Vegetarian + Vegan Tofu Robot. CC photo by Flickr user donsolo

Published on June 16th, 2010 | by Becky Striepe

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Eating Vegan: The Soy Dilemma, Part One

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Tofu Robot

[social_buttons] When you start cutting out meat and dairy, it’s easy to fall into what I call the Soy Trap. Before you know it, you’re eating soy with every meal! Soy milk in your cereal and coffee, soy cheese on your sandwich at lunch time, tofu at dinner. When you’re eating that much of anything, it’s time to step back and take a look.

That block of tofu and box of soy milk might seem like the answer to the protein question when it comes to vegan nutrition, but before you fix that soy latte it’s important to know a little bit about how soy interacts with our bodies and its environmental impacts.

Soy and Health

In large amounts, soy is not the healthy food it’s touted to be. However, it may not be the extreme health danger that some folks are reporting. The big concern with soy is the presence of isoflavones, which can mimic estrogen on our bodies.

A recent analysis from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) took a look at a large sample of clinical trials involving soy products. The trials were looking for effects from menopausal symptoms to cancer. Here’s what the AHRQ concluded:

In general, the rates of adverse events reported were greater in the soy treatment arms than in their respective control arms, but adverse events related to soy consumption were generally minor. Overall, soy products including isoflavones were well tolerated in the trials we examined.

They did caution that “the health effects of soy for many conditions that have been studied remain uncertain.”

Another issue with soy products is that they’re often highly processed. Soy-based faux meat and cheese products are often loaded with sodium and additives that are not so healthy on a regular basis.

In Part Two, we took a look at soy’s environmental impacts and a few ways to cut back on the soy in a vegan diet.

Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by donsolo

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About the Author

Hi there! I'm Becky Striepe, a green crafter and vegan foodie living in Atlanta, Georgia with my husband and two cats. My mission is to make eco-friendly crafts and vegan food accessible to anyone who wants to give them a go. If you like my work, you can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, and .



  • robert m

    “the protein question” is really a non-question

    google vegan bodybuilder

    your average carnivore eats enough protein to fuel a 250lb bodybuilder in bulking up season

    the greatest piece of advice i ever received regarding “the protein question” was from a raw vegan bodybuilder’s page i stumbled across.

    he said something very close to “if you eat the calories you need, and all those calories come from whole, raw, organic foods, you’ll get the protein you need”

    then he went on to do the calculations with the least nutritionally dense food he could immediately think of – iceberg lettuce – the results didn’t meet the FDA’s recommended daily intake of protein, but it’s pretty common knowledge that those recommendations are way too high to begin with

    i trust the guy’s advice because he’s a vegan raw bodybuilder – beyond the FDA, beyond their numbers, beyond nutritional advice from people with text book knowledge – this guy’s knowledge came from real world application

    now if he can build a bodybuilder’s body without worrying about protein, surely i can do the same since i’m just laying about like a lazy sod

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/eatdrinkbetter eatdrinkbetter

      Awesome! I love hearing about vegan body builders. It's inspiring, and I think you're right: it's a great example of how eating a vegan diet can definitely be well-rounded and healthy.

  • Mary

    So…how about posting some alternatives :-)

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/eatdrinkbetter eatdrinkbetter

      Thanks, Mary! Alternatives are coming next week in part 2! :) Stay tuned!

  • Greg

    John Robbins has an excellent article on What about Soy. You should link to it in your next article.

    http://www.johnrobbins.info/blog/what-about-soy/

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  • http://Web Pat

    I have a question for vegans on this site. I am starting a bodybuilding program and part of the training encourages us to eat 100 grams of protein daily. Right now I eat raw vegan…and there is NO way I can get that protein in. Ideas out there?
    Thanks!

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