Thursday, March 09, 2006

Soy Controversy

A lot of people are emailing and posting about the amount of soy in my son's diet, which I expected. Rather than see it hashed out again and again, I thought I could create this special soy post and refer people here as it comes up (I'd like an FAQ for frequent questions like this, but until I get to it I thought having a specific post I can link to would be the closest thing).

I like what John Robbins wrote about soy on his website here and here. But I think the site I would most recommend is Bryanna's Soy Concerns FAQ -- it's very comprehensive and well-researched. Thank you, Bryanna!

If you're worried about soy there are plenty of other things you can eat, even on a vegan diet. Some people decide to limit their soy consumption to traditional soy foods, like tofu, tempeh, soymilk, and miso. A lot of Jo Stepaniak's books contain soy-free recipes, including the Food Allergy Survival Guide, which is perfect for those out there with soy (or other) allergies.


Anonymous said...

it makes me very sad and disappointed that you work so incredibly hard on living a very healthy life, and raising a healthy child and you still catch flack from people.

for whatever it counts, you've got a fan over here in TN.


Anonymous said...

i always read your posts and seldom read the comments, so i guess i missed out on the "controversy." i get that you're putting yourself forth as trying to make healthy vegan meals for your son and some people might take that as an invitation to second-guess you, but i'm really kind of baffled that people nitpick at your blog.

it's just so obvious that you're an extremely conscientious mom. i hate that people seem to think that if you're putting a lot of thought and effort into your child they have a right to criticize what you do, whereas people who are apathetic are given a free pass. the fact that you put so much love & effort into your son's diet deserves a lot of credit.

Anonymous said...

I think most people commenting on this blog are positive and polite. Some people ask very geniune questions about a certain topic and they need to be educated not seen as nit-picking or as harrassing. Not everyone has been enlightened about a healthy diet. Education is the key to dispelling myths, rumors, and bad attitudes.

Anonymous said...

Shelly, what about putting a small container of salad dressing in the freezer the night before and then putting it in the lunch in the am? I'm thinking it would not be warm by lunch.

Kimberly said...

Ditto what Jessica and Karen said. Folks find it so easy (and, for some reason, justified) to question or criticize the enormously healthful diet you work so hard to give your son ... while the throngs of fast food junkies go on without so much as a blink (but hey, they're "normal," right?) [Aside: I'm a critical care nurse, and every day I'm amazed that my vegetarian diet - I usually don't even get to the vegan part - is called to task, while multiple-vessel coronary bypass surgeries are now considered "routine."]

Anyway, hats off to you. And I gotta tell you, I just recently happened across your blog, and I love it. Don't even have little ones myself (though my 16-yr old stepson will eat vegan cornbread and Health-is-Wealth's buffalo wings), but I've started using Schmoo's lunch ideas to pack my own lunch for work! Thanks! :-)

Kaer Trouz said...

If you are an acitivist, and putting yourself out there, into the sphere, expect the flack to abound. I eat everything, and have a child too, and he definitely goes on food tangents (he ate salmon about 4 times this week, sorry about the fish friends but he definitely needs omega 3 and flax obliterates his system). The lovely thing about what you do is the beauty and care that goes into the food, and I can appreciate that. Schmoo obviously is not going to wither away from too much soy. My sister, a non meat eater, thinks it is fine to do bread, cheese and soy hot dogs for her undernourished child. He is sick all the time and basically is a mucus factory. But she doesn't like vegetables, and she does not cook. the key is blalnce and love, both of which you obviously have in abundance.

Anonymous said...

I know that if my diet has a lot of soy, my cycle will last 10-15 days longer.

Anonymous said...

to the above anonymous poster:

I guess its a good thing that Schmoo doesnt have to worry about his cycle.

I love soy!

Anonymous said...

You're gracious enough to even acknowledge their concerns. It is funny that we, vegan, get our diets scrutinized to microscopic levels, but mothers raising their kinds on mac'n'cheese are, as someone said, "OK" because they are the norm. I love your blog and get aggravated when people post comments criticizing the amount of food/carbohydrates/sugar your kid eats, when 1) your kid eats better than the general surgeon 2) you put great thought into the lunches 3) you - like many vegans - have more robust background in nutrition than those who post unsolicited advice.

On a similar note, today I get a friednly envelope from my MIL with a clipping from Sunday's Parade alerting me of the dangers of a vegan diet...apparently some unknown harm (besides passing gas) will befall upon me if I eat too many beans...ON the other hand, her own daughter feeds her two adorable kids nothing but eggo waffles and pastaroni... But hey, at least the kids are safe from those evil beans...

La Tea Dah said...

Jenn, I think you are doing great and are raising a healthy son that will thrive throughout all his growing up years from the time and effort you put into his vegan diet. I raised two sons on soy milk. Now grown, they are normal and healthy. Forget the controversy and just go with what your instincts tell you. You are doing great!

Anonymous said...

I agree with most of the above! You are just trying to give your child the healthiest diet possible and people get so offensive, like you're calling them bad parents!!
Well, I love your blog and so do alot of my college friends!! We love your ideas for meals on the go!!
Please keep up your blog! You are an inspiration to all of the vegans out there and you are spreading the word in a positive way!! Good Luck and thanx Jennifer! =)

Anonymous said...

I can't even believe this, yet people think it's normal to feed their kids dairy with every single meal and processed meat products with at least lunch and dinner....


I'm a huge fan, btw, and I didn't even think the lunches were overly dependent on soy.

Marnie said...

Even more than your beautiful, creative, nourishing lunches, I appreciate the way you're careful to be a positive source of inspiration. You're considerate of other people, and that's just as important for this planet as giving up meat or dairy. Thank you for doing what you do. I hope some negative people don't rob you of the happiness you find in this.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to let you know you have a fan in Oakland, Ca. I read your blog daily and gain so much inspiration from you. We aren't vegan but that does not mean we can not strive to feed ourselves and our children the very best. Thank you so much for sharing! I will be the first in line to get your book when it comes to a store near me! I belong to a private message board and today your blog was being discussed...You are really getting around!

Anonymous said...

Another two cents thrown in...

The many millions of Asians in this world, of which I happen to also be, are raised on diets consisting predominantly of soy, vegetables, and rice. Seems to have worked for them for the last few thousand years.

Anonymous said...

So sad that doing goood things means you have to defend your good things. Thank you for all your good suggestions!!!

