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Eating vegan without soy or gluten
Most vegans eat a lot of soy products... how can you maintain a balanced diet if you are allergic to soy? You all substitute butter and milk with soy butter, soy milk what will I be able to eat and drink? I also cannot have wheat products because of my fibromyalgia. How can I benefit from a vegan diet when it appears I will not be able to maintain a proper diet?
Similar question submitted by Nani from USA:
I recently learned that tofu isn't so safe for us to consume and I cannot eat wheat or gluten. What burger/pseudo meat is left? I drink hemp & am really tired of it. I need a balanced diet (have malabsorption, ELS lupus, Mytral valve, & celiac). I do not take drugs and only use alternative and homeopathic remedies. Trying to keep on the alkaline side of life. Can you help?
Thank you both for your submissions. You both submitted a similar question on the same day, and I believe that's because it's a very popular concern. Many people worry about the soy content in vegan foods.
There is an ongoing debate about the healthfulness of soy. Some people take the position that all soy is bad, others differentiate between types of soy, and some think it's all incredibly healthy for you. Check out a page on the soy controversy and the discussion of whether soy is healthy.
I personally fall somewhere in between. I think the soy to avoid is the genetically modified soy that is grown mostly for livestock, and the processed soy that is added to processed foods (like soy lechitin, TVP, soy protein isolate, soy powders, etc).
Keep in mind that Asian cultures have been eating whole soy as their dominant protein for thousands of years (in the form of edamame beans, tofu, tempeh, and natto), and they never have had the health problems that Westerners have. From what I understand from my research, it appears that fermented soy products (tempeh, miso, natto, even soy sauce) are extremely healthy for us.
There is a common assumption that most vegans eat a lot of soy, but I've actually found that not to be the case at all. At my house we eat very little soy, and what we do eat is in whole forms like tempeh or tofu. The rest of our food does not have hidden soy in it, so I guarantee I eat less than 99% of "regular," non-vegan people in the Western world.
What's funny is that people eating meat-based diets actually consume more soy than those of us who stick to plant proteins, without ever realizing it. Processed, boxed, premade food, fast food, and other junk food is loaded with the bad, broken down soy protein isolates.
Vegans who eat whole, real food and balanced diets easily avoid soy altogether and find plenty of other options for both beverages and proteins. If you're looking for alternatives for milk, check out this page.
As far as butter substitutes, in many cases you can simply use another kind of oil. There are also soy-free vegan butter spreads if you prefer a solid oil, as well as coconut-based butters that are readily available at most markets.
As of right now, it seems we don't have a definite answer as to the benefits or drawbacks to soy, but I am sure within a few years we will get to the bottom of it. I would love to hear your opinion on the comments page.
I find being vegan and gluten-free a bit more difficult, mainly when traveling outside of the house. At home it's absolutely no problem to cook gluten-free grains and even bake my own vegan, gluten-free bread. However, if you don't have time to cook or travel more often, finding gluten-free options that are also vegan (many gluten-free breads have eggs in them) can be more difficult. As gluten-free cooking becomes more popular, I've found that all big cities have restaurants where you can find abundant options.
If you do enjoy cooking, you can find many recipes that are gluten-free and soy-free on the internet, and there are also plenty of vegan products on the market that follow both of these trends in food. All it takes is a bit of diligent label reading to find what you need.
I hope this helps! You can definitely eat vegan without eating soy or gluten, if that's what your health requires you to do.