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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?

Mucho soy

On Wednesday night, Courtney asked me if I wanted some more tea. Uh, did she see my tea post? Ha, of course!

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I love you, Earl Grey. You are delicious!

Since you’ve already seen my breakfast from yesterday, let’s move on. I snacked on some nuts (and coffee) mid-morning.

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As much as I love tea, I can’t resist a cup of coffee at work 🙂

Since my breakfast was a bit skimpy, I got hungry for lunch rather early. I went ahead and ate my tangerine (loving Vitamin C these days).

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Then eventually broke into my leftover rice and beans!

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I ate a Larabar around 1:00!

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So it’s no surprise that I was starving by the time I was heading to the gym after work. It might just be full of air, but it got the job done.

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Then I rehydrated with some Lifewater!

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Dinner was some baked tofu (garlic powder, chili powder and sesame seeds) with a sweet potato and pita with Smart Balance Light.

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As if I hadn’t had enough soy for the day, I decided to finish off the leftovers of my Tofu Chocolate Pudding from Wednesday night.

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And a cup of Chocolate Cheerios!

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Must’ve been that awesome elliptical workout that worked up such an appetite! I almost went back for more cereal but I realized I wasn’t hungry anymore, but tired.

So I maintained my 9:00 rule, went to bed at 10 and felt just fine 🙂

I used to be “afraid” of eating too much soy, but I’m so glad that I learned that soy in it’s “whole” forms: soybeans, tofu, soymilk, etc. is safe. It is the overly processed soy “products” (like meat substitutes) that can be consumed too much.

I highly recommend this article written by my friend and fellow vegan, Carrie.

What is your take on soy?

Day 5 : Back to “normal”

Check out Ms. Jessica’s giveaway of Tropical Traditions coconut oil!

Today was Monday, which meant back to work and the start of a new week! But it is also the first day that I have felt back to “normal” after being sick a little over a week ago and then having my period right after.

Since both can mess with your appetite, cravings, etc. I am glad they are both outta here 🙂

Breakfast this morning was pumpkin oats. I used the last of my pumpkin can so I won’t be having these for a while. They were good but I still can’t figure out what’s missing. Perhaps my tastes have changed?

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This bowl contained 1/3 cup oats (cooked with water), 1/3 cup pumpkin, a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice and some Skippy Natural PB.

Mid-morning, I enjoyed some new tea the in-laws gave me:

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And some mixed nuts to snack on.

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For lunch, I had some leftover black beans and barley, which I wasn’t too thrilled about at first, but I found some salsa in the fridge which I think gave it the perfect touch. I ended up really enjoying it!

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I got back to Exercise Science class after missing last week, so that was good to get caught up. I’m really enjoying everything I am learning in this class but I’m starting to think I won’t be able to stick through getting another 4 year degree (I already have 2).

So I’m thinking after this semester I may just get my personal training certification and then go back to school later if time (and money) permits. I really want to get to work!

After class, we had a baby shower for a co-worker who is so cute it’s ridiculous. I’m so happy for her. There was also some good food. I just snacked on some tortilla chips and salsa (plus more chips).

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I knew I had to get a run in sometime today and it was going to have to be after work. Luckily, I hopped on Twitter and saw a few others who had either gone for runs or needed to. So that inspired me to get it done!

I did one of my favorite paths near my neighborhood with no time in mind. After I was done, I came back in and looked it all up on Map My Run.

It says I did 2.85 miles in 25 minutes! That’s an average of 8:46/mile! Holy smokes. I’m not sure how accurate that is but I’ll take it.

My time also isn’t exact. I left the house at 6:03 p.m. and reached the front door again at 6:28. So it’s a guesstimate. I even walked for a few minutes including a warm up and cool down so I was quite impressed with that.

I do think I am getting faster, as my 1-mile runs with Farrah have proven. I texted her after this run to tell her I wanted to go fast again tomorrow but she wisely told me to wait and see how I feel tomorrow. Ha ha.

After the run, I did lots of stretching including pigeon pose to keep my hips from getting tight and lots of downward facing dogs. I love yoga.

For dinner, I made some baked tofu which I am now confident in keeping in my diet for the time being. Thanks again to those of you who commented on my soy question in a previous post. I really appreciate the feedback.

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I’ve decided I’m a big fan of mixed veggies. It’s just the right combo of starchy and green. I think I just like mixes in general instead of just having one veggie on the side.

I’m currently watching “Dancing with the Stars” hoping my man Chuck Liddell makes in another week!

I also snacked on this and perhaps a bit more PB 🙂

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I think I will have some tea and call it a night soon. Hope you had a great Monday!

Day 4 – Lazy Sunday

Not only I am sleepy today but my legs are sore from all the walking I did yesterday, so I’ve decided today needs to be at least somewhat lazy for me.

I’ve still got laundry going in the other room but I’m sitting here with my feet up and thinking of taking a nap once this post goes up 🙂

For breakfast this morning, I made pumpkin oats.

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I don’t know what it was but this bowl just didn’t blow me away. I think it might be the pumpkin, honestly. Perhaps I got an old can or it just tastes better when it’s in season?

Or maybe I need to cook them with some non-dairy milk instead of just water? Hmm…

This bowl contained 1/3 cup oats (cooked with water), 1/3 cup pumpkin, 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice, 1 tsp chocolate chips, 1 tsp pancake syrup and 1 tbsp peanut butter.

I also tried another Starbucks VIA product today that I got as a sample while I was there yesterday doing the taste test.

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This Italian Roast was okay but I definitely prefer the Columbian, so I am glad those are the ones I purchased yesterday with my coupon. These are something I probably won’t make a habit out of since a pack of 3 normally costs $2.99 but I’ll definitely use my coupons first!

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Spiked with some Almond Breeze unsweetened vanilla.

For lunch after church, my parents, Josh and I went to McAlister’s Deli, which I hadn’t been too in a long time.

I ended up getting the Pick Two combo of half a Greek salad (with no feta) and a cup of the vegetarian chili. It was delicious.

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I’ve been doing some thinking and research about soy. I’ve heard a lot of things on both sides, that soy is beneficial, helps prevent cancer, good for bones, etc. But I’ve also heard that soy is dangerous, can not really cause cancer but aid in it, and also screw with your hormonal cycles.

As a woman who has struggled with irregularity of my cycles for as long as I can remember, anything that messes with that jumps on my radar. We’re talking late periods, no periods (for months at a time), heavy, light, painful and not so much. Two are hardly ever the same which makes finding the cause pretty impossible. Since there is not a clear, definitive answer that I know of about soy and it’s relation to this, I don’t know that I will do anything other than be aware.

I don’t need to become so reliant on soy since I have decided to go vegetarian and now vegan. I think I do okay with my non-dairy milks (other than Almond Breeze which does contain soy) but it is in so many other products I use that I think I need to start paying more attention.

What do you guys think? Are you a fan of soy or do you avoid it? Why?

Thanks as always for your feedback and I hope you have a great Sunday!