Funny about the article from the MIL.. I get those all the time. And phone calls everytime a family member sees something on TV regarding "TOFU" as if it's a bad 4 letter word.

If I wrote and called them every time I heard about a bad animal product I wouldn't ever have time to do anything else. Maybe we should start doing that.. Hee hee could you imagine... Writing the MIL's for no other reason but to nitpick little pieces of there Non-Vegan diets and all their health problems that are related to what they are eating.... Just joking I would never do that, but funny that they find it OK..

I hope you continue to do the great things your doing and don't let anyone get you down!

Anonymous said...

I am one of those who are honestly curious and respectful. Believe it or not, I came to day to ask about that very topic (concerns over soy) This is one of those things that causes a strong reaction one way or another. I think Jenn is doing a fabulous job and will be using many of her ideas. I only wish I had been more diligent when mine were younger (they are now between 5 and 14, 5 of them) because it is an uphill battle to wean off of refined foods. Dh is a meat and potatoes farm boy but I strive for more and more meatless meals in our menu.

As I finish a 10 day cleansing fast tomorrow, I intend to try the vegan path throughout Lent for myself if not my whole family. Thanks for the support and wonderful ideas you give here.

Claudia said...

I adore your blog, which is both informative and inspirational. I don't have children, but these lunch box ideas are great for adults, too. Many, many thanks for sharing!

Jennifershmoo said...

>>As I finish a 10 day cleansing fast tomorrow, I intend to try the vegan path throughout Lent for myself if not my whole family.

Good luck, Kim! Blessed Lent!

Anonymous said...

My Grandmother is the same as Susannah's MIL -- not only does she give me articles on how evil a vegetarian diet is, but for a while, she'd try to "hide" meat in the salads and such that I "would" eat, in an attempt to make sure I didn't starve to death. Then, she decided to be a little more supportive: she served everyone else schnitzel, and instead of letting me fend for myself or cooking up one of the veggie burger patties I keep in her freezer, I got breaded, fried cheese -- several ounces of it. Gotta love grandmothers! :S

Anonymous said...

I love your blog! It's well organized with pretty pictures, and other kinds of cool stuff. Your recipes work both for omnivores, vegetarians, and vegans alike.

High Power Rocketry said...

Very interesting thanks! Things like this prevents jerks (like me) from making each post too serious. I hope I dont bother you too much.

Anonymous said...

I think the nit picking is because it's out there for all to see. Even those of us who eat similarly love to explore the little differences There's a lot of (always changing) information to keep track of out there, let's discuss and help each other in a friendly way.

Koby said...

I hope everything works out well and you don't take too much flak, Jennifer. I love this blog, and I think it's a great way to show that vegan food doesn't mean eating bean sprouts all the time. ^__^

Shelly said...

Susanna-- I love the comment about the dangers of beans. :) The great thing is that the more beans you eat, the less gas you have! My omni hubby can rank up a room faster than the dog, but I don't suffer from that malady, being a human 'bean'. :D

Nicole-- my MIl did that to me over the holidays. I don't eat meat anyway, but I was specifically warned by my surgeon to avoid hidden beef and beef broth in foods until I had my gall bladder surgery. Beef is really hard on the gall bladder, apparently, and they couldn't do the surgery if I was having an attack. My MIL KNEW this and then neglected to tell me that the green beans were simmered in the 'juices' from the beef roast. I was in so much pain...and I didn't get to have my surgery until mid January. :( Of course, if I'd gone veg when I was younger, I might not have had to part company with my gall bladder in the first place. :P

Jennifer--poo to the detractors with knobs on. Shake 'em off! Honest questions are a great conversation starter, but you don't need to listen to Voice of Utter Doom that floats around the internet. You are a strong, vibrant woman who is doing such a great job of raising her son! You rock!

Unknown said...

I missed the soy controversy as well. Why is it a concern? If I didn't have a sensitivity to it ( and about fifteen or twenty other foods ) I'd probably eat it all the time.

I've been curious about preservatives in the vegan cheeses, hot dogs, sour cream, etc. that you use a lot. My body needs a whole foods diet, so I don't eat that stuff and don't read the labels, so I don't know, maybe there aren't any.

When one separates from the herd, the rest of the sheep want to find fault. I catch a lot of crap for cutting my own hair, not owning a car, not eating fast food, not watching's exhausting to be surrounded by so many people who don't want to step out of their bubbles. If people want to criticize your blog and what it promotes, I guess they feel they've got something better to offer simply by doing what the group does.

I'd want to live near you in the event of the apocolypse; you're obviously a very resourceful girl with good survival instincts.

Anonymous said...

I think that I may be lucky in the way my family is responding to my vegetarian/vegan attempts. Yes, my mother still inquires about my protein intake and whether or not I'd refuse a few childhood favourites that contain meat, but overall, she's very supportive. She's even interested in soy since she raised me on soymilk until I was about nine.

I second the poster above...I'd definitely want to live near you in the event of apocalypse!

Anonymous said...

Soy controversy aside, what a wonderful blog. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

i'm sorry if i missed this, but have you experimented with making your own soy yogurt? i've found a few recipes online that look really promising. i know you're already familiar with this site and possibly that recipe !

trader joe's has the best soy yogurt ever but i'm pretty sure you've said you (unfortunately) don't live near one-- i'm only considering making my own because i love vanilla yogurt and they only make peach, raspberry, and strawberry !

Pram Brain said...

It's actually good that people do challenge, because it allows Jennifer the opportunity to dispel the myths and educate people a little.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating as they say, so we will only know when all these kids grow up how their diets affected them, but I'm sure Shmoo will be healthier than a lot of others.

Molly said...

Miz Shmoo, I think you do a great job feeding your kid. He looks happy and healthy, and he eats more than I do!

When I first read this post, I immediately wanted to type a long-winded rant about how you never see parents who feed their kid white bread and process cheese three meals a day get any questioning of their nutritional know-how. . . but I see that many previous posters beat me to it.

Soy products aside, with the state of the Standard American Diet these days (combined with the dairy lobby's efforts to get us to consume more of their products) I'm surprised you don't get forty posts a day telling you that your kid will fall and break all his bones due to lack of calcium.

