Your Thoughts Thursday: Vegans And Soy

December 16, 2010 by Keri

Unlike anything else in the healthy eating world (and by that I mean just like everything else in the healthy eating world), there is mixed information on soy.  According to the soymilk box, soy is going to save our heart, our family’s lives, the world.  And much of the general public associates soy with “healthy” because we see our health-conscious friends making the switch. But more and more often we’re seeing articles and health advocates warning the dangers of soy and it’s phytoestrogens.  Now we’re being told soy could be causing the cancers the soymilk box and tofu carton told us they were going to prevent.  While it’s true many vegans and vegetarians rely heavily on soy products to replace their non-vegan equivalents, what less conscious consumers often don’t realize is, soy is in everything.  Read a label of mainstream packaged anything and you’re probably going to find a soy product listed.  Avoiding soy isn’t just about passing on the tempeh, and if it’s a concern at all, it certainly isn’t a concern that affects solely the veg community!  What are your thoughts on soy?

  • Do you avoid soy or monitor your intake because of the health controversy?
  • Or do you avoid it anyway because of a soy sensitivity?  If so, how does soy ingestion affect you?
  • When it comes to food safety controversy, do you think all things in moderation, or better safe than sorry?
  • Do you tend to do a lot of your own research on these matters?
  • Are there sources you trust as the final word in health issues or do you take it all with a grain of salt?
  • Do you think the vegan and vegetarian community in general is consuming too much soy?
  • Do you avoid GMO (genetically modified) soy?  Why or why not?
  • What other foods do you have concerns over?
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  1. paul says:

    i think for me it’s less about avoiding soy and more about eating a balanced plant-based diet. so i do eat soy, but don’t really eat the processed into kebabs or burgers sorts… and rely more on tofu and tempeh a couple times a week.

    as for the GMO aspect, i wish it was mandatory in north america to label foods as such (as they’re either forbidden or labelled in the EU). the more i know about what’s in my food or how my food is produced, the happier i’d be.

  2. Preeti says:

    I think everything in moderation is the key.

    Whilst Medical research suggests that Soy is bad, I have heard lots of articles and news about Vegan diets helping Cancer but never any saying a Vegan diet has caused Cancer so is it really as bad as they say it is?

    But I would definately avoid GM Soy products, why mess with nature. I only use Organic products, its the safest option we have.

  3. I’m firmly in the “moderation” camp. Each morning I think about what I’ll be eating (because I eat breakfast every day and pack a lunch every day) so it’s then that I determine that if I’m having a tofu scramble for breakfast then I’ll have quinoa and veggies for lunch and beans and veggies for dinner. I like to make sure I get a variety of vegan protein options in my diet.

    I do use soy milk sparingly (opting for rice, almond or hemp milks) so that I don’t go overboard on the soy.

  4. Christina says:

    I’m with the moderation folks! I’m not vegan so I do put milk in my tea and coffee, but I use other non-dairy milks for everything else – cooking, on cereal, (to go with my cookies :P), etc. The controversy around soy has just pushed me to new discoveries…using coconut milk in my “cream” of broccoli soup, or making homemade nut milks. And every alternative I’ve found is still a delicious one! So like JL I plan it out…if I want no-egg salad for lunch (made with tofu), I don’t have tempeh-taco salads for dinner! I think at first finding alternatives for (especially) protein was harder for me…but since I started experimenting with different beans and grains it’s become much easier (hello blackbean-quinoa burgers!!).

    It’s really easy for non-vegs to tout the “dangers of soy” to those with a vegetarian diet (I’ve got plenty of family who like to do so), but most don’t realize that no sensible meat free diet revolves around ONE staple food (we’ll leave out how unhealthy so many omni diets are…ahemm). Though it’s a bit of a pain to go into sometimes – especially if you’re being met with negativity and skepticism – I try to explain that I don’t just eat tofu and drink soymilk all day long. I love that my diet allows me to eat every colour under the rainbow and every flavour under the sun, and it’s something I never would have been exposed to if I hadn’t become vegetarian and faced the (initial) obstacle of maintaining a healthy diet 🙂

  5. bitt says:

    I do avoid soy for the most part because I have noticed some symptoms when I eat it. But I have to admit I cheat once in awhile because it’s not that severe.

  6. Stefanie says:

    I limit my soy intake due to thyroid problems. It is ok in moderation and small amounts. It is hard to avoid unless you eat mostly fresh fruits, veggies, grains, nuts, etc. Meat eaters probably consume more soy then vegans/vegetarians because it is in almost everything.

    As for GMO foods, I try to avoid as many as possible. Tofu is the easiest for me because the brand I like clearly states it is GMO free soy.

  7. Jessica says:

    I’ve not been feeling well and the common thing reappearing my food journal is soy. However, it’s in *everything* so I don’t know if it’s really soy causing the problem.

  8. Vegmom says:

    I have heard this so many times in the past 14 or so years… but my thought is this…

    Much of the Dairy & Meat today is filled with hormones, and all that other yuck… so if a natural hormone in soy is bad, then I’ll take it any day over the stuff found in the animal alternative.

