Monday, July 14, 2008

AGAIN with the Soy Controversy

Sooo many people have asked me if I worry about feeding my son soy. To be honest, sometimes I do.

Although I don't buy into the soy controversy so much that I've cut soy out of our lives, I do think that too much of any one food can be bad for your health, and I don't like how much highly processed soy has found its way into the average vegan diet in recent years. It's possible to transition to a vegan diet and still eat all the same foods you ate before, only made from soy instead of meat and dairy. We're talking soy three, four, or more times a day: soy milk in your coffee and on your cereal in the morning, soy lunch meat and soy cheese on your sandwich at lunch, a soy protein bar for a snack, soy chicken with rice and vegetables for dinner, and some soy ice cream for dessert.

This style of eating is easy for most Westerners to transition to. It's nonthreatening, marketable, tasty, and animal-friendly, but to be honest, I worry that it's just too much. All that highly processed soy can't really be good for us in the long run, especially when it takes the place of other foods that we could be eating instead: fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, etc.

In our kitchen I try to strike a balance. We stopped drinking soy milk quite a while ago; instead I rotate through several different varieties of nondairy milk like almond, rice, oat (our favorite), hazelnut, and I even just bought my first box of hemp milk. I make fruit sorbet and smoothies instead of buying soy ice cream. I make Magical Loaf patties instead of buying soy burgers.

But I also love tempeh and tofu, and although I never touch them myself I do buy my son his favorite soy hot dogs, deli slices, chicken nuggets, and Silk yogurts. We both enjoy veggie burgers occasionally when we go out. So there you go: I'm not entirely one way or the other about soy; I'm just somewhere in the middle, I guess.

28 comments:

Siercia said...

I'd also argue that everyone, vegan and non should be more worried about all the soy-based additives in anything processed that we eat without thinking about what's in it. Just like corn, soy is in everything - I suspect that in the long run, that's going to prove to be much more of an issue than eating tofu, tempeh or veggie burgers as part of a healthy vegan diet.

Nikki Douglas said...

I look for hidden soy and try to limit soy products in my diet too. I get concerned about anything that is overly processed. I love veggie burgers and fortunately there are many not made with soy at all!

Rach-ums said...

I totally agree with your stance on soy. Variety is such an important component of a healthy diet, omni OR vegan! Besides, why get stuck in the soy rut when there are so many other awesome foods out there?

lisbet said...

My take on soy is that the Japanese consume a lot of it and are the longest lived people in the world... but that processed food is always inferior to non-processed.

Virginia said...

I make my own homemade soymilk with organic soybeans. Is that better than buying storebought in terms of soy consumption?

Janet said...

Thanks for putting forward a *balanced* perspective on this. Like someone else said, I'm more concerned about all the "hidden" soy additives (which are even in non-vegan foods now) as well as hidden corn, rather than the "whole food" soy products like tempeh. If you find a brand of hemp milk you like, can you post about it? I tried it one time and thought it was beyond disgusting. Thanks!

Urban Vegan said...

I agree with you about eating a varied diet. That always seems to be the best bet all around, doesn't it?

I think there's a tipping point to this soy thing I think it's starting to reach hysteria proportions. I must say that, jaded as I am, I can't help but wonder if the soy controversy has been planted by the dairy industry. They have the most to lose--and gain-- by perpetuating the fear.


The countries who consume the highest amounts of soy oftne have the lowest rates of the diseases of overconsumption that Americans suffer from, like cancer and heart disease. They aren't eating it 6 times a day, though, and their portion sizes are smaller than ours.

I have a glass of soy milk every morning (via cappucino) and occasionally I'll have another small serving of soy later in the day. But I generally eat a varied diet. I'm not worried.

Thanks for posting about this!

Kris Ardent said...

I've found a great replacement for soy ice cream: Coconut Bliss, made from coconut milk. It's better than ice cream. Swear to dog.

Erin said...

This is the way I feel about the soy issue too. I used to drink soy milk exclusively but got worried about consuming too much soy, now I buy almond and rice milks. And apart from soy yogurt which I eat regularly for the cultures, I try to stick to more "whole" soy foods, like tofu and tempeh. Of course there's the occasional burger or hot dog too. But I try not to rely on soy so much.

Jennifershmoo said...

>>If you find a brand of hemp milk you like, can you post about it? I tried it one time and thought it was beyond disgusting. Thanks!

Yeah, we tried "Living Harvest" hemp milk. My son actually likes it and is drinking a glass or two each day. I thought it looked weird, tasted icky, and was much too sweet (probably the reason shmoo likes it).

Scott Carlson said...

When I first heard this crap, no offense to you, about soy being a problem for my son, it was from a nurse. So I looked up the research. The study she referred to was concerning the amount of plant estrogens in the urine of old Japanese women. The two situations are not comparable. At all.

Second, my wife has a PhD in developmental Biology. She gives the whole theory a thumbs down.

Third, the people screaming the loudest are the ones eating meat. They apparently don't realize the cows they are consuming were most likely raised on feedlots, with corn and SOY. Their meat ends up containing phytoestrogens as well.