Anonymous said...

denise regan, I'm kind of a junk-food vegan teenager, so I eat quite a bit of those processed foods, and I've never seen specifically vegan food with synthetic preservatives. While whole foods are probably better for overall good health, mock animal products tend to be different combinations of ingredients one might use at home. Some "accidentally-vegan" processed foods do contain artifical things, but think it's safe to say that nearly all products that target vegans also target the health-nut crowd, and are labeled as containing no hydrogenated oils, no preservatives, etc.

A common somewhat-exception to this is Tofutti. Many vegans rely heavily on Tofutti products, but many of them contain refined sugar. So, vegans would complain to the company, and their site actually states that vegans are not their targets -- they go for Jews and dairy-intolerant people. So, their cheese is pretty much hydrogenated oil, but they've come out with non-hydrogenated cream cheese made with organic sugar, so it's definitely vegan.

Anyway, we live in a very luxurious world, that we can critique a growing, unsick boy's diet so heavily. So many struggle to get even enough calories. I think our bodies give us more leeway than we often think, because of the presence of so much disease. If the kid has no symptoms, he's growing, he has plenty of energy, and he has normal (or in Shmoo's case, high) intelligence, he'll probably be fine. Jennifer, however, goes several steps further.

By the hoo, she's very right that you can EASILY eat a healthy vegan diet without soy, and even if you have many, many allergies. Veganism does not have to equal soy -- I think Jennifer's goal is to preserve her son's mental health, too, and right now that might take fitting in, and that's cool.

Anonymous said...

I just have to say that it really is gracious of you to acknowledge those who citicize what you are doing. I do take issue, however, with the fact that you (and that is a general "you" to all who have commented supporting Jennifer, not a specific Jennifer you) only see the other extreme to the siutation assuming that if one is not following a vegan diet then they must be only feeding their children unhealthy processed junk. In reality, there is a very broad middle ground of equally healthy diets one can follow, even including meat or fish. Veganism is not the end all be all of healthy diets. Don't let the naysayers bring you down to their level.

StephB said...

I didn't see any of the controversy, but wanted to say that it looks like you work hard to present a variety of different proteins in Shmoo's lunch. Every child should be so lucky to have a mom who thinks so much about what he eats. I fall into the cheese cubes and hummus trap a lot when making my daughter's lunch so thanks for your many inspirations.

Anonymous said...

Love your blog. Don't worry about any inquiries (that aren't hostile). It's fun to discuss the nuances of a "healthy" diet. Vegan, veggies, omnis, etc. can all discuss what works for us and what new research we've read. We are more alike than different because we're all interested in healthy stuff. Discussing the differences is fun! I love hearing all the variety od opinions and reasoning that goes into everyone's choices.

MommaSchell said...

In regards to Tofutti, not all products have been 100% vegan. Tofutti has always marketed as dairy free, but not totally vegan. Historically, the cream cheese has had mono and diglycerides (emulsifiers) derived from animal origin. In the industry, they are cheaper to produce and use. Rule of thumb, unless it states "vegetable mono and diglycerides" or "derived from (a plant source...), assume that all mono and diglycerides are derived from animal origin and the product is not vegan. Same with "enzymes." Very few are derived from plant origin. Just an FYI from a cereal chemist who was exposed to these for a long time...

In regards to soy, it is like anything that you would eat in excess. It's not good for you. Nothing in a copious quantity is good for you. However, you would have to eat a heck of a lot of soy to have negative effects. So, go ahead and enjoy your cup of soy milk, tofu, soy yogurt, meatless options, whatever as you would in a variety of foods that you enjoy in a healthy balanced vegan diet. There's so many good benefits that outweigh the negative...

Jennifer - keep up your enlightening activism...

Anonymous said...

Speaking of rants, I will now rant about packaging. Maybe because organic and vegetarian foods are "going mainstream," that is small companies are being bought up by mega grocery product companies, packaging is going to %$#@. I know this doesn't pertain to vegans, but have you taken a look at the packaging of eggs lately? They've started using totally non-biodegradable clear plastic cases for them, and added injury to injury by having a third level of the case that fits over the eggs inside. Thank goodness for the small companies.

Jennifershmoo said...

>>i'm sorry if i missed this, but have you experimented with making your own soy yogurt?

Yes, I used to make all our soy yogurt from homemade soymilk, back in the days before Lunch Box. Right now I don't have the time, but I do plan to do it again. I haven't tried Bryanna's recipe, but it looks very similar to the one I have. I've also heard you can make yogurt from nut milk, but I haven't tried it.

>>I hope I dont bother you too much.

You don't bother me, Alex. In fact, every now and again I think to myself "So the kid should carry his food in his pockets?" and I crack up. So, you're definitely worth having around. :-)

Seriously, though, about the soy controversy: I was pretty shaken, too, when I first read all the "soy is worse than the plague" stuff that's out there on the internet, so I expected to get a lot of questions about that. It wasn't until I did a lot of reading (check out Bryanna's FAQ!) and reminded myself that people in Asia have eaten soyfoods for generations, that I relaxed. So I know where folks are coming from. :-)

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for posting the links that dispel the soy controversy. My sister and her family is vegetarian, like our family. She got on the soy is terrible for you bandwagon last year because of some of the very articles that are addressed in some of the links you posted. I tried to tell her they didn't make sense to me and seemed bogus, but didn't have the time to research what I knew to be true. I am sending her the links you posted.

Kourtney said...

This is good stuff. When people suggest to me that soy is harmful, my usual response is to say there's evidence on both sides, but I think it tastes good, so I eat it. It's a good way of avoiding a debate in contexts (like work) where I don't want to get in to it.

Sheryle said...

Jessica, just ignore the criticism and move forward. You are doing an awesome job and your child benefits from it everyday. Keep up the great job you do.

Susan Voisin said...

Hey, did you see that Dr. Fuhrman's blog is talking about this today?

Jennifershmoo said...

Yes, I just found out about that and read the post!

I do agree with Dr. Fuhrman, that it's best to base your diet around a wide variety of plant foods. But as one parent pointed out to me, kids don't always appreciate the lovely dishes we prepare! Sometimes it's nice to have a veggie dog or deli slice to send to school. As long as he's still eating a wide variety of fruits, veggies, and beans, I'm not going to stress. :-)

Anonymous said...

mommaschell - nope!

12. What is the source of your mono and diglycerides? Why do you use them?

The mono and diglycerides we use comes from vegetables, never from animals. Mono and diglycerides are used as a carrier in some of the ingredients that we use in our products. This is true of virtually all other similar products that use gums and stabilizers as we do. The amount in the finished product is miniscule and we never directly add any into our product.

