Be the change you wish to see in the world...

- Gandhi

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Truth About Soy and Other Vegan "Meats"

A reader recently expressed a concern about eating processed soy products because of the chemicals in it.  I recall a lot of bad hype about soy in recent years - men will grow breasts (because of the estrogen) and it's bad for your heart.  Let me shed some light on this topic because it's a good one.

First of all, there is no research that supports soy has caused men to grow breasts.  True, soy does contain natural plant chemicals called isoflavones that bind to estrogen receptors, but not nearly as strong as animal based estrogen.  As for the heart, soy contains high levels of fiber which helps to reduce cholesterol.  Dr. Oz posted a great article on more myths about soy that you can read here.

Like any food product, you want to avoid processed.  Look for whole soy products: organic tofu, edamame and fermented soy products (like tempeh).  Make sure you use brands that use non genetically engineered (non GMO) soybeans and wheat.  And like any diet, you should keep it varied.  Eat a range of food throughout the week.  Including soy in the mix once or twice a week is just fine.  Soy is a great protein option for any diet and shouldn't be something to be avoided if you are eating it in its whole form and non-GMO.

Here are some of my choices for soy protein:

Tofurky Italian Sausage - Uses organic tofu and non GMO ingredients.

Organic Tofu - Whole Foods and Trader Joe's both offer good choices.

Gardein Chick'n Scallopini - Tal Ronnen (chef extraodinnaire) developed this line of vegan proteins.  I am a big fan of this particular "chicken" for making a piccata or sauté.  The line uses non GMO and organic ingredients.

Lightlife Bacon - This company offers a great "bacon" and also have several varieties of tempeh (a fermented soy).

When it comes to non soy proteins, vegans have lots of "meat" options.  Seitan (pronounced say-tan) is made from vital wheat gluten.  You can make it at home or buy it at the store (Whole Foods) in a variety of ways (fillet style, strips, seasoned...).

I am also a huge fan of the brand Field Roast.  They offer a range of grain meats.  Some of my favorites are their Smoked Apple Sage Sausages, their Celebration Roast, and their Wild Mushroom Deli Slices.

I hope this helps answer any questions about whether or not to eat soy, and also gives you some other "meat" options.  Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.