The more I embark on this healthy eating and cooking quest, the more I realize how difficult healthy eating really is. I have just learned that a lot of the foods and eating practices I had and thought were healthy, are not. The first is a misconception that being vegetarian is automatically healthy.
Eating vegetarian foods is not always healthy:
I have been a vegetarian since I was 15 (I have had several variations on the theme throughout, and currently eat eggs and fish but no land animals). Anyway, many of my friends in highschool were also vegetarian. When we went camping we brought veggie dogs, when we had barbecues, we ate soy-based veggie burgers. Even recently I have bought veggie dogs for my daughter instead of hot dog hot dogs. There are tons of other fake meat products available too, soy bacon, soy chicken nuggets, soy turkey burgers etc.
People have a lot of complaints about meat hot dogs, including they are made from every part of the animal (anus, lips and faces). Being a vegetarian, I’ve never understood this complaint. If you are eating an animal, why is eating some parts of it grosser than eating others? Other than that though, there is the high sodium, nitrates, fat, processing and chemicals. Well, soy versions are also highly processed, to get the ingredient vegetable protein, for example, a process that produces MSG (a neurotoxin) is involved. They are also filled with sodium and other chemicals and flavourings. Remember, they are making a vegetable taste like meat…that can’t be natural!
What to do:
Decide to be vegetarian and use beans, lentils, nuts, seeds as your meat replacements, make your veggie burgers out of vegetables!… or decide to continue eating meat but get meats/eggs that use humane and sustainable practices (free range, chemical and hormone free).
Then there is the problem with soy…
The Problem with Soy:
I don’t think soy beans are bad for you. I think they are very healthy and high in protein, and are a good meat substitute for vegetarians. But, here’s what we did in North America… We saw that Japanese and Asian countries were profiting healthwise from eating lots of soy products. Low instances of cancer, endometriosis, and longer life expectancy rates, are just some examples. We then began to market and process the crap out of soy products. GMO (genetically modified organism) soy is the worst and most prevalent kind of soy in North America. Basically over 90% of our soy products are GMO, and soy is in everything (look at any bottle in your fridge). The reason it’s bad, is because it is sprayed with higher amounts of chemicals and pesticides (when the intent was for GMO products to require less herbicide use), in fact it is deadly to the farmers spraying them and has detrimental effects to the environment and animals. This process has been linked to increased allergies, asthma, and a propensity to get antibiotic resistant infections. I don’t know about you, but my instinct here is to stay far away.
There is also some argument that the naturally occurring plant estrogens (phytoestrogens) in soy cause health problems, such as increase in female cancers, and early onset of puberty. Soy can, however help with hormonal disorders such as menopause, and the flip side of that argument is that it can actually help block stonger estrogen-mimicking chemicals (xenoestrogens), present in our products and our water (from pharmaceutical use and waste).
What can you do:
- Don’t believe the marketing. Many are highly invested in soy because it is a prevalent and money making crop. Most studies done on the safety of soy and gmo crops are by parties who profit directly from there being no health risks.
- Stop drinking soy milk (unless you make it yourself from organic soy beans), and other soy foods that have gone through heavy processing. There are absolutely no health benefits. Don’t give them to your kids either.
- Get products that are organic, or non GMO and eat soy in moderation (a few times a week).
- Eat fermented soy products, such as soy sauce, miso and tempeh (made from organic, non gmo soy beans). These have many health benefits such as preventing cancers and increasing brain function. The fermentation process gets rid of the antinutrients (and plant estrogens). These are likely the ones benefiting the asian diet, although they also eat tofu and edamame which are not fermented…so I don’t think non-fermented is the evil (I lived in Japan and saw lots of non-fermented versions of soy being eaten). I think it is the processing that is bad. We ruined it.
I buy San-J Lite Tamari soy sauce, which is wheat/gluten free and non-GMO. I bring this with me when we go out for sushi, and use it in stir fries and curry dishes.
You can find miso and tempeh at health food stores, or asian grocery stores (it tends to be cheaper at asian grocery stores).
Do you think soy products are evil? Do you eat soy products?
Soy milk and beans picture courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net