the “controversy” series #2: soy

just check out the ingredients on this bad boy.

Gawd, I hate to do this one. I finally acquired a taste for tofu. Not only that, but soy’s in EVERYTHING.

… But that’s it, right? Soy’s in EVERYTHING. Doesn’t that make you question how it’s a so-called ‘health food?” If it really were so awesome for you, wouldn’t it be expensive and used less liberally?

Think about it. Soy is a bumper crop subsidized in the U.S. by the government. Just like corn, it’s used when farmers need to give their fields a little break, so there’s a LOT of this stuff going around. And since there’s lots of it, it goes for cheap. So of course, food manufacturers want to use it, so they send it off to the lab to find 2974118 million or so ways to rearrange its particles, and sell it to look like something else, ’cause it’ll save them a buck or two. So now we’ve got soy milk, soy cheese, soy yogurt, soy protein isolates for your protein bars and powder, soy burgers, soy fake chicken, soy soap, soy fabric, soy plastic (?!), organic soy lecithin (a food stabilizer and emulsifer), texturized soy protein (ew!), and the list goes on. And beyond processing a soybean in weird ways, it continues to get worse.

  • Man titties: Soy is super high in phytoestrogens. Yes, like that estrogen. Independent research repeatedly says that phytoestogrens mess up your hormones, and can mean breast cancer, infertility, low libido, and more. To put in easy terms:

An infant taking the recommended amount of soy formula is consuming a hormone load equivalent of 4 birth control pills a day! Is it any wonder we’ve seen such a dramatic rise in precocious puberty with young girls starting their periods at 6 and 7?

-quote via

  • Trypsin inhibitors found in soy can mess with your digestion of protein. Now isn’t that ironic?
  • Soy foods contain aluminum and MSG, two things you do NOT want in your body.
  • Soy foods increase the body’s need for Vitamin D. And if you live in Toronto, or a basement, or have an office job? You need as much D as you can get!
  • Soy is a goitrogen, which basically means it blocks your thyroid from getting iodine and functioning properly. Ouch. Do you know what your thyroid does for you?! It regulates your mood. It regulates your weight. It helps you concentrate and remember more.. and that’s just the beginning. You can mess with the gods, you can mess with the cops, but don’t! mess! with your thyroid!
  • If this stuff doesn’t make you question dumping soy milk in your coffee every morning, check out these testimonials.

If you want to keep soy in your life, there is an alternative—make like sauerkraut and ferment that shit! The process helps keep the bad stuff (the phtytates, or mineral-blocking enzyme inhibitors) outta your system—so fermented soy products like tempeh, nori, and tamari are safe. And don’t worry about soy milk—there’s plenty of yummy alternatives, like almond, hazelnut, hemp, coconut…

Sorry about the soy. And don’t let this make you think that all health foods are scary and trendy and potentially bad! Just beware, and at least if you don’t cut it completely, use less. Try something different. Your body will thank you.

the “controversy” series #1: agave nectar

Hiking up in the hills of Sedona last weekend, we came across many agave plants—finally, something in this damn desert I recognized, since their nectar has recently emerged as a wholesome sweetener, a healthy alternative to high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and granulated sugars. And it, too, has recently become a part of my diet, a much better substitute for sweetener in drinks and recipes… or so I thought.

An agave plant in full bloom on the climb up Sugarloaf Mountain, Sedona, Arizona.

I expressed my fascination with the plant to our trail guide (a certified nautropath!), but she didn’t share my enthusiasm, muttering something about how it was just as bad, or worse yet than any of the other liquidy sugars out there. Uh-oh.

Though I didn’t get a chance to pick her brain, I did want to check it out when I got home (admittedly, mum and I have been DUMPING the stuff into homemade iced tea to replenish electrolytes and stay buzzed.. er, awake for afternoon lectures at yoga teacher training). I’d envisioned myself maybe doing a posting on the controversy of the stuff (and continuing to sip it!), but unfortunately what I’ve found proves otherwise.

It appears there’s no argument.. this shit ain’t better for you, in fact, it’s worse! So who told everyone this stuff was healthy in the first place??

Well, for one, lots of bakeries have begun to substitute this “healthy alternative” to sweeten up little morsels of deliciousness. Further, nice-r coffee and tea shops are starting to include it next to the brown sugar and honey. But worst of all, a lot of the health-food recipes I’ve come across fully support and encourage the use of this nectar—and with reason—it is stereotypical vegan alternative to honey. So it’s understandable for me to think I’ve found my savior of sweetners. But now, all of this information makes me wonder—is it really better than just plain ol’, natural sugar?

While I can’t claim to have done any of the scientific research myself, a little internet perusing leads me to believe it just ain’t. Foodrenegade seems to make the best argument against it (though if you do a little searching yourself you’ll find some pretty similar answer):

Agave “nectar” is not made from the sap of the yucca or agave plant but from the starch of the giant pineapple-like, root bulb. The principal constituent of the agave root is starch, similar to the starch in corn or rice, and a complex carbohydrate called inulin, which is made up of chains of fructose molecules.Technically a highly indigestible fiber, inulin, which does not taste sweet, comprises about half of the carbohydrate content of agave.

The process by which agave glucose and inulin are converted into “nectar” is similar to the process by which corn starch is converted into HFCS. The agave starch is subject to an enzymatic and chemical process that converts the starch into a fructose-rich syrup—anywhere from 70 percent fructose and higher according to the agave nectar chemical profiles posted on agave nectar websites.

Agave nectar is not traditional, is highly refined, and actually has more concentrated fructose than high-fructose corn syrup. It is not a “natural” sweetener. Thus far, the evidence definitely points toward the conclusion: Agave Nectar = Bad.

There it goes down the rabbit-food hole, another health nut’s dream of finding some guilt-free substance that we can load on our toast and pancakes without shame or limitation. Sigh—isn’t that the point anyway? Moderation? Taking sugars down a notch or two in general? Maybe I won’t throw out the nectar just yet… I’ll just have to avoid drizzlling (is that a word?) that sweet, sweet nectar like it came from the gods.

The best alternative, then? Stay tuned….

on strange cravings

dinner adventures tonight:

After a sugary sendoff/bday celebration week, my body was a bit confused. I spend most of today between gutrot and an intense, insatiable craving for brussel sprouts. Yes. I’ve had them just once in my life before, yet I craved that cabbage-y, slightly nutty taste?

Oh, how I wish I kid.

So I hopped over to Kensington market and picked up a pile of brussel sprouts, and some swiss chard (another new ingredient for me tonight, too! and rich in vitamin c and k! yay!). I Howcast-ed the veggies, and ended up blanching+sauteeing the chard (stems included!), and roasting the brussel sprouts up in the oven, and serving it all up with some trusty tempeh, bean sprouts, and other bean sprouts, and some chia seeds of course. Um, and I’m just gonna go ahead and say it… it was effing scrumptious.

Dare I say brussel sprouts may be my new best friend? Stay tuned folks, shit may be about to get Craaaazy!