All Tofutti products are parve, so the only animal products they could contain would have to be from either fish or eggs. Because of that, I was at one point concerned about the lecithin in the ice cream, but it, too, is from soy.

Haha- sorry, I just really like their cream cheese. : D

carrie white said...

I'm a relatively new fan to your blog, but have nothing but admiration for all your hard work, knowledge and creativity. Plus, thanks for the excellent links on the 'soy scare.'

I've been following the soy scare for several years now, and am baffled by the uproar. Sure, it's good to avoid the GMOs, buy organic and stick as much as you can with the traditional forms of soy food, but the rest of the furor is the rankest sort of pseudo-science. The only thing I don't understand is why, and what exactly the soy-bashers have to gain from it?

And on the subject of monthly cycles, my fibroids only flare up as an issue when I don't have much soy in my diet. Go figure.

Peace and tofu,

Anonymous said...

Hi! Since Jennifer mentioned my Soy Concerns FAQs on my webpage, I am taking the liberty of mentioning that I have just posted, for clarification, a statement on my "stand" on the soy controversy:

and a long post on "Who are these people you call "anti-soy" who are spreading the fear of all things soy?"

Here is the first statement:
I stand for common sense. You can eat a perfectly fine vegan diet without soy-- no question about that. If you are soy allergic, you can find non-soy meat and dairy substitutes, or make them yourself. I have files of them that I can send to people who ask about that.

It really annoys me that people with an anti-vegetarian agenda are spreading nonsense about a food that has sustained humans for thousands of years, distorting history, distorting scientific studies, and spreading hysteria. If you do a search on the internet, it's hard to find anything BUT this hysteria-- no wonder people are confused! That's why I've researched this subject and posted information about it. I don't really care whether you eat soy or not, just make your decision from an informed place!

Soy is a a very versatile food for vegetarians and, if you are not allergic, I see nothing wrong with eating soyfoods daily from organic and non-GMO sources. I have done so for many years, even making my own tofu, even before I was a vegetarian. I am healthy and active as I face my 60's in 2 years time, not sick and "poisoned" as the anti-soy contingent would prefer me to say.

I think that the majority of soyfoods, as with all the other foods you eat, should be traditional soyfoods or soyfoods that have not been overly-tampered with. But what does that mean? Some people call tofu, a soy product with thousands of years of history, that you can make in your own kitchen, a "processed food"! Well, butter is a processed food, as well, then.

I consider traditional Asian foods, like soymilk (I make my own), tofu, miso, soy sauce, and tempeh, foods that I can eat every day if I want to. Other soyfoods that I have no qualms about eating daily (though I don't necessarily-- I eat a very eclectic and varied diet because I like to experiment with many ethnic cuisines) are soy flour, soy yogurt (homemade), and even plain, unflavored dried textured soy protein, which is made from cooked defatted soy flour extruded through "dies" to make granules or shapes, and then dried. (It is not the same as "hydrolized soy protein" in any way!) A new product that I also like is called Soycurls (, which is similar to textured soy protein, but made from the whole soybean.

As for all the new processed soyfoods-- soy weiners, sausages, burgers, "hamburger crumbles", soy cheese, etc.-- we eat them a few times a month when we are in a hurry. My husband was a meat lover 15 years ago and became a vegan on his own, but he craves sausages, etc. sometimes. We buy vegan products that contain ingredients we can understand, and made with organic soy. Most of the time, I make my own meat substitutes at home, and we love beans of all kinds. (I don't panic about protein, and we often have soup meals, or vegetable only meals.) These products are far superior to processed meats that many people think nothing of serving to their children.

A few times a year we might buy soy "ice cream" (again, organic), and I almost never buy tofu sour cream, tofu creme cheese, or vegan "junk foods". Again, I make my own. I can't afford to buy these vegan processed foods, even if I wanted to, and I think my own recipes taste better, most of the time. I can also control fat and calories and fiber content better that way.

Jennifershmoo said...

Thank you, Bryanna!

carrie white said...

Thank you Bryanna, and I'm so happy to hear sense talked on the subject of soy.

Anonymous said...

I really can't wait for this whole 'soy backlash' trend to blow over already. Which it will in due course naturally (-- only in the meantime it does get pretty tiresome, sigh). Oh well -- keep on keeping on!

Anonymous said...

It's really frustrating to me, as someone who loves animals and doesn't eat meat but is not a vegan, that people cannot discuss the soy thing without getting so angry and defensive. Most vegans seem to feel like if you question soy, you are somehow attacking *them.* And maybe that's true for some people. For me I think it is a valid concern.

My doctor is a holistic practitioner who believes in kindness to animals, but took me off of soy first thing when I went to see her complaining of perpetual exhaustion and depression. Soy has been eaten for thousands of years, but most Asian peoples did not eat soy milk with soy based ceral for breakfast, a sandwhich with soy meat with soy veganaise and soy salad dressing for lunch, and soy with a side of soy something for dinner... that is what lots of people are doing now and clearly if you eat too much of ANY food, it could be problematic.

If I could eat soy day and night, I could easily be vegan; as it is I do the best I can with the body I was given to be as kind to animals as I possibly can, and I'm constantly trying to get better. But to throw stones in either direction is not helping anyone either improve their diet or helping improve the lot of animals in the universe.

As a community, I just think it's so important to TALK about these things and not get crazy with each other.

And btw, I may not choose to make use of soy the way that you do, but I still think what you are doing here is fabulous. What you choose to feed your son is absolutely your decision, and he sounds healthy and happy and is definitely lucky to have a mom doing so much to make concientious choices for him.

Megan said...

While I'm not a vegan, or even a vegetarian, I do like to cook meatless and/or animal-product-less meals frequently. I read your blog because I find it interesting in a general way, but also because I find it very refreshing that you approach your veganism with complete commitment, but without the sort of preachiness that I have experienced from many in the veg*n community.

People mistake me for a vegetarian all the time (and I get lots of raised eyebrows for it), and my collection of veg*n cookbooks only adds to the mystery! I hope to add yours to the shelf someday. Keep it up.

carrie white said...

The problem is, as Bryanna's webpage so clearly documented, that the people behind the soy scare have a fanatical agenda against soy and against vegetarianism.

