The Soy Question

The subject of soy products always seems to be a bit controversial. Although soy products dominate the organic section of grocery stores, people often seem wary to trust soybean-based foods.

A review of various studies of populations in the world, such as China and Japan, that consume small portions of traditional forms of soy foods on a regular basis reveals that the presence of soy does not seem to correlate to any extreme health effects, positively or negatively. Just to have a gauge for the amount we’re talking about, The Journal of Nutrition reports that in Japan, the average person consumes about a quarter of a cup of soy products a day. This includes everything – soy sauce, tofu, edamame, miso (soy bean paste), etc. But take note: these are all natural soy products, not processed.

Soy’s Bad Rap

  1. Some people accuse soy products of mimicking estrogen hormones in the body. While soy does contain some compounds, which may have a small estrogen-like response, it would take eating a LOT of soy in order to actually see this side affect. Remember, everything in moderation (an excellent life motto for practically everything).
  2. One of the biggest rumors going around is that soy negatively influences breast health, which also ties back to the rumors about estrogen. The good thing is that soy carries a group of compounds called isoflavones, which are phytoestrogens (phyto meaning plant). These help keep estrogen levels balanced because they are kind of like chameleons. They can act as weak estrogen if there is too much of it around, or they can work to boost estrogen’s effects in a body that needs more of it. (Side note: Dr. Campbell does warn that women who already have breast cancer may want to restrict soy intake until there is more research on the matter.)
  3. Processed soy products have been known to increase insulin-like growth factor-1, which is a protein that causes cell growth but is also known to promote cancer and accelerate aging. But as Pulde and Lederman say in their book, Keep It Simple, Keep It Whole, “There is no confusion about processed soy products, as they are clearly NOT health foods.” So basically, just don’t become overly dependent or obsessed with incorporating soy products into your whole foods plant-based diet, and you should be A-Okay!
  4. Dr. Colin Campbell reports that a study revealed that heavy consumers of tofu in Hawaii were more prone to Alzheimer’s disease. However, this study has yet to be proved anywhere else. Dr. Campbell writes that the cause of this soy effect is probably because of the higher levels of aluminum in the tofu sold in Hawaii. He emphasizes again, like Pulde and Lederman, that the key is maintaining a well-rounded whole foods plant-based diet that incorporates all types of plant proteins, not solely soy protein. That’s where people may get into trouble. You have to stay creative and innovative in your lifestyle choices.

The Big Picture

Pulde and Lederman remind their readers to approach soy the same as any other health food, which means remembering that there is no single “cure-all” food in the world. Not soybeans, coconut oil, gluten (or absence of gluten), etc.

Regardless of some of the negative feedback that soy gets, the main point is that the health issues related with soy products are far, far less than the health issues related with the intake of animal products. And remember – stay creative! Keep your repertoire of foods interesting and fresh.

Dr. Pam Popper of the Wellness Forum also has a TON of good information about soy and just health in general. Here is a great video about Soy & Breast Cancer, and here is a question and answer session with Pam covering some commonly asked questions about soy.

Have a great week, everyone! Enjoy the fall weather. Eat something pumpkin-flavored. Drink some apple cider.

Fettuccine Alfredo with Brussel Sprouts and Peas

Fact: Brussel sprouts are probably my favorite vegetable of all time. They get a bad rap all the time, and I honestly can’t understand why. They’re just tiny cabbages… What’s so scary about that?

Speaking of food groups I’m obsessed with, I’m a sucker for anything involving noodles. To me, noodles equal comfort. If you’re having a bad day, noodles. If you’re having a good day, noodles. If you’re going to the beach, noodles (in a plastic sandwich bad). If you’re pulling an all-nighter, noodles. You get the picture.

DSC_0011

The dish I prepared today is one of my absolute favorites. I’m also a sucker for anything Italian, but as you know, it’s hard to come by any Italian dish that doesn’t include gobs and gobs and cheese, which poses a couple of problems for a vegan. This meal is a great example of how being vegan doesn’t mean you have to give up those delicious creamy comfort foods. There are ways to still get that creaminess without dairy products, thankfully!

Nutritional yeast is a brilliant way to get a cheesy flavor and texture. That is what I will be using in this pasta to achieve that good Italian signature creaminess.

