October 14, 2010

Fact #95: Darn it, what CAN I eat?

I've been reading a lot lately about soy, and how soy is becoming another one of those things that creep into all kinds of processed foods. So we end up eating a lot more of it than we think we are. And it may not actually be that great for you, at least not in such high amounts. This article has a pretty balanced analysis of the pros/cons of soy.

Anyway, as a vegetarian, I sometimes lean pretty heavily on soy products as a source of protein. But I'm gonna try to take a little looky-loo and see if I can't revamp my diet a little to keep enough protein but cut out some of the soy.

Item one: Soy Milk.

Bye bye soy milk. Be gone from my fridge. I will miss you, truly. You were awesome in my morning coffee. But lets be real, beans are not supposed to be milk. You are very processed. And you have a lot of added sugar. So, goodbye.

What to replace it with? I'm thinking about... well... milk. I haven't been a strict vegan for a long time, but my spine still shivers at the thought of a carton of milk sitting in my fridge. Ugh. Barf. But I figure I can get good local non-BGH milk from the co-op, and they even reuse the bottles.

This is an issue I'm still struggling with, as I learn more about food production. Is vegan always better? Is it better to have fake 'cheeze' that's super processed and packaged and shipped across the country, or to have real cheese from a dairy 30 miles away? The same question arises about local meat vs fake meat. In terms of cost of production and environmental impact, which is really better?

(Although, even if local meat is better than fake meat, I'm still not gonna start eating meat again. I'm just not into eating animals. But I would consider it a sign to stop trying to substitute fake stuff for the real thing.)

The main point, which is made over and over again by people trying to reconnect us with our food, is to just eat food. And not to be confused by things that just look like food.

So, no more fake milk for me.

It's not reeeal.

Til tomorrow!


Clockwork said...

Just to play devil's advocate here (because, I admit, I fucking love soymilk)...

The term "processed" is a bit misleading, especially when referring to things like soy milk or fake cheese or fake meat. Almost all foods, be they cereals or cans of soup, are "processed" by virtue of the fact that they are prepared by something other than rain and sunshine. It's the types of processes, as well as the raw ingredients used, that are the bigger factors. "Organic" is a similarly misleading term, whereas "all natural" is a more illustrative way to describe whether something is good for you. Soy milk, generally, is all natural. Many veggie-friendly foods are. Sugar, while not great to have in EVERY food, is really not as bad for you as health food-ists would have you believe, especially if it's derived naturally (and honestly, many sugar substitutes are quite benign). It's more important that you eat sugars with a balance of other nutrients in the same sitting, rather than avoid sugars altogether.

There is nothing inherently evil about processing. Even some natural preservatives, natural flavor or color additives, or natural dietary/vitamin supplements, do not render a food suddenly "bad for you." Especially considering the alternative, where half the raw fruits and vegetables you buy in a health food store are grown in hot-houses or are shipped across the globe, and have a much, much worse impact on the environment and human health than a Smart Dog might have due to carbon footprints and whatnot, plus the energy YOU expend at home preparing them for yourself (or the contaminants you introduce while doing so). Even if you buy local, that doesn't mean those places grow seasonal only. Keeping a greenhouse active during the winter is a serious energy draw. Local is great, but the whole food-acquiring system in use today, even if done "right," contains contradictions and problems.

Ultimately, the general guideline I use is to seek out all natural foods by companies I don't despise, and eat a balance of sugars, proteins, and fats with every meal whenever possible. That's about as simple as it gets as far as the biology of your body is concerned, unless you have additional health issues.

Not saying that a different method is wrong, or that ignoring soy milk is wrong... just that a direct comparison is not so easy to make.

Sure, soy milk is bean juice with sugar and color added. Real milk, however, is a substance designed to make a 50 pound calf into a 2,000 pound cow in the span of a year or two, and is very, very poorly regulated as an industry.

Also, there's almond milk, rice milk, and unsweetened soy milk as even more alternatives!

Ok, I'm done writing this novel. Don't hate me, I just like to talk about this stuff!

Clockwork said...
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Clockwork said...
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Clockwork said...

Holy crap, I destroyed your blog with my long-winded comment.

Sorry Laurel! I've cleaned up the clutter!

Laurel said...

No way, my blog is indestructible! :)

I totally appreciate hearing the devils advocate perspective, especially if it helps me justify keeping soymilk in my fridge (I love it too).

I guess what was more concerning to me is how many other things soy turns up in, and how when I get lazy it's so easy to start eating really heavily processed food. Stuff that's still vegetarian, but maybe not as good for me as the 'all natural' stuff.

I also worry about my tendency to get sucked into the hype about different foods, which rise and fall like fashion trends. It's hard to get a handle sometimes on what's scientific fact, what's crazy-ass rumor, and what's advertising.

And on top of what's good for me to put in my body, I'm always trying to figure out what the best choices are for the health of the planet. That gets confusing and overwhelming sometimes -- I guess in large part because there are very few absolutes in life. I want a flashing neon sign saying, THIS! THIS IS THE RIGHT THING! But most of the neon signs around here just say BUD LIGHT. Which is no help at all.

But I like talking about it too! There's always more stuff to learn, it's such a complicated and messed up system..

Pinolera said...

Cheese baby, eat cheese. Nothing has added to my own life and happiness in the way that cheese has. I don't think you will regret cheese, and if you are not sure where to start we can plan a cheese and wine picnic together and go from there!

marianne said...

Hmmm, I guess I need to do some more reseach/thinking. But, don't you think unsweetened soy milk counts as real food, as in "eat food, not too much....." But then there's the whole soy is bad for you thing.