Veganism: Is Soy Better Than Dairy? (Plus My Fave Tofu Recipe)
Because I was raised on a mostly vegetarian diet, I don’t like red meat or pork, although I do eat some chicken and fish. When I’m cooking, many of our meals consist of vegetables, beans, and grains, but we also eat tons of dairy (and Daylon cooks a lot of meat, too). Since Daylon, Felix, and I are all basically thin (perhaps getting less so as some of us inch further and further into our thirties!), I’ve never really worried about all of the organic (and raw when possible) dairy we consume, such as:
- Buttery muffins and other homemade snacks to keep Felix away from packaged crackers and cookies.
- Fruit cobblers drenched in whole milk for breakfast.
- Mexican foods smothered in sour cream.
- Broccoli sauteed in globs of butter, and brussel sprouts cooked in heavy cream.
- Sprouted whole grain pastas covered with parmesean cheese.
Reconsidering a Vegan Diet
My mom recently gave me a book called Disease-Proof Your Child, by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. While I don’t agree with all of Dr. Fuhrman’s dietary suggestions (or, for that matter, his claim that his daughter never had a single runny nose or other virus by the age of 4), he did get me thinking about how much animal fat we consume. One particularly convincing argument in favor of veganism is the China Study, of which many of you are probably familiar.
Is Soy Good or Bad?
One problem I see with vegan diets is that they always seem to be so heavy on processed soy products (we know that soy protein isolates are Bad Stuff). Because of conflicting theories on the health benefits and health risks of soy, I don’t include it in our meals on a daily basis. That said, I think if once a week I can replace a dairy-heavy recipe with a tofu or tempeh one, it will be a net positive for our family. Below is a yummy tofu dish that Felix loves from my mom’s new favorite cookbook. (Note: Most health experts agree that fermented soy–such as tempeh–is best, so we will be sure to provide some good tempeh recipes in the upcoming months.)
Ginger-Lime Glazed Tofu
- 1 pound of fresh, firm tofu (not silken), drained
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
- 2 tablespoons tamari
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
Slice tofu into fillets or cubes as desired. Heat olive oil over medium heat, and sautee ginger for 1 minute.
In a small bowl, whisk together tamari, lime juice, and maple syrup.
Place tofu in a skillet and add tamari mixture. Saute tofu 3-4 minutes per side.
If pan gets dry, deglaze by adding 2 tablespoons water and continue sauteing until both sides of the tofu are browned and firm. For a thicker glazed finish, deglaze pan with a second mixture of oil, ginger, tamari, lime juice, and maple syrup.
Remove from heat and serve.
Tip: A stainless steel or cast iron pan will yield the best results.
I would love to hear readers’ thoughts on veganism, the soy controversy, or why you love dairy!
Maia, Founder & CEO
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Hello to the group. Question. If soy protein isolates are bad (stay away from them), what about “organic soy lecithin?” This ingredient is found in an organic, dairy based infant formula I currently use.
Soy milk is highly processed and very hard to digest. For that reason, I don’t recommend it. (no worries, I used it for years when I was younger) Almond milk or coconut milk is better. Of course, they have some drawbacks if you are buying commercial products, but they are better than soy milk. Be sure to look for unsweetened.
What about organic soy milk? I can’t do dairy and it seems like such a good substitute for coffee and lattes but I’m so confused on the risks.
Yes, Randa, I only ever buy organic tofu/tempeh (it seems like most of the brands are organic). Thanks for alerting us to the heating issues with soy; I'm going to look into that further!
My first use of any soy product was years ago when I drank soy energizing drinks by Shaklee. I had remembered their "research" stated that soy had anti-tyrosine properties (essentially anti-thyroid properties) that were present unless they were extracted by heat. However, heating the soy too much created a toxic substance. (They used a supposed safe extraction process)
I never researched soy much further, and have actually avoided it somewhat. If I were to purchase soy now I'd have to stick with organic and no GMO.
Thanks for the recipe! It sounds great, and I am always looking for a new twist on tofu. I tried tempeh a couple of times, and I'm not sure if it's the particular brand I got or a general characteristic, but it had a very off-putting fishy after taste. My husband- who rarely has anything but praise for my cooking- kindly requested it be taken off the menu. On a mostly veg. diet, I wish I had the option of cooking with tempeh! For some really fabulous tofu and vegetarian recipes I, I highly recommend Peter Berley's Flexitarian Table. LOVE every single recipe I've tried out of it. I had to essentially go vegan for a year when my infant daughter developed a severe reaction to dairy and I didn't want to give up breast feeding. It was tough at first, but a dairy-free but still rich and healthy diet CAN be done! That said, I was thrilled when Maya outgrew her dairy allergy, as organic yogurt is much cheaper when it is not vegan!
Yes, vegetables are essential!!
I couldn't agree with you more Angelina! I think that each individual needs to see what makes them feel healthy and vibrant. We are all different. I do agree with Sally Fallon that people have traditionally eaten animal food, however much of the animal food we eat today is not healthy. i agree that some people do not feel good without animal food. It's important to include lots of vegetables in our diet because everyone feels better eating more vegetables!!
I am weirded out by soy because of the phyto estrogens…I can tell when I eat something with soy in it – it gives me mood swings and I break out. (Maybe since I am still breastfeeding, I am more sensitive?) I think that the processed stuff isn't good, but more traditionally prepared soy probably isn't so bad on occasion.
I am kind of more on the side of the Nourishing Traditions theory in terms of animal products, with the caveat that the source MUST be reliable, and if one were to eat the amount of animal products (and fat) that they recommend, then they should be living a lifestyle that also supported that type of diet. I can see a more vegetarian lifestyle when pasture raised, hormone/antibiotic free, etc meats aren't easily accessible. Or burning off all of the calories that a diet rich in animal products would provide. But I definitely feel as if I am missing "something" when I skimp on all animal products…I also think that we each need to listen to what our bodies are telling us – some people feel better with meats/dairy, and some feel better without it!
I need to avoid dairy due to food allergies, and personally stay away from the soy alternatives.
It is challenging to trust the food industry when there is so much pressure for profits. Having said that the government is supposed to be overseeing that the products labeled organic are meeting the United States standards even if they come from Mexico or another country. The problem is that the US standards can be controversial. There is constant pressure from the food industry to lower the standards of organic growing. It is still superior to commercially grown food unless of course you know the farmer and trust their word.
My big question is who is watching what is labled "organic"? I mostly shop at Hunger Mountain Coop in VT. Almost all of the winter produce is from Mexico. Who is checking this stuff? Can we tust the label? Often I find that produce is marked U.S. and then when I look at the banding or sticker I find that it comes from Chile, Argentina or Mexico. Really…. who is checking??? I am worried that people are way to casual about accepting international "organic" as true when it isn't. Do you have any thoughts on this?
I agree with you, Meghan, that all of the soy and imitation meats don't really qualify as food in the strictest sense of the word. I'm trying to cook with more whole beans instead of tofu and the like! Thanks for reading!
We try to eat a vegan diet. I am cautious about all the fake meat stuff and processed soy- It doesn't seem like Real food. I do give the kids tofu pups sometimes but i feel pretty confident that they are more healthy than real hot dogs.