Thursday, September 16, 2010

Myth #4: Being Vegan Means Eating LOTS of Soy, and Soy is Full of Estrogen which Makes Men GAY and Gives Women Boob-Cancer! ZOMG!!!

Men, particularly, seem to be very concerned about the amount of plant estrogen, called isoflavones, that are contained in soy, and therefor use it as an excuse to say that a veg diet is not healthy (despite the fact that everything now has soy in it; don't believe me? Start checking some labels!). Look up "soy estrogen" on Google and the first result you will see is "Soy is making kids 'gay'", which really just blows my mind at how people can be so insane.

Now.. I'm not going to go into the underlying misogyny in the fear that soy is turning our little boys into little girls...
But I will say that this whole thing seems to be blown WAY out of proportion.

As far as what science says, the jury is still out. Nobody really knows what to think. Every report and study I came across seemed to contradict the last. Some say soy estrogen helps fight breast and prostate cancer, some say it weakens your bones (which is strange to me, considering how low the levels of osteoporosis are among vegetarians/vegans and the great quantities of soy most of us consume), some say it helps repair brain damage, it helps lower cholesterol, fermented soy is better for you than non-fermented, etc., etc.... However, this H.H.S. Healthcare Research and Quality Agency meta-analysis of all the studies done on soy estrogen has found that there is no substantial evidence to suggest soy estrogen has any ill effect on human health, but that more long-term research is needed.

I have to wonder, though, if soy caused all these health problems people say they do and turn men into little sissy girls and homosexuals, why have we seen no evidence of this from parts of the world we originally got the idea of eating soy from? Asians have been eating soy in one form or another (and often many) for literally thousands of years. In fact, it's been a staple food item in Southeast Asia for so long that they've come up with hundreds of different ways to prepare it, from tofu to tempeh to miso to some plain ol' edamame. Even today, most people in the area eat at least one meal containing soy every day of the week. It's also the part of the world where people tended to live longer, healthier lives, until modernization and western money started pouring into the region and now more of them are eating meat more frequently and (surprise) now suddenly having to deal with skyrocketing levels of cancer, diabetes and obesity.

If you really want to worry about how much estrogen is in your food, nothing is going to effect you more than the hormones that are fed to livestock. There's a reason why most of Europe has banned the use of growth hormones and will not allow US beef into the EU. Livestock growth hormones has been linked to earlier onset of puberty in girls (which makes them more susceptible to breast cancer) and the hormone residue in manure that washes off into surrounding waterways has been shown to effect the gender and reproductive capacity of fish. Growth hormones are most certainly not healthy for the animals they're given to either; dairy cows have a higher frequency of mastitis (basically booby-rot) and chickens have been known to suffer broken legs from the crushing weight of their own bodies.

Still, if you're concerned about soy, you don't have to eat it! There are plenty of soy-free foods out there. Try almond, rice or hemp milk as an alternative to soy milk. Seitan (aka: wheat meat) is tasty and easy to cook with and is made entirely of wheat protein. Either way, stop making excuses for why you can't give up meat.

For further reading, I suggest this article: What About Soy?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Myth #3: There's No Variety in a Vegan Diet

You take out the meat and dairy and you're left with... what? Salad?? Who wants to live on salad?! Where's the variety? What is there possibly left to eat when you take out the animal products??

... You really wanna know? Well, there's...


Potato with Homemade Cashew Cheese

Pesto Pizza


Mushroom & Pepperocini
Gardein Chik'n & Mushroom Alfredo

Whole Roasted Mushroom, Artichoke & Spinach
Vegan Sausage, Wild Mushroom & Basil


Brown Rice Burger
Portobello Burger

Black Bean Burgers

Grilled Seitan Burger

Soy Burger

Spicy Chik'n Patty


Triple Chocolate & Strawberry Wedding Cake

Coconut Cherry Cheesecake






The "Old Dirty Bastard
 (Local favorite from Voodoo Donuts in Portland.
Vegan donuts FTW!!!)


Chili Cheese Fries






Curry Tempeh


Pad Thai

Fried Cream Cheese Wontons

Sweet & Sour Seitan


Field Roast Wellington

Stuffed Tofurky Roast

Chocolate Pecan Pie

Pumpkin Bread

Yeah... Vegans don't eat anything. We just live off of lettuce and air. 

Once, a coworker of mine, upon learning I was vegan asked, "You don't eat cheese or milk or meat... What do you eat?" I replied by describing in detail the amazing pasta dish I had made for dinner the night before, and when I got to the part involving tomatoes she said, "Ew! I don't like tomatoes!" So I replied, "Really? But there are so many dishes made with them; what do you eat??" Epic win. :)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Myth #2: Vegans are Perpetually Nutrient Deficient, and If They Aren't, They Have to Take a Multitude of Supplements to Compensate

This one will almost always be coupled with the line, "But you NEED meat to survive and be healthy!" Obviously the amount of us that have lived and are currently living long and healthy lives without consuming animals isn't evidence enough to the contrary. Nope, we're just falling over dead in the streets all the time or clogging up the hospitals because we refuse to consume animals.

And it's not like most people (whether they're vegan/vegetarian, rabid carnivores or anything between) are already perpetually deficient in one or more essential nutrients anyway.
Oh, wait... most people (veg or not) actually are.

In fact, most people who take multivitamins or other supplements are not vegan. So why are their diets not scrutinized in the same way? People will often tell me, "Well, if you can't get it naturally in your diet, it means your diet is not natural and taking vitamins and supplements is CHEATING!" These same people would also probably be shocked at the results of their own blood test. Studies show that 96%  of Americans are fiber deficient, 30%  are vitamin C deficient, 56% are magnesium deficient, 98% are potassium deficient, 70% are calcium deficient, 40% are B12 deficient... and the list goes on. If you want to talk about someone not having a "natural" diet or needing to "cheat", it would be best to examine yourself first.

Nutrient deficiency has been a problem for a very long time among every population on the planet. It's why most of our table salt is now "iodized"; at the turn of the last century, the Swiss began iodizing their salt to help prevent mental retardation, thyroid conditions and goiters and it was considered the first "functional food" to include such a supplement. Soon after, most salt bought in Western countries was iodized. Now most foods, especially cereals, juices, milks and foods geared toward children, are fortified with some sort of nutrients, the most common being calcium, iron, zinc, potassium, fiber, vitamins D, A, C, E and B complex.

I think the reason most people believe this myth of vegans being more nutrient deficient than non-vegans is because they tend to equate vegans/vegetarians  with "missing something" or "limiting yourself" (which those who've tried a veg diet will know is simply not the case; nori and tempeh and hummus, oh my!). Another reason is that there are plenty of people who will view veganism as just another "crash diet" and go about it in all the wrong ways, essentially giving us a bad name by destroying themselves with their own naïveté. Unfortunately a lot of those people also tend to suffer from the mental disorder of anorexia, of which the image of the tired, sickly, malnourished  body some people are quick to equate with veganism.

Yes, vegans do tend to be deficient in some nutrients , most notably B12, but that doesn't mean non-vegans aren't also deficient in the same nutrients. In fact, even though we might be more deficient in some nutrients compared to omnivores, we actually are less deficient, meaning we get more of, other nutrients such as folates and antioxidants than omnivores (who tend to struggle more with these). Either way, vegan or not, everyone can benefit from supplements and fortified foods.

There is also evidence that people who exclude animal products from their diets tend to live longer, be less susceptible to dementia in old age and have lower rates of heart disease and cancer than those on an omnivorous diet. So who's really got the more unhealthy diet here? I think I'll stick with the one that's 60% less likely to give me colon cancer, thanks.