Back in April of 2007 I discovered I was allergic to both Dairy and Soy. The Dairy was of no surprise to me considering I dealt with this as a child, and was once again dealing with the common symptoms the human body experiences when it can no longer properly digest milk proteins. This of course did not make the thought of giving up dairy (again) any less painful of a thought. Although I considered myself to be quite healthy, being half Italian I dreaded the thought of having to give up my Aunt’s homemade lasagna; which I still to this day blame for preventing me, in good conscience, from ever ordering it off a menu from even the best of Italian restaurants. But that wouldn’t be the hardest thing I could imagine having to give up… You see every night I dreamt about breakfast, not some fancy 3 course breakfast, but rather a bowl of cereal. That’s because I felt the organic shredded wheat topped with fresh nuts and organic fruit, blueberries being my favorite, I had most every morning rivaled the best dish your favorite diner has to offer, which is why I couldn’t bear the thought of having to replace the milk with apple or orange juice as I did when I was a child. So to put it lightly, the thought of having to once again give up something I was, in my mind, deprived of as a child, was not making for many desirable mornings in my foreseeable future.
Please note that knowing what I know now about diet, nutrition, and health, I now realize that the "bowl of cereal" I mentioned above was not and is not a nutritious breakfast (organic or not). If you visit the links on Whole Grains, Healthy Diet, and Healthy Living you will see what I've learned and what I practice now.
The soy on the other hand, I quickly dismissed as being easy to cut from my diet. I didn’t drink soy milk, eat soybeans, use soy sauce, or eat tofu, so how hard could it be. Man was I in for a wake-up call! Who would have guessed that soy was in nearly everything. I can only imagine whoever is sitting at the top of the soybean growers counsel is quite rich since soy appears to be in nearly every prepackaged, prepared, processed food found at the grocery store, not to mention its practically pushed by MD’s and nutritionists alike, as the next wonder drug. Shocking considering it’s among one of the top eight food allergies, and depending on the person’s level of sensitivity can cause death. And if that doesn’t make soy difficult enough to avoid, it’s often not clearly stated on the label of the product. Eliminating the obvious, anything with the word soy in it, leaves you with quite a lengthy list of ingredients, which are partially or entirely derived from soy to look out for. I’ve listed a few of the common ones below.
Natural Flavors (may contain soy)
*I’ve never had a reaction to this one, so it may be in a few of the products I have listed as prepackaged soy replacement products.
Vegetable Oil / Vegetable Broth (usually 100% derived from soy)
Vegetable Shortening (usually derived from soy)
HVP (hydrolyzed vegetable protein, or simply put “Soy”)
HPP (Hydrolyzed Plant Protein)
Xanthan Gum (soy is often the medium in which it is grown on)
Emulsifiers (soybean oil is one of the most frequently used)
Guar Gum, vegetable gum (may contain soy)
*I have never had a reaction to this one when listed as “Guar Gum” and for that it is in a few of the products I have listed as dairy/soy replacements. I would absolutely stay away from it if listed as “Vegetable Gum”!
Vitamin E: d-alpha tocopheral (usually derived from soybeans)
*I’ve been told by manufactures of products containing vitamin E derived from soybeans, that due to the process they use there should be no “soy” left in the product. Do not take that chance, I’ve tried some and got a reaction every time! I avoid any product containing vitamin E in the ingredients, be it an edible or topical product.
Because of this versatility, availability, and sheer abundance of supply, it has become the manufactures secret weapon; literally. So when most people become aware of this, full-blown panic becomes their first reaction at just the thought of having to remove soy from their diets. And can you blame them? The average American’s lifestyle has become so busy, and our priorities so distorted, that day-to-day health (our preventative maintenance) has taken a back seat to most anything else, giving way to the ever so popular fully prepared meal in a box, or as I like to call it “soy in a box”.
Is it possible then to avoid soy? Is it possible to avoid eliminating all the meals we love off our daily menu? Is it possible to, well, eat? Yes, it’s called eating healthy and eating smart. I’ve been doing it for over a year now, without having to eliminate one recipe from my favorite recipe book, and I’m healthier and feel better than I have in years. So what’s my secret you ask? This can be answered with three simple words; knowledge, that of which can only be gained from dealing with this obstacle first hand, determination, that inner drive to eat healthy without having sacrifice variety on the menu, and support, for me it’s a spouse that’s equally determined and willing to help. I can’t help you with all of them, especially the last one, but I can give you the knowledge I’ve gained over the past year, which I can assure you will make for a healthier life style and some very tasty meals.