When fanaticism is operating, people are only going to seek and pay attention to confirmatory evidence of their own prejudices. They feel justified in spreading false and misleading information. Fanaticism also makes people cruel in their self-righteousness.

Of course, that is just what anti-vegetarians, such as the Weston-Price folks, say about vegetarians. Interesting that so many of them claim to be ex-vegetarians! Coincidence?

As for anonymous's comments, I haven't yet come across any vegetarian authority who advocated eating soy in the manner described. If the soy-bashers would confine their advice to simply not over-doing soy, that would be one thing. But they actually compare it to poison.

What's more, they have a culture of scorn and bitter cruelty, and make personal attacks left and right. If anyone dares to critique their thinking, that person is up on the chopping block.

Mommy P said...

Thank you so much for this post. I love looking at the food you prepare and then get a little bit sad because I have a life-threatening allergy to soy and peanuts (also all legumes!). I always thought that a vegetarian lifestyle was out of my reach due to my nutritional needs. I think that I will try to start incorporating soy free vegetarian meals into my life. I don’t think I’m ready to jump right into it, but you have defiantly given me some “Food for thought!”

Anonymous said...

but most Asian peoples did not eat soy milk with soy based ceral for breakfast, a sandwhich with soy meat with soy veganaise and soy salad dressing for lunch, and soy with a side of soy something for dinner... that is what lots of people are doing now and clearly if you eat too much of ANY food, it could be problematic.

This is what I believe, too, anonymous. I asked a basic, non-inflammatory question about soy as a mainstay in one's diet (since deleted per jennifershmoo's discretion), because Asian diets (the model so often used when discussing soy consumption) are very heavy in fish, seaweed, and various other meat and plant sources. They're definitely not all soy all the time.

I enjoy this blog, and to call onself an activist entails being called to task while hopefully educating and illuminating one's stance.

Anonymous said...

Some people do assert that traditional consumption of soy in Asian countries has been mainly of fermented foods, but that, on the whole, soy is not a mainstay; and that soymilk and tofu are relatively recent introductions to the Asian diet.

This is untrue. The average Taiwanese eats 64 lbs. of tofu a year! As of 1991, there were thirty-eight-thousand tofu shops in Japan.

According to Chinese tradition, soybeans were one of the five sacred crops named by Chinese emperor Sheng-Nung, who reigned five thousand years ago! Sheng-Nung mentioned soybeans in his Ben Tsao Gang Mu, written in 2838 BC! By 300 BC, soybeans and millet were always mentioned in the ancient texts as the two major food crops in Northern China. There is archaeological evidence in the form of a kitchen scene in a Han tomb in Northern China, clearly depicting the preparation of soymilk and tofu. This would be AD 25-100. Tofu is first mentioned in a document in 965 AD: the Ch'ing I Lu by T'ao Ku. The story implies that tofu was widely consumed in China in those days.

In Japan, even today, the words tofu, miso and shoyu (soy sauce) are commonly preceded in everyday speech by the honorific prefix o—most people saying “o-tofu”, or “honorable tofu”, showing the reverence for the noble soybean in their culture.

According to Dr. T. Colin Campbell’s data from long-running The Oxford-Cornell China Project, the percentage of foods of animal origin in the Chinese diet was found to be 0-20 percent of calories, compared to 60-80% in North America. The Project found that much of the protein eaten in rural China is from soyfoods and that 80-90% of legume intake was from soyfoods. William Shurtleff (world-recognized expert and researcher on TRADITIONAL Asian soyfoods) writes in “History of Soybeans and Soyfoods in China (1949 to 1980s)”: “Prior to 1949 and up until about the mid-1960s, most Chinese, especially peasants, ate meat only three times a year, on their great festivals: New Year's, Autumn Festival, and Dragon Festival…Chinese derived 2.60 kg of protein per person per year from these animal products. By comparison, the average Chinese consumed 8.3 kg of soybeans containing 38% protein. Assuming that 95% were consumed directly with 90% protein recovery, these soyfoods provided the average Chinese with about 2.69 kg of protein per year, slightly more than was derived from animal products.”

Excerpt of letter from my friend Susan Marie Yoshihara to The Island Word, Courtenay, BC, April 2005:

"My husband Yoshi was born and raised in Japan on a farm in the traditional Japanese peasant way of life. When he was a child his family (and, no doubt everyone else in the village) almost never ate meat. They ate fish occasionally, but tofu was a food they had almost everyday. This was before the era of refrigeration. Early most mornings the tofu vendor from the nearest town would arrive on his bicycle selling a variety of freshly made tofu and other soy products.

Yoshi has now been in Canada for 34 years. All this time we have continued to eat a mainly simple, plant based diet. There hasn't been a time during our 34 year long relationship when we didn't eat tofu. We have raised two healthy sons. Both are intellectually and physically well-endowed. Our elder son is now a scientist and the younger is a university student in Montreal. I got my BA in Pacific and Asian Studies from UVic in 2003. Tofu obviously doesn't rot your brain. And I've got a lot to say about how tofu can help with menopause but I want to keep this letter as short as possible, so I won't.

Over the past 30 years I've taken many trips to Japan and stayed there for extended periods. I've lived with families, studied miso making, Japanese culture and the language. I've shopped in the supermarkets and in corner stores. Even the 7-11 sells tofu. I've eaten in fancy places, temples, bars, and "greasy chopstick" cafes. No matter what the season or location, tofu is extremely common and soyfoods are almost always on the menu in some form.

Susan-Marie Yoshihara
Denman Island, B.C"


Tempeh is the fermented soy product that originated in Indonesia. Little is known of how soybeans and soyfoods were introduced to Indonesia, where Buddhism was only of temporary importance, in about the eighth century. The soybeans may have been introduced by Chinese immigrants; in some way tempeh was developed and became the most popular soyfood, followed by tofu, miso (taucho), and soy sauce (kechap). Here is a quote from a website on Indonesian food: "Tofu and Tempeh - Both made from soy beans, tofu and tempeh are common foods in Indonesia. While tofu has a smooth texture, tempeh is rougher because the soy beans remain whole. Tempeh is more of a specialty, but both must be tried to get the authentic Indonesian experience."

Here is some interesting information from this article

"Tofu has a long history in China, where it originated about 3 millennia ago. The technology of soybean processing spread quickly to Japan, Korea and Southeast Asia. While tofu is but one of the soybean products of these countries, it is perhaps the most for general consumption.

