What I Learned From Too Much Tofu

I wrote this over the holidays, but I never got around to posting it then. I still really want to share these thoughts with you though, so I’m posting it now.

The short version of the story: Soy and I don’t get along.

The long version of the story…

If you follow me on Instagram, you may know that I have a slight pumpkin pie obsession. I made at least 10 pies over the holidays, and devoured them all myself. Instead of waiting for bananas to ripen for my banana pumpkin pie or cooking up a stove-top pumpkin pudding, I got lazy and turned to the simplicity of silken tofu.

During November and December I ate way, way too many tofu pumpkin pies, and finally my body had had enough.

Whispering, telling, SHOUTING! Our bodies try to be subtle–little hints here and there. We don’t always listen. My body whispered to me in the form of little doubts and mental reminders that soy should be a sometimes, not a staple.

When we ignore the gentle nudges, our bodies become more adamant with gentle shoves and shakes. My face had a few mini breakouts and my tummy wasn’t feeling too spectacular.

If we continue on in our unperceptive ways, our bodies resort to shouting at our seemingly deaf ears. After two days of feeling like a bloated balloon, I had had enough of this shouting match and was ready to listen to what it had to say.

My body reacted to soy with terrible bloating and very poor digestive flow. Soy sensitivity can cause a number of symptoms including gas, cramping, bloating, abdominal pain, or diarrhea (a.k.a. nothing pretty). My discomfort came on slowly. For a week or so I didn’t notice a thing. But eventually all that tofu caught up with me. Here’s a helpful article about soy sensitivity if you’re curious.

The good news is that it may have taken a couple of weeks to trigger my soy-related symptoms, but after just two days of soylessness I already felt SO much better! You can be sure I’ll be staying away from the tofu for a while (or forever).

I know many others who have adopted a soy-free diet and feel much better after leaving behind those little beans. For some reason I just never thought I was one of those people. My body had other ideas though, and I need to respect it and be perceptive to it.

Don’t fear the fermented beans! I didn’t write this with the intention of making you afraid of ever eating tofu again. Many people can eat soy without angering their digestive systems, and even I could probably eat it from time to time without feeling too bad. Moderation is probably a good idea when it comes to soy products, and it’s definitely something that I was forgetting in my pie-gobbling fury.

Is it restriction? I’ve heard people say that cutting out foods like gluten and soy when you don’t have a true allergy is just another form of food restriction. I understand that perspective, but on the other hand, when I feel bloated then I don’t really want to eat anything. Cutting out soy seems to be optimal for my digestion and overall physical well-being. I’d rather avoid one food and be able to eat all the others with more enjoyment than feel bloated and uncomfortable constantly. In the end I think this choice is enabling me, not restricting me.

I also don’t think that soy is in any way necessary for a healthy diet when there are so many other plant-based protein sources out there.

The true moral of this soy-filled story is to be aware of what your body is saying before it has to shout at you.

Since this was in December, I’ve now been soy-free for over a month and still feeling good. I’ve also been exploring the gluten-free thing, and that seems to make me feel better as well. So in the pursuit of optimal digestion, my diet and recipes will be shifting in the gluten-free and soy-free direction.

And my friend Rebecca (a gluten-free pro) over at StrengthandSunshine.com recently posted an awesome guide to gluten-free flours with a DIY oat flour how-to, so if you happen to be a gluten-free newb like me, or just GF-curious, then you should definitely check it out. Plus all her recipes are gluten and soy free!


I’d love to hear your thoughts on food sensitivities. Have you ever ignored your body’s clues because you really wanted that slice of bread, or that scoop of ice cream, or that piece of pie?

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8 thoughts on “What I Learned From Too Much Tofu

  1. Why didn’t you tell me this!? Well you know I’m a Celiac and have a severe soy allergy. When I have soy in large amounts like tofu dishes I used to make, my throat closes up, when I have it in smaller amounts (in processed things), my stomach freaks out. I think I was actually "sadder" finding out about this allergy than having to go gluten-free, hahahaha! Soy is such an odd food too. I totally support eating fresh edamame and fermented soy. But other processed and modified forms I don’t think are very beneficial in the first place. I was still a "real" soy newbie when I discovered my allergy anyway and never even got to try tempeh! And soy is in everything! Even packaged tea bags. It’s a tricky one, but I’m so glad you’re feeling better! I’m always here for you my friend! XOXO(P.S. thank you for sharing my post!!!!!) ❤

