Soy sauce, also known as soya sauce, is a highly flavorful, fermented liquid condiment traditionally produced by fermenting soybeans and sometimes wheat. This process is one that releases sugars and creates an umami element. There are gluten and wheat-free versions known as tamari, the Japanese equivalent of soy sauce.
In TICM we always focus on the essence of food and how those properties interact with specific organ systems. Soy sauce specifically corresponds to the Stomach, Spleen and Kidney channels with its salty flavor. Salty is the flavour associated with the Kidney organ system. Through its cooling essence, it has the ability to clear heat and eliminate toxins.
In recent years, soy in general has faced both backlash and praise. That has left a mix of confused consumers and those adamant about the dangers of soy. So, what can we believe anyways? The Agency for Health Care Research and Quality produced a 100 page report that reviewed thousands of studies on the topic. Their studies were based on strict and rigorous criteria for the purpose of scientific validity. The outcome of this review was that there is no significant evidence of benefit or harm from soy based on the quality of evidence that exists today.
This all circles back to the type and the quantity of soy being consumed. GMO soy should be avoided at all costs due to its highly processed nature. This includes soy oil, soy cheese, soy supplements, soy ice cream, soy burgers and all non-organic sources of soy.
One of the 5 Blue Zones of the world where it's claimed people live the longest and are healthiest is Okinawa, Japan. The people of Okinawa have eaten whole, organic and fermented soy foods like miso, tofu, edamame for thousands of years.
Other gluten free alternatives to soy sauce in addition to tamari include coconut aminos, liquid aminos and dried mushroom sauce. When it comes to soy sauce, remember to always choose organic. However, please note there are also soy sauce that contains alcohol especially the small sachets they give out when you purchase sushi. So read the ingredients.
If you feel unsure of soy and don't feel comfortable eating it, simply don't. Do what feels best for you.