In Indonesia, tofu is considered an important element in the daily diet. It is found throughout the nation’s archipelago, prepared everywhere in the style of the local cuisine and reflecting its great ethnic diversity. It may be mixed with dog meat, in those regions where dog is considered a delicacy; in other places, tofu may be mixed with salted fish.

Tofu feeds the rich as well as the poor. Five-star hotels and roadside stalls serve a variety of tofu dishes and types, from the soft custard style to the crisply fried. Judging from the processing technology, tofu seems to have been brought to the archipelago by the Chinese, but the exact date is difficult to establish. People in Kediri claim that tofu came to their city first, brought by the troops of Kublai Khan in 1292. The story begins, according to historical records, when Kublai Khan demanded tribute from the Javanese king Kertanegara of Singosari; but the king refused to fulfil the Khan’s request. The Khan’s special envoy, sent to Java in 1289, suffered the injury and indignity of having his face disfigured by the Javanese court. Kublai Khan sent an expedition consisting of 20,000 soldiers to punish the king. Meanwhile, however, Jayakatawang, king of the east Javanese realm of Kediri, had conquered Singosari and killed Kertanegara. Raden Wijaya, Kertanegara’s son-in-law, vowed revenge. Fortuitously for him, the Mongol expedition landed in Surabaya. He directed the ships through the Brantas river to Kediri, and led a heavy battle. Raden Wijaya, the victor, then established the illustrious Majapahit kingdom, whose imperial reign endured into the 15th century. The place where the Chinese junks anchored is now called Jung Biru (“blue junks”). Kublai Khan’s ships had complete cooking galleys, of course; and some were equipped for making tofu.

Today many tofu shops can be found in Kediri, offering tofu in a great variety of consistency, from soft custard-like cakes to the more solid takua. The process of making tofu is similar to the production of cheese. First, soybean milk is obtained by grinding the beans mixed with water between two heavy stones. In Kediri, this grinding is done the old-fashioned way, by two men who turn the heavy stones by hand. From this liquid, different products may be produced at successive stages of processing: soy milk and whey in the early stages, and tofu at a secondary stage. Nothing is wasted. The leftover skins are used for cattle feed, but sometimes are also sold to local villagers, who ferment it to make oncom, an orange-colored substance, that smells aomewhat stale, kije bkue cheese, but (like blue cheese) is delicious.

Kediri is so proud of its tofu history that, as part of the celebrations of the 1123rd anniversary of the city, a 500 kilogram tofu was made and submitted to the Indonesian Museum of Records in Semarang. Understandably, this highly perishable half-ton tofu cake is on display only in the form of a replica. The original was donated to the poor. "


Hsiang Ju Lin and Tsuifeng Lin, Chinese Gastronomy (Hastings house, NY, 1969)

“The Prodigious Soybean” by Fred Hapgood, National Geographic, Vol. 172, No. 1, p. 66.

“Soy…The Rest of the Story”
and “The Crucial Soy Link”
by Dr. T. Colin Campbell, PhD, MD (regarded by many as the greatest nutritionist of our time), (Jacob Gould Schurman Professor of Nutritional BiochemistryCornell University, On Leave; Project Director China-Oxford-Cornell Diet and Health Project Division of Nutritional Sciences Cornell University Ithaca, NY )

NOTE: The Cornell-Oxford “China Study” is the most comprehensive project on diet and disease ever undertaken. Two major surveys were undertaken, 1983 and 1989-90. These surveys were undertaken in China because cancers and various other diseases exhibit exceptional geographic localization. Thus, it made sense to examine these local regions to determine the responsible dietary and lifestyle factors. There are some “snippets” here:

Dr. Campbell’s website is here and has lots of articles:

There is a 900 page book of data called Diet, Lifestyle and Mortality in China (1990), but the data has now been analyzed and you can get Dr. Campbell’s new book The China Study. Check out or ask you bookseller or try

You can read an interesting excerpt here:

“Chronology of Soymilk Worldwide; Part I 220 A.D. to 1949 “
by William Shurtleff ©2001 (co-author of “The Book of Tofu”, “The Book of Miso”, and “The Book of Tempeh”) 001 William Shurtleff

History of Soybeans and Soyfoods in China (1949 to 1980s): A Special Report on The History of Soybeans and Soyfoods Around the World A Chapter from the Unpublished Manuscript, History of Soybeans and Soyfoods: 1100 B.C. to the 1980s by William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi, authors of “The Book of Tofu”, “The Book of Miso”, and “The Book of Tempeh”
©Copyright 2004 Soyfoods Center, Lafayette, California

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link. I'm a veggie, and do worry about what I eat (soy panic, cheese panic, cheese-subsitute panic... heh), so thanks for the links. And so much of these things are fashion - as soon as the anti-soy is over there'll be anti-seitan, and anti-lentils and anti-anything and everything :P

Anonymous said...

Anti-Quorn, the fungus that just won't quit!

Anonymous said...

I am a devoted vegetarian and soy-eater, currently living with an environmental activist. She has highlighted a lot of problems with soya agriculture in the world today, more than soya consumption (but still a good thing to be aware of). Vast tracts of land set aside for massive scale soy farming in South America have left environmental scars on the land and undermined the self-sufficiency of farming (i.e. eating off the land doesn't work so well if you only grow one thing).

Most of the soya grown does not find its way into processed or partly processed vegan food products. In fact, most of the soy grown in the US is for animal feed. Nowadays, soy products have found their way into all sorts of mainstream junk foods and fast foods. The irony (of the criticism of your son's soya consumption) being that by not eating all those junk foods your son is only eating more visible soy foods, not necessarily more soy foods.

The other big issue to be aware of in soya farming is the Genetically Modified one. Soya is one of the most prevalent GM crops. European countries have refused to import ANY American soybeans because of cross-contamination with GM soybeans (most soybeans grown in the US are GM). GM in soybeans is coupled with high pesticide use, and preliminary studies of popular GM soybeans have shown them to be less healthy than normal soybeans. So whatever you feel about the GM issue, there are other health factors at play here too.

So basically, soya today is not just a traditional Asian ingredient or popular vegetarian meat substitute. It has become an industry. Since most of the soya farmed does not make its way into the food supply directly (animal feed, industrial usage), it is easy to not think about it.