Fettuccine Alfredo with Brussel Sprouts and Peas (adapted from VeganFling)

1 12oz. package of fettuccine noodles

8-12 oz. of brussel sprouts (about half a bag, more if you love them as much as I do!)

1 cup of frozen peas

1 cup dry cooking sherry

Salt and pepper to taste

The Sauce:

1/2 red onion diced

3-4 cloves of garlic minced

1/4 cup of nutritional yeast

1/2 tsp of salt

1 1/4 cup of water

1/3 cup of peanut butter

2 Tbsp of tahini (surprisingly, the Whole Foods 365 brand tahini really affordable and good quality!)

2 Tbsp of almond milk

Juice of one large lime

1 Tbsp of olive oil

Cook fettuccine in boiling water and drain. Set aside.

To prep brussel sprouts: cut off bottom part and peel of outer layers (anything that looks dirty or wilted). Then cut down the middle.

DSC_0017

On medium high heat, put a small amount of olive oil in the bottom of a large pot. Place brussel sprouts (cut side down, if possible) in the pot. Let them cook for 5 minutes.

After 5 minutes, add 1 cup of dry cooking sherry and salt and pepper to taste. Warning: the sherry will begin to evaporate very quickly on high heat, so turn heat to low-medium heat before adding it to the pot. Once the sherry is at a soft boil, cover the pot and let it simmer for 8 minutes.

After 8 minutes, add the frozen peas to the pot. Let them cook all the way through. Then, if there is any liquid remaining in the pot, strain the vegetables and add them to the pot of fettuccine.

DSC_0053

In a blender or food processor, combine onion, garlic, nutritional yeast, salt, water, peanut butter, tahini, almond milk, and lime juice. Blend ingredients together until smooth.

Pour the sauce into a pot and allow to cook on low heat for about 5 minutes. Stir in the olive oil.

Pour sauce over noodles and vegetables. Mix everything together.

EAT UP!

DSC_0041

In this house, a meal often seems incomplete without Cholula Hot Sauce. This pasta is no exception. Chipotle Tabasco will also be acceptable. We are advocates for the use of any hot sauce on any kind of food at any time of day.

At our wedding, we provided every guest with a small bottle of Cholula to take home (with tiny silhouettes of our faces included, don’t worry). Evidently, not everyone took their bottle, because we have an endless supply of Cholula at the moment. I don’t hate it.

DSC_0059

Our small army of Cholula bottles. (Photo credit: Love Is A Big Deal – the best wedding photographers of all time!)

Whidbey Island Quinoa Salad

My momma is the reason I cook. She has always been able to create magic in the kitchen, a trait that she comes by honestly since my grandmother is the queen of southern cookin’. Momma is always making up new recipes and exploring new ways to be vegan. She inspires me (and everyone else who knows her) on a daily basis.

DSC_2996

For this week, I decided to collaborate with my momma for this recipe. My parents just got home from a three and half week trip in the Pacific Northwest and the Canadian Rockies. When they got home, momma made up this recipe based on a dish she had at a restaurant on Whidbey Island in Washington State during their trip. Of course she didn’t write down what she did the first time she made it, so we recreated it today in order to document the yumminess so that others can enjoy it!

So, without further ado, I present to you…

Whidbey Island Quinoa Salad (or the Everything but the Kitchen Sink Quinoa Salad)

Prep time: 45 minutes

The Quinoa:

1 ½ cup of quinoa

1 ½ cup of water

2-3 Tbsp of lemon juice

1 ½ tsp salt

Ground pepper to taste

When you’re buying quinoa, it’s nice to buy it pre-rinsed if possible. However, if you can’t find it or just don’t want to spend the extra money (because it’s usually the organic fancy kind), it’s an easy fix!

Soak 1 ½ cup of quinoa in cool water for about 15 minutes.

In a fine mesh strainer, rinse the quinoa with cool water until the runoff looks clear and clean.

DSC_2976DSC_2982

Combine the clean quinoa with 1 ½ cups of water.

Add lemon juice, salt, freshly ground pepper.

Turn on medium heat and bring quinoa to a simmer.

Once the quinoa is simmering, cover and reduce heat to low.

Cook for 30-35 minutes.

