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.


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!

The Reason for Vegan

Vegan. A word typically synonymous with misery, deprivation, and general unhappiness for many. “I could totally live on a diet of lettuce and tofu,” said no one ever. It’s my hope to shed a sliver of light onto the yumminess of a creative whole foods plant-based diet.

I fell into the world of veganism through my parents. They’ve been health nuts for as long as I can remember. We never had soda or dessert or candy around the house growing up. We never went out to eat a whole lot, and a pilgrimage to Taco Bell was considered a special treat every couple of weeks. We were those weirdos! And I will wave that flag proudly. Despite the “treats” we didn’t have, we were also the family that had 5 gallons of Purity Dairy Sweet Acidophilus milk delivered on our front door step at 5am one morning a week, back when having milk delivered to your house was still a thing and milk men still existed. And you better believe we drank that milk like it was our job! Saturday night was burger night, weeknights were spaghetti with meat sauce or stir fry with chicken or salmon and rice. Meat and dairy were a huge part of our diet.

However, the ride to total vegan-dom was kicked into high gear when my dad was diagnosed with cancer when I was 11. Cancer was nothing new to my family – it ran in both sides. My mom’s mom and my dad’s dad had both battled cancer previously. My dad went through treatments, and the doctors were fortunately able to catch all of it before it spread. However, he knew something had to change when his dad lost his battle with cancer the very next year.

Luckily, my dad is a genius. He’s a chemist and a gifted researcher and has an ability to understand information more easily and clearly than almost anyone I’ve ever met. After his cancer scare and losing his dad, he began researching what he could do in his daily life to make sure the cancer wouldn’t come back. Through everything he heard and read, it all came down to diet. Not diet in the sense of “going on a diet.” This would have to be a lifestyle change – a sustainable lifestyle change, which isn’t usually the product of the cliché “dieting.” Through the books and documentaries of doctors like Colin Campbell (China StudyForks Over Knives), John McDougall (The McDougall Program, The Starch Solution), Neal Barnard (Dr Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes), and Caldwell Esselstyn (Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease), my parents decided that pursuing a whole foods plant-based diet would be the best way for them to stay healthiest for longest.

This dietary transformation didn’t happen over-night. Like I said before, taking meat and dairy out of your kitchen is a daunting task! But my parents started experimenting and trying new recipes and ingredients, and slowly but surely, meat and dairy eventually disappeared from their kitchen. They’ve both seen their cholesterol lower significantly, they have stable and healthy blood pressure, and they are both totally medication free. On top of all that, they have had plenty of energy to plan three weddings, take care of grandkids, and just be all around amazing parents.

This blog is an extension of their vegan lifestyle. I want to show how it has affected the way I do life as an adult. I should also mention that my husband is allergic to dairy, so that also motivates me to find interesting ways to stay dairy-free in the kitchen. I also just love eating vegan. I have more energy, I’m able to focus better on school, I have almost zero cramps at my time of the month, I barely have any issues with my skin, and I just feel better all around. I hope this blog will make the vegan lifestyle seem a more enjoyable. You may not enjoy all of it, but I guarantee you’ll be surprised by how delicious things can be!

DISCLAIMER: I am not a vegangelical. I am not trying to convert anyone with this blog. I just have fun cooking and enjoy discovering new ways to make vegan food exciting and delicious! There may be a few common misconceptions I hope to demystify later on but not for the purpose of saying I’m right, you’re wrong. Also, I’m not a vegan for ethical reasons. Apologies, PETA.