SaraPMcC said...

Have you ever tried any products made by Quorn? They're really good, and they're not soy.

meghan said...

Quorn is not actually vegetarian (let alone vegan); it contains chicken parts. As Scott mentioned, anyone concerned about soy is consuming far more of it in the by products of meat as an omnivore than in a veggie burger (along with a lot of other icky stuff). Also, the non-GMO soy seems less controversial, and easy to find (ex. Boca).

Cynthia said...

Hi Jennifer,

I've been getting a lot of inquiries from readers about the soy issue. It's an interesting topic indeed and one that deserves a balanced approach for families to make their informed decisions. We hope to cover it more in depth at VegFamily.com

I have lost your email address and have a question for you. Please shoot me an email - cynthia at vegfamily dot com - when you get a moment. Thanks!

~Cynthia

veganf said...

Jennifer, we take pretty much take the same approach you do to soy. I don't worry about it, but try to stay away from an excess of processed soy. I think John Robbins' articles about soy are very informative.

Meg said...

I was eating a lot of soy daily in my diet. I noticed that my stomach problems became worse, I was gaining weight, my PMS was worse, I was fatigued, etc. After a lot of research reading articles and talking to doctors and professionals, I eliminated soy because it was most likely causing estrogen dominance. In less than 2 weeks after eliminating the major sources of soy in my diet, I am feeling better than ever.

Andréa N. said...

I love the Magical Loaf page! I've always wanted to find a simple patty recipe and with that page it couldn't be easier! Thank you!

TheWay said...

I agree. Not to mention that those substitutes are costly. Other than soymilk (don't have many alternatives at the grocery store I shop at) I stick to real foods made from whole grains, fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds.

Lily Girl said...

I'm with you on variety, I don't eat a great deal of processed food so I choose to eat moderate amounts of soy primarily in whole/traditional form such as tempeh, tofu, miso, and soy milk.
On another note, I prefer Living Harvest "original" flavor hemp milk for my creamy sauces and as a stand in for cream in soup; it doesn't have that weird soy aftertaste that turns me off and I think the slightly thicker consistency works well.

To-Fu said...

How are you liking the hemp milk so far? We get Living Harvest brand (all three flavors--chocolate, vanilla, and plain) and use it a lot in smoothies, etc. It is the creamiest "milk" I've found yet!

Becky @ BoysRuleMyLife said...

How very interesting that I found your blog today! I've been mulling this controversy over for months now and just yesterday spoke with a dietitian/nutritionist to make an appointment to discuss this further.

My 15 month old son is HIGHLY allergic to cow's milk. For the last 10 months we have been a dairy free family and we really need to find a balance with the soy.

I look forward to reading through your blog! I noticed your smoothies post - very nice! We make them, too. Anyway, nice to meet you. Thanks for the information you posted; it's nice to know that I'm not the only one in the middle! :)

artsparrow said...

I am really curious and concerned about the comment above on Quorn containing "chicken parts." I do not eat Quorn myself, but I would love to know where the source of this information is coming from. Please let me know if you can, as I am always interesting in uncovering the truth behind these processed food products.

nanoking said...

There's significant scientific info on this topic on Pubmed here.

Also, here's a link to Dr. Robbins' article (mentioned earlier).

All looks good to me! But here is an article on something that does have harmful health effects.

Cheers, Sam

matthew said...

I am obviously uninformed and hadnt really known there were soy controversies. I feel so ignorant. I had even been all excited about my shirt http://tshirtinsurgency.com/soy-bomb-veg-wear-t-shirt and now am not sure I can wear it with the same ferocity.

Jessica Noriega said...

I appreciate eveyone's posts. As a new vegetarian (trying to be vegan)I am always looking to learn new information!

~Dawn said...

This is a great post to read! I am the mom of a daughter that is milk and soy intolerant. I've had to eliminate all forms from my diet and it opened my eyes to how much soy is put into our foods not only in FEED, but in the actual preparation. Soy protein is in foods you wouldn't guess, including bread.

I also take the balanced approach. Too much of ANYTHING (okay, except maybe crunchie veggies and fruit LOL) is too much. I don't think we can discount that soy can cause estrogen dominance, but I don't think it's something we have to panic about, just balance our foods.

Though I'm not vegan, we are healthy eaters and I really enjoy the recipes (esp the ones that are milk & soy free ;)

Kate T said...

regarding Quorn... not vegan (but not chicken parts): (from the Quorn website)
How is mycoprotein made?
Mycoprotein for Quorn foods is grown using a controlled fermentation process so that it can be harvested consistently. All natural vegetable flavorings are added to the mycoprotein to create the desired flavor (like chicken or beef), as well as a small amount of egg white. Then it's formed into shapes like nuggets, tenders and cutlets.

Kate T said...

And this... (again from the Quorn site)

Are Quorn products suitable for vegans?
No. Because a small amount of egg white and milk ingredients are used in making Quorn products, they are not appropriate for a vegan diet.