It’s crazy to look back and realize I’ve been a vegetarian for almost a year now. I’m so happy I took the plunge and decided to do it. My life has changed in so many wonderful ways. I considered becoming a vegetarian for a long time before I did but I was nervous about getting enough protein. I’ve had countless people tell me that vegetarians don’t get enough protein and how detrimental that can be to one’s health. I can tell you that eleven months in to being a vegetarian I have not once had a problem getting enough protein. Calorie counting has helped me see that I consume on average 60 grams of protein a day following a vegetarian diet. That’s 10 grams over my needed amount of protein! Being a vegetarian just means you have to get a little bit more creative about where the protein comes from, it makes you really learn about the food you are putting into your body. Nuts and quinoa and Greek yogurt are great sources of protein. And so is soy.
Soy is something that I never ate as a meat eater. I didn’t know how to cook it and was just plain confused by it. Why order a veggie burger when I could get a real burger? Why order tofurkey when I could just eat regular turkey? Everyone has to make their own decision on how to feed their body in a way that is best for them. I truly don’t think there is one way to eat that is better than another. You can be a healthy meat eater and you can be an unhealthy vegetarian. People become vegetarians for a plethora of reasons. I personally liked the idea of decreasing the amount of chemicals and hormones going into my body, lowering the amount of cholesterol and fat I eat, and decreasing my carbon footprint. I love animals but also understand the circle of life. The animal rights issue is not a big reason that I went vegetarian but I totally understand that way of thinking. It’s the biggest reason Josh went vegetarian.
Since I mainly went vegetarian to improve my health I wanted to make sure I ate well-balanced, healthy meals, with complete proteins, healthy fats, good cholesterol, and complex carbs. I also didn’t want to feel like I lost any of my favorite foods. Soy products were a natural place for me to turn because they make products that can be cooked and served just like meat without having any meat in them. Soy protein is a high-quality, complete plant protein that is comparable to high-quality, animal-based proteins like meat, dairy, and eggs. It is naturally low in fat and saturated fat and meets adult’s daily protein requirements.
The biggest thing that took me from being a soy skeptic to a soy fan was the taste. I simply had to learn how to cook it! I like to think of soy as a sponge, it will take on the flavor of the things around it. I’ve shared this link a lot but if you are looking for an easy, quick, tasty recipe for tofu Mama Pea’s Tofu Dippers are amazing. You can also whip up a marinade for tofu or tempeh and grill it like you would meat or chicken. Or you can saute it up or add it to a stew and it will soak up all the hearty, smoky flavors and taste phenomenal. The possibilities really are endless.
Solae, a world leader in developing soy-based ingredients, asked me to share my thoughts on soy in this post. They have been honored with the 2011-2012 Ethisphere’s Ethics Inside Certification and were recognized as one of the “World’s Most Ethical Companies” in 2010, 2011, and 2012. I just finished up an intense business ethics class at school and can tell you those honors are a pretty big deal.
They sent me some information from a recent study titled, “Effect of Protein Blend vs. Whey Protein Ingestion on Muscle Protein Synthesis Following Resistance Exercise.” Dr. Blake Rasmussen, professor and interim chair of the Department of Nutrition & Metabolism at the University of Texas Medical Branch, found that a combination of proteins from whey, soy and casein extends the anabolic window after strength training. Protein helps muscles grow and recover during exercise, and amino acids are the building blocks of protein, stimulating muscle synthesis in the period following a workout, which drives additional muscle gain. Since muscles need a full day or two to recover after strength training, the researchers realized that a blend of “slow” (casein), “intermediate” (soy) and “fast” (whey) proteins help extend the anabolic window longer than whey protein alone, so that more growth can occur over time. By combining whey with soy and casein, it delivers a more balanced amino acid profile and provided prolonged delivery of critical nutrients to the muscle. Soy protein contains more glutamine and arginine than whey protein or casein. Glutamine plays a role in the immune system and is a precursor of glutathione, an antioxidant that protects cells from free radical damage. Arginine, by increasing muscle blood flow, helps bring available nutrients to muscles to speed recovery and may play a role in immune response. I am still in the early stages of incorporating strength training into my fitness routine, I’m a cardio girl, but I know how important it is for muscles, bones, and overall health to pump some iron. This study helped me learn a lot about how to refuel after weight training, I had no idea soy protein was so beneficial to muscles! I want to make sure I am giving my muscles everything the need for optimum health.
When it comes to choosing which soy products to eat I make sure to do my research and find the ones that are best for me. I think soy is an incredibly healthy source of protein, but also one of many for vegetarians which is why I eat it in moderation. Soy is in everything so I strive for one to three full sized servings of soy a week in addition to the many products I eat daily that already contain soy as a filler. I also buy 100% organic soy to ensure it is of the highest quality and hasn’t been modified in a negative way. It’s what works for me and my body.
If you’re looking to learn more about soy, get your questions answered, or just talk with foodie and fitness fanatics Solae and Fitfluential will be hosting a Twitter chat on Wednesday, May 23, 2012 at 8 PM CST. Make sure to use the hashtag #SoyProtein and drop me a line, I’ll be tweeting up a storm!
Question of the Day: What are some of your favorite soy based recipes? Please share links; I’m always looking for more tasty recipes to try!
FitFluential LLC compensated me for this campaign. All opinions are my own.