I feel like I’ve been through the ringer with soy. “Soy is good for you”. “Soy is bad for you”. “Eat more soy!”. “Eat less soy!”. What’s a girl to do? When all the information about the possible downfalls of too much soy came out years ago, I was eating soy milk, soy lattes, frozen veggie burgers, soy protein smoothies and tofu – all in one day sometimes! I did some research and decided to change my habits, without cutting out soy all together. Here is what I found and what works for me. (You may want to do your own research to see if soy is right for you, and if you have any estrogen related diseases such as breast cancer or lupus, you will want to talk to your doctor about the amount of soy in your diet.)
1) Why are you eating soy and do you need to have soy in this circumstance or can you replace it with something else?
I really like tofu and tempeh (yay for tempeh!!) and they work really well for me as a main course replacement for meat. Just last night we had chinese chicken salad – my husband had chicken, and I had agedashi tofu on mine. When we have tacos, I like to crumble tempeh and use that as my “taco meat”. I do eat chicken and fish, but many times I actually would prefer an alternative if it’s available. What I noticed years ago in my diet is that I was using soy as an alternative to EVERYTHING and using it for convenience. I kept the soy and tempeh, but eliminated the soy in it’s processed forms. I replaced my protein powder with a soy free version, I replaced soy milk with almond milk and I eliminated the “texturized soy protein” all together (goodbye frozen veggie burgers and fake meat). I didn’t do all this because soy is inherently bad. I just did it because I believe too much of ANYTHING in your diet can cause problems, and having a variety and eating whole foods when possible is usually a better option.
2) Eat soy in it’s whole form
The Japanese culture is one of the healthiest in the world, and their diet includes soy (edamame, miso, etc…) I wanted to understand why they weren’t having problems with soy and we in America were. Then it hit me – we process the heck out of it. We grow so many soy beans in this country that we have an excess and need to find things to do with it. We turn it into something that really isn’t soy anymore, and put it in every processed food out there. If you are going to consume soy products, it’s best to eat them in their whole, unprocessed form (tofu and tempeh cubes and blocks, edamame beans, miso paste). Read ingredients in all those frozen veggie/non-meat items, and if you see “texturized soy protein”, you may want to put it back. You would be better off getting your veggies from salads or raw carrots and your protein from beans or eggs. (The vegetarian industry is starting to realize this and there are many frozen veggie burger options that use beans and grains as a base instead of the soy protein. Just read your labels.)
3) Eat organic, non-GMO soy products
We are learning more and more about the problems with GMO crops, and soy is one of the worst offenders. Chose organic and certified non-GMO soy products to make sure you are putting the best quality ingredients in your body (you will be doing the environment a favor, as well!). The great news is that, unlike other organic products, I haven’t found a big price difference between the non-GMO organic tofu and the regular. It’s just as easy to grab the good stuff at the store.
Here is a round-up a few great (and easy!) recipes to use tofu. You can fry it, sauté it, bake it, blend it and even use it in desserts! Enjoy!
Jessica’s Agedashi Tofu
This is one of the quickest and easiest ways to cook tofu. If you don’t mind the general taste of tofu, but you want a quick and light crust, this is for you. I use it on salads, stir-frys, and over sautéed greens with a little Bragg’s. You don’t need a recipe, just follow the method.
Cut your tofu into small blocks and layer between two paper towels. I use “very firm” tofu for this recipe. Place a heavy pot on top so the moisture drains out of the tofu. Lightly dredge the tofu in a bowl of corn starch, and then pan-fry with a little olive oil until lightly brown on both sides. Finish with a little salt.
Jumbo Stuffed Shells – this recipe is from Oh She Glows and is fabulous! I’ve used this method before and you really would not know that there is tofu inside those shells.
Asian Baked Tofu – this is another easy and delicious way to infuse a lot of flavor into otherwise plain tofu.
Chocolate Tofu Pudding – I’m not even kidding. Look at that! Tofu! Who knew?? It’s so good!