins from soybeans impossible to digest fully. When foods are not completely digested, bacteria in the large intestine take over and try to do the job, which can lead to problems like bloating, discomfort and gas. Soybeans can mess with your thyroid too as they contain a high amount of goitrogens, which are substances that can block the production of thyroid hormone and even lead to goiter formation. Additionally, when thyroid production is low, that means that your body heat and energy level will also be low, and it can result in lack of oxygen to the cells.
Soy sauce is often a source of MSG, something that can lead to serious problems, including impaired brain development in your children, brain cell death and migraines. Manufacturers often add coloring and chemical additives like MSG to enhance flavor or to control the products saltiness. It isn’t made like it was traditionally made either – traditional soy sauce ferments naturally for a long period of time. It’s then served raw to preserve the beneficial enzymes. Most commercial producers use a much faster, high-tech process known as “rapid hydrolysis” that changes naturally occurring glutamates into “an unnatural form of glutamic acid that closely resembles MSG.
Obviously, soy in general, including soy sauce, is probably not something you want to put into your body, but what do you do if Asian food is your favorite? Do you have to give it up?
The Best Soy Sauce Substitute: Coconut Aminos
Lucky for you, the answer is no, thanks to coconut aminos.
What Are Coconut Aminos?
Coconut aminos is a tasty sauce made from coconut sap. It’s dark, rich, salty and slightly sweet, and resembles a light soy sauce or tamari (wheat-free soy sauce), but it contains no soy or gluten. It’s the ideal replacement for those avoiding soy and gluten.
To make it, the coconut sap is collected from the coconut blossoms, and then blended with sea salt and naturally aged. Coconut aminos contain just two ingredients: organic coconut tree sap and organic salt. The coconut sap is mixed with the sea salt and naturally aged to create this sauce, with no sneaky ingredients or questionable processing. It is essentially raw and retains all of its outstanding health benefits.
Not only are coconut aminos an excellent substitute for soy sauce, they contain a host of health benefits, and are gluten-free, non-GMO, certified organic, soy-free, MSG-free, kosher and vegan.
7 Health Benefits Of Coconut Aminos
While you could force yourself to simply give up any type of soy sauce all together, why do that when coconut aminos not only makes a great alternative, but offers such a wide range of health benefits, including these.
1. Loaded with vitamins, minerals and amino acids
Coconut aminos are loaded with B vitamins, vitamin C and minerals like potassium. It’s also lower in sodium. Each ounce has about 40 percent less than what you’d find in soy sauce, which makes it safe to use in moderation for those on a low sodium diet. Plus you can cook it without having to worry about your salt intake being way over the top.
As the name suggests, it is high in amino acids too, with 17 different types – amino acids are the building blocks of protein in the body and an essential part of nutrition and overall health. They play a key role in muscle repair, brain, and nervous system function, as well as helping to strengthen the immune system and raise energy levels. There are 20 different amino acids that make up the proteins in the body, they function as the building blocks of life. While our body can create some of them on its own, nine of them have to come through one’s diet. Growing babies and children need all of the essential aminos as well as cysteine, tyrosine, and arginine. Those who can’t properly synthesize certain amino acids due to age or genetics, typically also need what’s known as conditionally essential amino acids. Coconut aminos not only contain 14 times the amount of amino acids found in soy sauce, but they have all nine essential amino acids, and 5 out of 7 of the conditionally amino acids, along with a few others.
2. Boosting the immune system to help fight free radicals
Although there are a very long list of health benefits associated with coconut aminos, one of the most exciting may be the support they offer the immune system. Coconuts and coconut products like this one are very high in antioxidants which are known to help fight the damage of free radicals, a process technically known as reducing “oxidative stress.” That oxidative stress has been linked to all sorts of health conditions, from heart disease and high blood pressure to diabetes and kidney disease.
3. Better mental health
That sap that’s taken from the coconut tree to make coconut aminos contains a high level of a protein known as inositol. It’s been shown in studies to help relieve a number of debilitating mental disorders, like depression, panic disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder, better known as OCD. Experts say that inositol has an impact that’s nearly equal to that of common SSRIs (Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), which are traditionally used to treat those disorders, but without that long list of side effects like a higher risk of suicide, sexual dysfunction, constipation and more.
4. Lowering diabetes risk
While there are many contributors to America’s skyrocketing obesity and diabetes statistics, a study out of the University of California, Riverside conducted in 2015 highlight the dangers of a diet high on soybeans as compared to coconut products. The researchers discovered that those who eat a lot of soybean products regularly have a higher risk of developing diabetes and other metabolic problems, whereas a diet higher in coconuts lowered that risk.
Coconut aminos are naturally sweet, but they’re low on the GI (glycemic index) scale, which means it doesn’t cause blood sugar to spike. Low GI foods are known to reduce insulin issues and improve the overall blood glucose and lipid concentrations in non-diabetes as well as diabetics.
5. Weight loss support
One of the reasons coconut aminos are so great for diabetics, and for lowering the risk of diabetes in the first place, it that it also helps to support weight loss. That’s because eating coconut aminos or other coconut products raises the level of adiponectin in the bloodstream. Adiponectin comes exclusively from fatty tissue. It’s secreted into the bloodstream and helps regulate a number of metabolic processes, including glucose levels and fatty acid oxidation. How much adiponectin you have in your bloodstream is closely connected to how much body fat you have. Science has shown that the more adiponectin you have, the lower overall body fat you have.
Brazilian research even showed that by introducing more coconuts and coconut products in one’s diet, it helped not only to reduce overall cholesterol and lower blood glucose numbers, but it decreased body mass index (BMI), total body fat and waist circumference, which means that coconut aminos can actually help prevent and treat obesity.
6. Reducing cancer risk
Consuming coconut aminos helps to lower your risk of developing certain cancers, including prostate and colon cancer. To understand why, we need to look back at the way high fat diets have historically been viewed. They were long considered to raise the risk of developing colon cancer, though more recent studies have suggested that isn’t necessarily true.
Coconuts and coconut products are a good source of healthy saturated fats, essential fatty acids that the body is unable to produce on its own. These fats offers a number of health benefits, including supporting bone and immune health and protecting against toxic invaders. They also help your body to properly utilize both mono and polyunsaturated fats. Based on that information, experts from the University of South Carolina looked at how consuming coconut products affected the risk for colon cancer – participants who consumed coconut regularly, were found to have decreased inflammation, as well as a dramatically reduced occurrence of malignant tumors in the colon. The results are believed to be due to the ability of saturated fats to maintain “intestinal barrier integrity.” While it may sound complicated, that simply means that the mucosal layer found on the inside of the intestinal tract is able to stay intact and healthy. There are multiple factors that can compromise or damage that barrier, which can lead to all sorts of various diseases, like colon cancer.
7. Protecting cardiovascular health
Coconut aminos and other coconut products like coconut oil, are incredibly good for your heart health. Coconuts have been found to raise HDL, or “good” cholesterol, which is important for a healthy cardiovascular system. They also contain antioxidants that have been shown to protect the heart and maintain normal blood pressure levels.
Where To Buy Coconut Aminos
Coconut aminos are gaining in popularity and so you may find them in your local health food store, if not there are a number of places to buy online.
Coconut Secret is widely regarded as the best brand. You can purchase Coconut Secret Coconut Aminos 8 oz from this page on Amazon – but you’ll often find it out of stock or at an elevated price.