Monday, May 4, 2009

No Soy?

When I went to college I made many good friends that I have kept in contact with over the years. One friend in particular became very close to me and my husband. This friend has two young children the same age as my two little ones. This past weekend we were invited to a BBQ at their house for lunch. My friend was making hotdogs and hamburgers. So I supplied the veggie dogs and some vegetables and vegan brownies (I didn't tell them they were vegan and everyone loved them). My friend's wife was a vegetarian for many years and vegan for 2 of those years. At the BBQ she told the story of how she stopped being a vegetarian. Her naturopath told her she needed to cut out dairy and soy. Two weeks after she did that she started eating meat again. She said to me at the BBQ, " I mean if you can have dairy or soy what are you suppose to eat as a vegetarian?!" I have to admit, I was a little shocked! Is eating tofu or soy products a prerequisite of a vegetarian or vegan diet? I sure don't think so!

When I first went vegetarian about 10 years ago I ate alot of soy products - soy yogurts, soy "meats", etc and I felt terrible. I made the mistake that so many people make when first going vegetarian...I simply replaced all meats with soy substitutes. The only "whole grains" we had in the house was the occasional whole wheat bread, which I'm sure wasn't whole grain at all. No quinoa, no barley, no brown rice, no millet, no nothing. The only beans we had were canned brown beans and the odd kidney bean in a chili. No white beans, no black beans, no lentils, nada. So after being on a diet of refined carbs and soy products for awhile my health took a turn for the worst. I had no energy, I gained weight, my face broke out terribly, and my attitude left much to be desired. I was rather irritable and grumpy most of the time. And so my parents convinced me that I had to start eating meat again. Truthfully, feeling the way I did, it didn't take much convincing. But my desire to be vegetarian never really waivered and so on and off the veggie bandwagon I went, always with the same results. It was frustrating to me because I always felt like a vegetarian diet was optimal for your health but my health felt anything but optimal on a vegetarian diet. And so for a few years I was very disenchanted with vegetarianism.  Unitl 18 months ago. Thats when a health scare with my oldest child had me  on the internet doing research and re-evaulating my position on vegetarianism. As I was doing research on the internet I came across all these vegetarian blogs and 90% of them were vegan blogs. And I saw what most of the people were cooking. And most of it was/is soy free! Yes many vegans eat a soy free or very low soy diet. I decided to give vegetarianism another shot but this time I decided to go vegan and follow a very low soy diet. I eat mostly fruit, veggies, whole grains, legumes and the very occasional soy product. I have never felt better, infact I honestly didn't know I could feel this good. 

Everyone I know says to me that they could never be a vegan because they love meat/dairy/eggs too much. I always tell them that I too thought I could never be vegan until I tried it. Feeling the way I do I could never go back to my old ways. 

So what do you eat when you can't eat soy and many things come to mind I don't know which to list first. How about Sweet Potatoe and Lentil Chili, a hummus wrap and a salad, Quinoa, Mango and Black Bean salad or Chickpea Tacos. The possibilities are endless. 

If anyone reading this blog is a new vegetarian/vegan or thinking of giving it a try and is worried about eating too much soy keep this this in mind - a healthy vegan diet is one that is based on whole foods like fruits, veg, whole grainds, legumes. It may also include soy but vegan and tofu are not synonymous.

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