When you can see that all the water has been absorbed, remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes.

Allow quinoa to cool in a large mixing bowl for about 10 minutes before adding the rest of the ingredients to the bowl.

These instructions are adapted from the Low Fat Vegan Chef – she has tons of awesome recipes and ideas. You should definitely check out her blog!

While the quinoa is cooking, get chopping on these veggies!

The Salad:

½ red onion diced

2 cups frozen green peas

2 cups frozen corn

1 red pepper chopped

1 carton of cherry tomatoes quartered

1 small cucumber chopped

1 small zucchini chopped

1 14 oz. can of water-packed artichoke hearts chopped (Trader Joe’s brand is great and cheap!)

1 cup of craisins

1 cup of walnuts chopped

1/3 cup of good quality Balsamic vinegar

Cracked pepper and salt to taste

DSC_2986DSC_2990

Thaw frozen peas and corn in hot water or in the microwave before adding to the salad.

When quinoa is cooked and cooled, add all ingredients to large mixing bowl.

Add 1/3 cup of Balsamic vinegar, along with cracked pepper and salt to taste.

DSC_2999

Serve chilled if you have time to wait. But really, it’s a yummy dish any way you serve it.

Garnish with a sprig of parsley.

DSC_3004

The great thing about this dish is that even with a hungry husband or hungry kids waiting at the table, it will last for several meals!

Big thanks to my mom for, first of all, motivating me to be a better cook! And secondly, for helping me out on this blog post. You really are the best :)

DSC_3012

The Protein Question

The Myth: Vegans have no good source of protein.

Whenever I tell people that we eat vegan, I almost always get the question, “so how do you get protein without meat or dairy? Isn’t that bad not to get all that protein? Aren’t you going to have an iron deficiency or something?”

The topic of protein has been up for discussion for a couple hundred years. People have always been debating what is necessary for successful weight control and sustainable health. Whether its lean meats or fried chicken, most people are under the impression that animal-based protein is an essential part of our everyday diet.

I hate to break it to you, but this is a myth. Luckily for the vegans of the world, humans can in fact get all the necessary proteins through plant based sources.

Demystifying the Myth

  1. You can actually get all the essential amino acids from plant proteins. There are 20 amino acids in proteins. Humans can only synthesize 12 of these, but only 8 amino acids are actually essential to human bodies. As Dr. McDougall says, “Plants alone meet the entire protein and amino acid needs of the earth’s largest animals, including elephants, hippopotamuses, giraffes, and cows, all of which are vegetarian. If plants can satisfy the demands of these enormous mammals, wouldn’t you think they could easily meet our own protein needs?” (The Starch Solution).
  2. Oh, you’re a protein buff? Eat some broccoli! According to the research of Drs. Pulde and Lederman, broccoli has a higher percentage of protein than pork, salmon, chicken, eggs, beef, and cheddar cheese! You can find more info in their book, Keep It Simple, Keep It Whole.
  3. Too much of a good thing… By focusing on eating broccoli and other plant-based proteins, you avoid over-working your liver and kidneys with trying to deal with all the extra protein that comes with an animal product-based diet. The protein in meat and cheese is in an extremely dense form that easily leads to great excesses of protein consumption, which is why it is ultimately damaging to the body and impairs the function of these organs.
  4. Mo’ veggies, mo’ iron. Here’s something to think about – if we are so obsessed with getting our iron through beef and other meats, where do you think those cows and their animal friends are getting their healthy doses of iron? From eating plants! Iron is a mineral from the ground that plants soak up, so it really isn’t necessary to consume meat in order to get healthy amounts of it.
  5. We don’t need as much protein as we think. For about the past 40 years, the World Health Organization has consistently recommended that people limit protein to only 5% of their total caloric intake. However, American’s regularly consume anywhere from 10%-35% protein calories a day (Keep It Simple, Keep It Whole). Here’s another way to think about it: Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn recommends about 50 to 70 grams of plant proteins a day to maintain a healthy diet. However, the average Western diet consists of 100 to 160 grams per day. That’s a little crazy!

While I’m sure I’ll still be getting the question about protein, I hope this will illuminate a bit of the logic as well as some of the benefits behind a whole foods plant-based diet. Now, go out and eat some plants!