September 23, 2010

Killer Tofu.

5 Reasons to Skip Soy — Even if You’re Vegetarian.

It’s practically a pandemic.  Soy burgers, tofurkey, soy milk, soy candles for friggin’ sake.  You can’t shake a Bhakti Chai without hitting a soy product these days, and that wouldn’t be such a bad thing if everybody wasn’t still under this mass delusion that it’s actually good for you. The ugly truth, my friends, is that soy’s a massive industry that’s wreaking havoc on our health and the planet. I won’t tell you to give it up completely, but read on to see why you might want to be choosier about it — and probably cut back.

1. Premenstrual soy-drome (Moobs, anyone?)

The modern, mass-produced soybean is a radically different animal than the wild soybean found in traditional Asian cuisine, and eating it has radically different effects.  While wild soy, especially when fermented, contains phytoestrogens that are sometimes associated with lower cancer rates, processed and unfermented soy contains high levels of xenoestrogens, which whack out your hormones in all sorts of ways, including accelerating the onset of puberty and contributing to breast cancer. (Also see this 2001 study.) If that doesn’t turn you off your Boca Burgers, consider that soy has also been linked to other health problems, including, “malnutrition, digestive distress, immune-system breakdown, thyroid dysfunction, cognitive decline, reproductive disorders and infertility, cancer, and heart disease.”

2. Tofuburger, hold the splice.

Although it’s slowly getting better, soy isan overwhelmingly genetically modified (GMO) crop: over 90% of the soy grown in the US is genetically modified. GMOs are bad news, and don’t belong in your body or planet. But soy’s environmental toll doesn’t stop there.  The demand for this little bean is so high that in Brazil (the world’s largest producer), there’s currently a moratorium in effect for the fourth year in a row, because of concerns over rapid deforestation of the Amazon rainforest.

3. Guilty by association [when you lie with (hot) dogs, you get (salt) fleas.]

Most of the soy we eat is in packaged, heavily processed food. So often (no, not always), when we consume soy, we’re also downing loads of preservatives, sodium, emulsifiers, and other things not truly fit to eat. We all know we need to be eating more whole foods, especially fruits and vegetables, for our health. Cutting out anything that contains soy can be one handy shortcut to promoting this lifestyle.

4. Protein, shmotein!

One of the biggest reasons people claim soy’s such a very-necessary superfood is that it’s a healthier alternative to protein.  And we all need protein, right?  Um, no. So the reasoning goes: you need protein to build muscle. Yet when’s the time in our lives when we’re building the most mass, muscle or otherwise? When we’re infants. The perfect food for infants, breast milk, contains somewhere around 7% calories from protein. That’s it! Look, I’m not a biochemist, nor a nutritionist. But I do know that you can have exquisite health and build gorgeous muscles without getting protein.  Check out beautiful Mr. Nature Love (100% raw vegan) and listen to one of my biggest heroes, tower racer Tim Van Orden (also 100% raw vegan), break down the Protein Myth:

Even if you’re vegetarian, you can get plenty of protein from fruits veggies without worrying about needing soy.

And my personal biggest reason to skip soy?


My goodness, the world abounds with such vibrant, beautiful, juicy, food! Why on earth, surrounded by this abundance, would you choose to eat food that doesn’t taste like anything? Have you popped pomegranate arils in your mouth before? Have buried your face in a wet, drippy mango recently?! People love to praise soy for its ability to “take on” other flavors. Gimme a break. That sounds like impoverished tasting to me. Just eat things that are already delicious — there are so many!!

So what now?

~ If you do choose to eat soy, please make sure it’s organic and fermented. Here’s a great resource that lists common soy products and rates how organic they are. Eden = awesome. Silk = purty darn bad, guys. And if you’ve got any risk factors for breast cancer, moderation is probably a good idea.

~ If you’re still concerned about getting enough protein, and want vegetarian sources, consider other legumes, like delicious cannelini beans.

~ What about dairy-free milk and creamer? Ah, never fear!! Nut milks (or “mylks,” if you’re cutsier than me) are incredibly easy to make at home (I’ve even done it!!). Just throw a cup of nuts (preferably soaked overnight) in a blender with 2-3 cups water. Almonds are awesome, but you can use any nut or seed, really — I’ve used hazelnuts and hemp seeds with great success. After blending well, strain the nut pulp through cheesecloth (or a paint strainer or nylons). Then, if you want, you can put it back in the blender with a pinch of salt and something to sweeten it (dates, honey, agave) and even some vanilla. Presto, shazzam, and voila, my friends! Pop it in the fridge and it’ll last about 3-5 days. You can even re-use the same nut pulp several times to make more! Here’s the lovely Brigitte Mars in a quick video showing you how:

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