    My son has had a lot of soy in his day, but now that other things are coming out to replace it like oat based “cheeses”, coconut milk yogurts and ice creams, etc. the soy intake has gone down.. And he is fine with or with out it.

    But we do use Non-Gmo in our own home. If he orders tofu at a restaurant, I’m not sure.

    That said, when I personally started eating partially raw foods, I cut out much of the processed foods, and soy was one of those. Not intentionally, it just went along for the ride. And then I ate tofu again, and my skin broke out really bad… since then I did some testing with food journal, and discovered soy is not so much my skin’s friend.

    So I now eat soy products sparingly.

    But I agree, if your going to debate soy as being bad, first lets talk about all the soy that everyone eats unknowingly and second lets talk about the meaty/dairy alternatives..

    The have a real debate 🙂

  9. Elisabeth says:

    I consume soy in moderation. I used to rely heavily on soy when I first became a vegan, but I have eliminated quite a lot of soy from my diet since then.
    I only use non-GMO soy (and corn and other produce since I don’t want my food to be genetically modified). I still eat soy yogurts daily, and tofu and tempeh often, but I don’t use soy milk or soy creamers very much. I use almond milk, coconut milk and rice milk instead. I noticed that when I drink soy milk, my mouth starts to burn and itch which does not happen if I eat tofu or soy yogurt. I also prefer the taste of almond milk, soy milk is chalky and weird.

  10. stephanie a. says:

    Well, I’m so glad you asked : ) When I first became vegan six months ago, I replaced all of my dairy consumption with soy. I would drink a whole container of soy milk in one day, eat tofu like crazy, sometimes raw, etc. It affected my menstruation, gave me huge acne breakouts (huge massive red bumps on my face, arms, even my neck and chest!). Someone suggested one day that it may be the soy so I stopped soy completely and went completely back to normal. Now I take it in moderation. Meaning, have a lot today and then none for a week.

  11. Luann Potts says:

    I think everything in moderation is the key. Whilst Medical research suggests that Soy is bad, I have heard lots of articles and news about Vegan diets helping Cancer but never any saying a Vegan diet has caused Cancer so is it really as bad as they say it is? But I would definately avoid GM Soy products, why mess with nature. I only use Organic products, its the safest option we have.

  12. Kelsey says:

    I don’t go out of my way to avoid it.. but anything in excess can’t be good. I’m not afraid of soy.

  13. Sam says:

    Soy scares me. Most of the soy grown in the US is genetically modified which has some scary research linked to it in itself.

    I avoid soy by not eating any processed, packaged foods (thus avoiding soy lecithin) and by getting protein from other bean sources.

  14. Nina says:

    I looked into soy A LOT when I first became a vegan because I had also heard of the “dangers” and also have thyroid problems so it concerned me….however, the only “medical research” or “evidenced based case studies” I have EVER been able to find either came from Weston A Price or Soy Online Services, both groups that have boards who consist of dairy farmers. Weston A Price, the only American group to come out with any studies on negative impacts of soy even say on their website that their mission is to inform the public of the essential health benefits of butter and other dairy products. Since there is literally NO real research from unbiased groups showing the dangers of soy, I consume soy and have actually been able to go off my thyroid medications because my diet has been so beneficial for my health. 🙂

  15. Sarah says:

    I was interested to see that so many people have a similar stance to mine. I used to eat soy day in and day out, but now it’s all about the moderation. I firmly believe that the anti-soy craze is scaremongering by economically interested individuals, but at the same time common sense dictates that eating the same food constantly is not healthy or balanced. I believe this is the case with soy just as it is with animal products.

  16. Nina says:

    Here is an article by Dr Fuhrman on Weston A Price that I think really illustrates their stance and kind of shows why they would be interested in tweaking “research” to show that soy is “bad”. 🙂

  17. christina (very strict vegetarian) says:

    I avoid soy because I am allergic (I go into anaphylactic shock if I ingest it). Because I developed this allergy in high school, though, my allergist told me to avoid soy in all forms (in hopes that one day my body will “un-develop” my allergy). It’s been 4.5 years since then, and I’ve avoided soy like the plague. Within that time, though, I also developed new food allergies (carrots, cocoa, and string beans) as diagnosed by my allergist.

    Anyway, I read a tid-bit from a book written 30-something years ago around the time when foods started being genetically modified on a large commercial scale. The author mentioned that corn was one of the first vegetables to be genetically modified and connected that to the growing number of corn allergies developing nationwide. He predicted that by the year 2000 (with soy’s genetically modified life just starting at the time the book was published), that soy would be one of the top 10 allergies in the US. It was. Now, it’s in the top 8.

    With that said, I follow a “better safe than sorry” approach to my eating. I avoid corn that is not organic or non-GMO because, honestly, I think my body may be more sensitive to the pesticides and GMO process than most people’s.

    If I didn’t have this problem, I think I would probably just moderate my intake of such highly modified foods. I worry about my little vegetarian sister who lives off meat replacements and ready-made boxes of food; but I understand that not everyone has the same issues as me. If your body can function happily eating tons of soy, I say go for it and eat some for me, please. I really miss soy sauce.