Thursday, January 14, 2010

Soy No Plug-and-Play Panacea

Like most freshman vegetarians, Liz and I thought we could simply substitute soy for any number of animal products we had decided to give up. We've moved back up the food chain a little, eating some fish and cow's milk (we never could give up cheese or eggs, at least now the eggs come from the backyard), but now we limit our household soy intake to tempeh and the occasional Tofurkey brand Italian sausauge -- which is pretty good sliced and sauteed in oil. And of course soy sauce.

Back then we drank soy milk, ate soy-based yogurt, cooked up lots of tofu, used silken tofu in smoothies, and then we started learning more and more about soy. I initially eased up on soy consumption after reading an article about soy and migraine headaches, but soon realized it just made sense for the whole family.
We never gave Simone soy until she started eating solid food (soy-based formulas are not recommended, while breastmilk has been perfected through a couple hundred million years of mammalian evolution).
But while tofu and its ilk have an attractive health profile, our bodies have a difficult time processing the protein (Weston A. Price).

Overconsumption of soy also has been blamed for some cancers and other serious diseases and disorders, while some believe a hormone-mimicking compound in soy has a feminizing effect on men. Food author Michael Pollan talks about the ubiquity of highly fattening, potentially deadly soybean oil (Democracy Now, via Alternet).

I should probably say something about Weston A. Price. They have a great philosophy of eating fresh, whole foods, including fish, properly raised meats, liver, cod liver oil, raw milk, cream and particularly butter (as someone who likes to cook, I can appreciate that). But the organization, in my humble opinion, is much too animal-centric and even dismisses the virtues of a plant-based diet (Weston A. Price).

Still, I think they provide top-notch information on soy.

Another reason not to eat soy is its enormous global footprint. Soy and corn are the two staple crops in the US (which means they're subsidized to the hilt), grown over massive tracts of farmland, drowned in chemicals, disassembled and recreated into all of these novel new food-like substances. Along with corn (high fructose corn syrup, et al), soy is a plastic that can be easily molded into various meat-like substances.
And it's cheap enough to mold into institutional fare, eaten at schools and prisons. Some Chicago inmates actually sued the state of Illinois because most of their diet and nearly all of their protein came from soy (Chicago Criminal Law Blog), and they were getting sick.

For reasons others can better explain, fermented soy products remove most of the toxins and render the proteins much more usable. They include soy sauce, soy yogurt, miso and tempeh. Tempeh is a whole-bean cake of cultured soybeans, so there's minimal processing and much less waste (it still comes from soybeans, so know your source).

Tempeh's actually quite versatile, some applications better than others. I found one recipe online that really makes good use of the stuff (101 Cookbooks), cutting it kind of thin, frying until slightly crispy and browned, then glazing it with fresh-squeezed orange juice, ginger, garlic, maple syrup, some spices.
It's good stuff, especially with rice. I served it earlier this week with Roman-style broccoli.

Since giving up most soy, the frequency of my migraines also has gone down. I noticed getting substantially more migraines when Liz and I stopped eating meat and tried the soy switcheroo. Besides, we don't need nearly as much protein as most Americans think and there are plenty of other options out there.


1 comment:

  1. Oh wow this looks good! I'm gonna have to try making this. I've been a vegetarian ever since I read Kaycircle's article about reasons to become vegetarian. Check it out! Changed my life: