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Beloved Seitan

Seitan is one of those foods I didn’t try for the longest time because I wasn’t really sure I needed to. I mean, I already had tofu. Then I tried tempeh and was very impressed. And I had no idea how to cook it.

But when I dined at Ramsi’s Cafe on the World over the summer (one of many times) I decided to finally give this seitan (say-tan, not Satan, haha) a try.

139That’s a vegan seitan parmesan sandwich on cuban bread with roasted potatoes 🙂

I liked it so much that when I went back to Ramsi’s the next time, I tried the Jamaican seitan sandwich, which I posted about back in August.

I can’t really describe seitan, other than to say I find it just as delicious and versatile as tofu and tempeh. But I still have yet to purchase and cook any seitan myself at home. Maybe someday!

Have you ever had seitan? Do you cook with it at home? What are your favorite recipes to use it in?

Why I’m giving up soy

One of the things I have realized on this new path to self-discovery, or whatever I’m on, is that I need to do what I think is right for me and stop apologizing or avoiding discussing things because I’m afraid of how others will react. This is my life and I should be living it according to my convictions.

With that being said, let’s talk about Soy, shall we?

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Soy products are perhaps the most recognized staples of many vegetarian and vegan diets. There’s soy milk, soy nuts, soy-based veggie burgers and other meat replacements, tofu, tempeh, soy yogurt, etc. It’s also present in many processed foods people consume (like soy sauce), regardless of their diet.

I know the opinions on soy and it’s affects on the body are varying. Whenever you are researching something for yourself, I think scientific articles are the most beneficial to read on the subject but you must look at everything you read with a skeptical eye. I also believe sometimes you just have to go with what your heart tells you, while keeping science in mind.

I’d never had a problem with soy before and believed that as long as you were consuming less processed soy products, there was nothing to worry about. For some people, that’s probably still true. But I’m not so sure about me anymore. I also need to remind you that I lack moderation.

Now it’s time for me to get personal: I have been having “problems” with my menstrual cycles for as long as I can remember. I started my periods really early, age 9. I suffer from irregular cycles, extremely long cycles, heavy and painful periods, and in the past missed periods too.

It seems like no two cycles are ever the same and attempts at taking hormonal birth control in the past just left me more frustrated. That’s a topic for another post, but let’s just say I would much rather be able to “solve” this on my own in a more natural way.

The reason I have chosen to discuss soy in my diet, is due to findings which claim that consuming a lot of soy products can lengthen the menstrual cycle and possibly cause fertility problems IF you have multiple risk factors. Soy also has health benefits which have been shown in scientific studies, but I had to weigh it for myself. You can’t believe everything you read, on either side.

I thought when I lost weight and got myself healthier (starting in 2007), that things would improve but they have not. Losing weight made my periods lighter and less painful for a while, but then when I started running, they disappeared entirely. 

I thought that if I cut back on running it would help some, but it did not. Luckily, some progesterone pills got them restarted and I haven’t experienced any missed periods in a while now. One last thing I haven’t fully addressed yet as a possible cause is stress, but since that is an on-going battle for me right now, I thought I’d give one more dietary change a shot first.

The past several months have been extremely tough. My cycles have gotten longer (we’re talking 50+ days), my periods have gotten heavier and more painful than ever (as in take a Vicodin and stay home from work painful) and I’ve been depressed.

The moods are what got my attention the most. I’d been dealing with the other stuff off and on for years, but when I started finding it hard to smile, that hurt more than any physical pain I was feeling.

Why now? I’ve been consuming soy products in foods my entire life. I found out I was lactose intolerant in 2008, so I’ve been using soy milk and yogurt more since then. But since my problems have escalated the past few months or so, I can’t help but wonder if it is because my soy consumption has increased since I decided to go vegan in October of 2009? I think maybe so.

Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t eat soy. I’m not recommending anything to anyone, as I’m not qualified to do so.

But from research I have done on my own, medical opinions I’ve received, and based on the opinions of a few trustworthy friends, I have decided to experiment with reducing (or eliminating) soy in my diet to see if it improves my cycles at all.

Just like I have done with other changes in my diet, I plan to phase soy out gradually. I have a refrigerator full of veggie burgers, tofu, tempeh and soy yogurt that I still need to use up. But I’ve started reading labels and the new foods I’m purchasing are soy free.

I know what you are thinking…how can someone who already doesn’t eat so many things possibly remove yet another food group from their diet?

Well, just like there are alternatives to the animal products I choose not to eat, there are also alternatives to soy. I can use coconut milk or almond milk instead of soy (there is also hemp, oat, and rice milks available).

Sunshine Burgers are soy free as is Earth Balance.

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Seitan is a good alternative to tofu and tempeh. I just tried it for the first time the other night when we had dinner at Ramsi’s and I got the Seitan Parmesan sandwich, yum! I’ll still have plenty of beans and lentils, which are excellent protein sources.

There are a plethora of yogurts and frozen treats made from coconut milk, almond milk and rice milk if I want them. So really, there’s nothing missing.

Much like when I first went vegan, the hardest thing will be where it shows up on food labels. Just like with dairy and eggs, soy can be sneaky sometimes but if I keep my diet as whole as possible, there won’t be as many processed food labels to worry about anyway.

Friends and family — if you are reading this, don’t worry. I will still eat things you make for me if they contain soy products. I think once in a while is okay, especially if you went out of your way to make sure something wouldn’t contain meat or dairy (which I appreciate more than you know).

I just have to get out of the habit of having soy milk with breakfast, a veggie burger at lunch, soy yogurt for a snack and tofu for dinner. That’s just too much.

I also want to note that I am in the process of adjusting some other areas of my diet but I will discuss those at a later date. I believe it is important to experiment and find what is going to work best for you and your individual needs, to get your body (and mind) working optimally.

So, now I want to know about you:

Do you eat soy products regularly? If you choose to eat a small amount of soy or avoid it entirely, why?