03 April 2010

How to be a Soy-free Vegan...

My family history has a lot of endometriosis, and although I understand that it's bad, I never really knew much about it. After some recent health issues and some unpleasant testing (Ever have a hysterosalpingogram? Ugh!), I have a tentative diagnosis of endometriosis. The only way to get a confirmed diagnosis is through surgery, and I'm scheduled for a laparoscopic procedure next month. They are going to remove any errant endometrial tissue at the same time. There are other treatments besides surgery, but they negatively effect fertility, and I'm really not willing to do that. Kirk hates the idea of my having surgery, but I'm kind of happy about getting definitive answers as to what's gone wrong. Then I can make an action plan. I don't like surgery, but I really like action plans!

So in the meantime, what do I do? Being the internet research junkie that I am, I started searching. There are lots of nutritional changes I can make to help, but one really stuck out: Some studies have shown that soy foods can aggravate endometriosis because of the high levels of phytoestrogens found in soy. I've read about the whole phytoestrogen debate before, which mostly seemed alarmist and one-sided to me. But now it's different. Now I already have a health problem that I could be exacerbating through my seemingly healthy diet. Damn!

How am I supposed to follow my strict vegetarian diet, which I believe in very strongly, without consuming soy foods? It's possible, but it's just that much more difficult. I've been eating soy foods in some form or another for nearly twenty years. I love miso so much! I am at this very moment wearing a t-shirt that says "I Heart Tofu" on it for goodness sake! I guess I'll be eating a lot more beans and quinoa!

Any of you have any favourite soy-free vegan recipes or cookbooks?


  1. There are lots of vegan recipes you can make without soy. Your biggest concerns are presumably about calcium and protein.

    For protein, you can replace soy with lentils, beans, seitan, nuts, etc. There's a protein chart on this website that could be useful to you: http://www.vrg.org/nutrition/protein.htm#table2

    Beans, nuts, fortified orange juice, certain greens and rice milk are also good sources of calcium. This website has tables of calcium levels in different foods: http://www.healthlinkbc.ca/healthfiles/hfile68e.stm.

    I have a few cookbooks that you might want to check-out at Chapters:
    1. Raw Foods for Busy People by Jordan Maerin - recipes include lots of nuts; no soy, meat or dairy that I can see just flipping through

    2. Eat smart Eat Raw - Creative Vegetarian Recipes for a Healthier Life by Kate Wood - not a lot of soy or dairy in this book

    3. The Gluten-Free Vegan by Susan O'Brien - mentions hemp milk as an alternative to soy milk and has a whole section on alternatives in cooking


  2. Thanks Stacey! Personal recommendations are always helpful! I haven't tried a lot of raw food books, as I've found so many recipes require a Vita-mix and/or a dehydrator. I'll definitely check out your recommendations, though.
    I know a lot about nutrition (20 years of vegetarianism will do that), but I need a shift in thinking and strategies to break long-standing habits. I'm already a big bean-eater (black beans especially - yum), but I avoid eating too many nuts, as I have issues with weight and it's just too easy to go overboard.

  3. Sarah Kramer doesn't eat Soy anymore-why not email her for a few suggestions? If anyone is going to have a wealth of resources on soy free vegan eating it's her! I hope you feel better and find answers soon xx

  4. Boo. Do not like. I hope everything goes well and let us know if we can help with anything. I don't know as much about nutrition but I do know tasty. I made this last week and it turned out well. I added a bit extra curry powder and some spinach:


    I also like her recipes:


    I made the coconut lentil soup and had it over brown rice. Also yummy.

  5. Cara,

    A friend of mine who is a natural foods chef and nutritional consultant told me that tofu, soy, soy nuts and soy milk are hard to digest. I stopped eating it myself because with a similar situation I am in it gave me tremendous bouts of pain. I drink almond milk now and stay away from milk and soy.

    Although I really like using silken tofu in recipes instead of using mayonnaise and such but at least it's a small quantity.

    I know surgery can be scary but laparsopic surgery is the best and least intrusive and quick healing time. You are resilient!

    Feel well and I hope you find tons of amazing recipes to make your transition from tofu easier!