What is being done to the soybean is tragic. Is something made with partially-hydrogenated soybean oil from pesticide-sprayed GM soybeans farmed on an industrial scale in Venezuela good for you, the farmers, or the environment? Not so much. What about a block of organic tempeh made by one of the many local cooperatives (there is even one in Kansas!) scattered across America? Sounds good to me.

In short, I am very much in favour of a soya-rich diet. What I am not in favour of is the state of soya farming, particularly in the western world. Whilst my praise of the deliciousness and versatility of the soybean could go on for pages, I deplore the current state of the soya industry.

a note -- I have just noticed that I have been using the terms soya and soy interchangeably (which they are). In Europe the word Soya is used over the word Soy, if you are not familiar with it.

Craig said...

In all honesty, I think that all the soy controversyis just a lot of talk over a small issue.

There are hundreds of examples of times when certain foods have been deemed to be carcinogenic or whatnot, and I guess that soy is the toxin du jour for many people whoare overlyhealth conscious.

The fact that soy foods have often been regarded as being good for health probably brings it into the spotlight even more.

So in all honesty, I don't think it's worth worrying about. I never worry about what I'm eating.The only question I ask about my food is "Does it taste good?"

miroitement said...

i have noticed my cycle to last 2-3 days longer when i'm on a vegan diet.

i was looking at some scientific journals, and sadly found some research that had been done on female lab mice.

i think the key to eating healthy and living in general is the term...moderation.

InsubordinationFreak said...

I've been a vegan for 6 years, a vegetarian 10 before that.

I bought into the whole 'high protein' phenomenon a few years back and markedly increased my soy intake.

I developed a thyroid problem and multi-nodular goitre. I believe it inhibited my ability to absorb iodine. I increased the iodine and cut out the soy. I don't miss it.

audible said...

Asia always gets dragged into these discussions of soy. As far as Japan goes tofu is not as common a food staple as it once was, though soy milk and tofu are still popular as diet and health foods among young women. Most people eat diets high in refined starches, salts, and deep fried or fatty meats, topped off with high alcohol, tobacco, and mayonaise consumption. This is also the first generation of Japanese women to experience menopause.

As our culture reaps the benifits of its unhealthy diet and lifestyle we keep looking for the solution in other countries. There is a huge amount of romanticism that surrounds Japan and other Asian countries. Things like:

"In Japan, even today, the words tofu, miso and shoyu (soy sauce) are commonly preceded in everyday speech by the honorific prefix o—most people saying “o-tofu”, or “honorable tofu”, showing the reverence for the noble soybean in their culture."

Linguistically, honorifics are more a marker of age and class than any cultural reveance for an object. I've never heard honorific attached to tofu, miso, or shoyu. Though I have heard it attached to words like toilet (o-terai) and piss (o-shinko) as a way of making the ugly words sound nicer. I’ve also heard it attached to my monniker (o-gaijin-sama, honerable foreigner) as a polite way of refusing me service.

That said, last year in Tokyo some soy supplement candies were the cause of concern and eventually deemed unfit for consumption of prepubescent children due to the high level of soy-based estrogen found in the isoflavon enriched candy.

Recent Japanese studies have also revealed that high levels of soy consumption lead to decreased sperm production. However, as Japan is looking for anyway to maintian its workforce without importing labour, this is to be taken with a grain of salt.

The modern Japanese diet doesn’t live up to our imagined ideals and the long life is more likely attached to long living okinawans (not ethnically Japanese) and the pre-war generation that still follows a more traditional diet; while the healthy body immage is a combination of naturally smaller people and the world's highest level of eating disorders.

This isn't to discourage the use of healthy vegan diets. Just to provide some more information. Like many of the other posters stated, moderation seems to be key.

jennifer said...

I think the most important consideration is soy's effects on hormone levels. If it contains enough phytoestrogens to improve menopause symptoms or regulate female cycles, it certainly has an effect on everyone's hormone levels. You must consider that when you are giving it to your growing children on a regular basis. That is not to say it is bad, but it needs to be eaten responsibly. Any food will have negative effects if eaten in excess. Soy is a very potent food and it should be treated that way. Soy at every meal is too much, just as beef at every meal would be too much. I give my kids soy about every other day. I consider it a very important part of a well balanced diet.

Lori said...

To the person who said that Tofutti cream cheese has animal derivatives in it. In order for Tofutti products to state that they are Kosher and Parve (neutral) means that there has to absolutely be no meat or dairy in it. So Tofutti brand products would be considered vegan.
I am not vegan but bought a laptop lunch box after looking at your site. I am the envy of all the other teachers at school and they are jealous of my semi-vegetarian lunches ( I do take tuna and other fish for lunch) and I only eat chicken or meat 2x a week now.
I think that soy helps with menstraul cramps also. I used to have horrible cramps when I drank dairy and now only do soy milk and they have calmed down a bit. I am lactose intolerant and get migraines if I eat a large portion of dairy products.

K.T. is Mommatude said...

I missed the whole soy contreversy also but I have been checking around on it,via internet.I am not a vegan or even a vegetarian but I found an absolutely ridiculous site on the internet that claimed eating soy daily or at all could cause you to have homosexual tendencies or become transgendered,although I new to all of these ideas,I found such claims to be absoulutely ridiculous!!!!!!!!!!!

Dinahsoar said...

I wouldn't waste my time addressing negative comments. Do what you do...those who are interested will follow. Those who are not won't. Your time is better spent promoting your belief than defending it.

michangel said...

First, LOVE LOVE LOVE the vegan lunchbox blog! The pictures always make me sooo hungry! :) And motivate me to start day! :)

My two cents on the soy issue:

Some of the discussion here is so insightful. Since reading about the soy controversy, I have been experimenting with soy and without soy foods in my diet. And the verdict is that I haven't had a great time with soy foods. I find my monthly friend/fiend tends to arrive with a lot more ceremony/symptoms and I usually have to take naprogesic. So I have cut most of the soy out of my diet and the monthly symptoms that I have experienced since my teenage years have gone.

There does seem to be a lot of anti/pro food trends going and coming all the time. However, we need to be a bit more weary of a food that contains (naturally-occurring) hormones - the effects of which seem to vary on individuals and species. Ultimately, defenceless, open debate with lots of mutual respect seems to be the best way for public dialogue.

Here's an article which also touches on the history of the soy industry:,,1828158,00.html

PinkSkittles said...

i believe that soy is extremely toxic. those links you posted are one-sided. i think people should check alternative sources. here's one to start:
another one:
a bunch of links to different articles about soy:

to those of you on here who are interested in veganism for your health, please do not be ignorant of the soy thing!

