Eating Vegan: The Soy Dilemma, Part Two

Soybean Field

Did you miss the first installment of The Soy Dilemma? You can check out part one right here.

[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 evaluate your diet.

Last week we took a look at some of soy’s impacts on our health. Today, let’s talk a little bit about soy’s environmental impact and how to cut back on the soy in our diets.

Soy and the Environment

The most alarming environmental impact associated with soy is its link to deforestation in the Amazon. The impact is far less than that of raising cattle on that land, but it’s still important to keep that in mind when shopping for soy products.

The vast majority of soy in the US is genetically modified to be glyphosate, or “Roundup,” resistant. Glyphosate is a harsh chemical pesticide that’s harmful to fish and wildlife when it runs off of farmland and into nearby waterways. With resistant crops, farmers tend to use more and more of the herbicide over time, as Roundup resistant weeds start popping up. These superweeds are tougher to manage and pose issues for all farmers, not just the ones planting GM seeds.

Ditching Soy?

It’s not that hard to cut back on soy, once you start paying attention to its place in your diet. Try seitan instead of tofu and almond milk instead of soy. There are several soy free vegan cheeses out there, too.

Despite its downsides, sometimes a gal just really wants a tofu scramble. If you’re going to eat soy, it’s probably best to stick to organic products. That helps ensure that your tasty breakfast isn’t responsible for deforestation. Organic foods are also, by definition, not genetically modified.

As far as the health concerns, I’m a big believer in moderation. Soy at every meal? Not a good idea. The occasional vegan quiche? I wouldn’t sweat it.

What about you guys? Are you trying to cut back the soy in your diets?

Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by nedrai

  1. Mamie

    I am cutting back on soy foods made from isolated soy proteins. However, fermented soy foods like tofu and tempeh are actually very health-promoting. Of course, I’ll only choose products made with organic tofu. But I had no idea that they were clearing Amazon rain forests to grow soy! That’s very disturbing!

    Thankfully, there are lots of alternatives to processed soy foods. Seitan makes an excellent meat analogue, Daiya vegan cheese alternatives are quite tasty, and all of the coconut milk beverages, yogurts, and ice cream made by So Delicious are fantastic.

    1. Becky Striepe

      I’m so glad you brought this up! Fermented soy is supposed to be healthier than more processed forms. Tofu is not fermented, but tempeh and miso are.

      And thanks for the shoutout for seitan! My favorite meat substitute. :)

  2. Kristian

    Over 99% of world soy production goes into animal feeds, so I don’t really think as a vegan one needs to worry about the deforestation argument, in relation to soy and our diets!

  3. Rob

    I thought that most of the soy that was being grown was being fed to animals anyway – it’s not vegans eating all that soy it’s meat eaters!

  4. vegangreenhorn

    Hi Becky,

    Thanks for this article! I am definitely guilty of too much soy. Almost every day, I have some soy milk with coffee and cereal. I’m going to start using coconut, rice and almond milk instead now. Though my only experience with almond milk was unfavorable…

    I did cut back on tofu after reading part one of your article. Mushroom stock has gone up…

    1. eatdrinkbetter

      Isn't it funny how tastes vary from person to person? Have you tried any other non-dairy milks, like hemp or rice? Some folks really dig So Delicious coconut milk, so that might be worth a shot too.

      I love the idea of using mushrooms to add "meatiness" without tofu! That's brilliant!

  5. Penny

    This is a great article! My family and I used to buy soy products up like crazy and have recently started cutting back because of what scientists are now finding out about it. We’ve definitely been buying more seitan and non-soy products as protein substitutes but it’s still difficult because so many things have soy in them and are soy-based. One brand that has really helped vary and provide alternative protein sources is Tastybite. It’s an Indian food company that sells ready-made dishes that take 90 seconds to make. They’re preservative-free, all natural, low fat/sodium/calorie and taste delicious. I love their Chunky Chickpeas and Madras Lentil, with which I sometimes throw some seasoned tempeh in for tacos and wraps. It’s great and really make a busy vegan’s life a lot easier. With all of this soy backlash, I’d be interested to hear what products and brands you think are good alternatives to soy. Once again, thanks for the great article.

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