Unknown said...

I must say I find it interesting that complete strangers feel it's "okay" to criticize another parent on how they feed their child, simply because they choose to share pics and recipes on a blog (and eventually a cool new book)!

As far as the soy controversy goes, I there will always be people who get hysterical about one thing or another, as is their right. However, that doesnt give anyone the right to criticize others because they make a different choice.

My oldest daughter had soy formula as an infant sixteen years ago, because she was allergic to milk. She is an omnivore, but still enjoys soy milk, as well as veggie burgers which contain soy with no adverse effects, as do I.

As long as there is food, people, and scientific studies sontradicting each other, there will always be "concerns".

River said...

I am using this thread as an excuse to say two things: First, this is a great blog and I have been following it for some time now (first post, though!) - congratulations on a wonderful job of promoting a great lifestyle!

Second, those who are against soy are usually against a lot more than soy - food faddists, picky eaters, hypochondriacs, as well as, of course, 'concerned citizens' who are sure they know best.

I'm truly sorry you are hassled - I guess many of us are hassled over soy in this or a similar way - and if I could magically make it go away for you, I would.

Hugs from a long-time fan,


m said...

By now there are over 70 comments so I didn't read them all, but I just want to say first, hats off to you for this website!

I am not part of the soy industry, and do not stand to make a profit from soy or a "soy scare."

When I became vegan, I found I was really missing some things, especially milk. I began to drink a lot of soy milk and use a lot of tofu in my cooking to try and make up for the dairy products that I liked so much and missed! After a few months, my period stopped. I was travelling, so I thought maybe it was related to that. When it didn't reappear for almost three months, I got a little worried. I was starting to feel signs of either pregnancy or an ovarian cyst (the symptoms are quite similar!).

When it became pretty clear I wasn't pregnant, I went to the OBGyn and found I had an ovarian cyst. At the time, I didn't know much about soy, but my boyfriend insisted that he had heard negative things about it, so I started to research it, and YES, it can cause ovarian cysts, due to it's high level of naturally-ocurring estrogen (which is why it's recommended to menopausal women for symptom relief: it replaces the estrogen your body is no longer producing). However, for a NON-menopausal woman, it CAN have disastrous effects. The OB told me I had several small fibroids on my ovaries and one cyst, that was actually making it painful for me to exercise.

Anyway, long story short, she prescribed some progesterone pills for me; I wasn't keen on putting more foreign hormones into my body, so I just stopped eating soy, completely. I wouldn't even eat things with the infamous soy lecithin. After about 10 days, I got my period back.

Since that incident, I only have soy on occasion, if I go out to a Thai place and they have tofu curry or something, for example. I NEVER choose it as an ingredient in my own cooking, and only drink soy milk if someone takes me out for coffee. Up until I started consuming soy products, I had a scarily regular period, and now that I've banned them, I once again am regular and have had no further trouble with my ovaries.

So I'm just saying, you can chalk the "soy scare" up to people who hate vegetarians, or the fact that it is actually a product with estrogen in it, which can throw your body out of whack. There was a study done in Puerto Rico where they fed infants soy formula, and the girls had breasts by age TWO. I would be more inclined to believe that the soy-as-a-miracle food fad has been created by companies out to make a profit (and destory the amazon: most of the deforestation now comes from clearning for soy fields).

The blessing of having the internet is that you can research anything. Just know how to see through what's there for profit and what's actually true.

I'm 23, by the way, and I just wanted to share that story. Not because I care about the profits or losses of soy companies or meat companies or non-soy companies, but because I care about fellow women and veggies/vegans who may be poisoning their bodies with soy products.


Sue said...

We should all eat clean - meaties and vegetarians alike.
Asians eat soy - but not nearly as much as people are consuming now and their soy is fermented.
I would never touch soy - unless fermented.
In your quest to become more healthy processed products should be removed from the shopping list.

cat said...

hi and thanks for your post and linkies.
I found your page searching:
vegetarian cookbook +"no soy".
I'll just add my experiences to those of others in case it resonates for someone, somewhere :-)
years ago when I had been lacto-ovo vego for some years a doc told me I was lactose intolerant, not based on anything but because she was and now she believed all her patients were too. I switched to soy milk on her advice and became extremely ill. Returning to dairy returned my health. (I actually had gallstones from over dieting and was suffering gallstone attacks and had a scarred gallbladder - not lactose intolerance), I have been subclinical hypothyroid for years and only in the last year or so found out that soy is a goitrogen. as is flax and flouride, which is particularly high in black tea but also green tea. I now know why I feel like death after drinking tea, taking flax seed or flax oil and drinking soy milk. Many people do not respond like i to to soy milk. If so, good luck to you and keep doing what feels right. It feels bad to me, but I can handle the fermented stuff, a little soy sauce doesn't bother me at all, but soy milk has an extreme effect.
i listen to my body and it tells me what it likes and doesn't like, hopefully this will help someone else to find what their body wants, rather than being "right" about an issue.

good health to us all!

Cat :-)

Sue said...

You commented earlier on "its a good think he doesn't have to worry about his cycle". Well that's true but he still has hormones and too much soy = too much oestrogen in a boy's body and testosterone goes out of wack.
Seriously, soy is processed garbage and you're letting kids eat it. Make sure you keep a really vigilant check on his health. I'm sorry this may offend you but kids need proper nutrition.

Angela said...

"...I think the most important consideration is soy's effects on hormone levels. If it contains enough phytoestrogens to improve menopause symptoms or regulate female cycles, it certainly has an effect on everyone's hormone levels. You must consider that when you are giving it to your growing children on a regular basis..."

I have just found this blog and love it!!!! I like that you are addressing the soy concern, because there is one out there. I agree with the above comment, as too much unfermented soy can mess with your hormones. Adding lots of sea vegetables will help any negative effects on your thyroid too. Like anything here in North America, we take something that started out good and over process it. Soy in it's traditional fermented version is great.

That being said, I love that you feed your son so healthy. I have a 19 month old that I am keeping on a very clean diet. I found your blog searching for new recipes for him. I am wondering what you fed him back when he was my son's age? Any help would be greatly appreciated!!!

Thanks again for showing that there are health aware mom's out there and for all the wonderful meal ideas!