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    1. I’ve just been experimenting with it all for a while so I could be sure it was the culprit before writing about it. I definitely don’t have that severe of a reaction, for me it just builds up slowly. I would probably be fine with small amounts because I used to eat it occasionally, but why? I’ve found that soy lecithin and those sorts of things don’t really effect me much. Now I’m agreeing with what you said many posts ago about soy free marshmallows, and I really want someone to invent those because that’s what i miss the most 🙂 haha It just got me thinking that if soy-free can make me feel a lot better then what else is possibly affecting my body negatively? That’s why I’m giving the GF thing a go too. Neither have been too, too hard. I’m coming around to your way of baking/cooking 🙂 Much love to you ❤

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  2. Hi Natalie,I’m so excited to hear that your recipes will be heading in a GF and Soy-free direction! I absolutely love your current recipes, and I am so happy that I found your site – I identify with you on many levels. I’m already vegan and started eliminating most soy products (except for very occasional tempeh and sprouted tofu) when I learned about all the hormone and other effects of GMO, non-organic, non-sprouted/fermented soy. Then, over the holidays, I made my first machine bread recipe which had vital wheat gluten and whole wheat flour in it. For the next few days, I struggled with major headaches/migraines – something that I have been battling on a sliding scale of daily/weekly/bi-weekly for about a decade. Because I hadn’t had bread (accidentally – forgot to buy it!) in about a month until this machine bread, I made a connection and decided to research it. Apparently, many people that do not fall under the Celiac’s diagnosis and are turned away by doctors, still have wheat/gluten sensitivities that show themselves as "unrelated" symptoms like headaches, foggy mind, joint pain, extremity numbness, etc. (http://www.celiaccentral.org/non-celiac-gluten-sensitivity/introduction-and-definitions/). That was all I needed to see in order to cut wheat and gluten out of my diet, especially with all of the fabulous GF flour alternatives, which are way more nutrient dense! I have only had one headache since the "gluten-induced meltdown of 2015," and to me, that is proof positive of the above information!Also, I can’t remember exactly where I read it, but it is possible that the genetics of modern wheat and gluten, whether from splicing genes or just cross-breeding naturally, have changed too fast for the current state of human digestion – which is why there are so many more occurrences of these allergies/sensitivities, especially in the highly processed Western world.

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    1. I’m so glad you like the recipes, and that you can relate to the nonofficial intolerance thing! My reactions to various foods like soy and wheat always seem to be digestive related, but the headaches and migraines sound terrible too. It’s awesome that you made the connection so quickly, it took me a while to realize what was causing my issues. I love tuning into my body and making these connections. There are SO many alternatives out there for wheat, and I am thoroughly enjoying experimenting with GF flours and such. It’s not so hard really, and neither soy nor wheat are at all necessary to be healthy. I haven’t tried any hard-core bread making yet, but the GF muffins and pancakes and cookies I’ve made have all turned out just as good as their glutinous counterparts. I’m definitely not missing wheat one bit!I haven’t researched gluten intolerance as much as the soy, but I never knew there could be so many different symptoms. I think I’ve heard the thing about modern wheat genetics too somewhere sometime, but I don’t remember where either 🙂 hahaThank you so much for sharing, and I’m glad you’re with me on this gluten-free journey! Much love to you ❤

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  3. That’s interesting, I know many people avoid soy but I never experienced any side effects. I have a maximum of 1 serving of soy a day though. To be honest, my body deals with soy much better than any other legume 😀 so being vegan, I wouldn’t have too many protein alternatives if I left it out. But I’m glad I learned more about soy sensitivity so I can take it into account if anyone in my family experiences those symptoms! Thanks for a great article!Lucie

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    1. It’s great that you’ve experimented enough to know which protein sources work best for you. I was probably consuming a little more than one serving per day, but after a while even that was too much. Having had an eating disorder and restricted my body for many years my digestive system isn’t the strongest either. It seems like food and diet is often a matter of trial and error 🙂 Thanks for reading ❤

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  4. Great article on learning to listening to one’s body 🙂 I don’t think I have any problems with soy, but I’ve been reducing my soy intake anyways. Moderation is key, so I started to drink only nut-based milks (I love almond milk). I don’t like soy milk as much as nut milks anyways, so that’s an easy one. I eat tofu only once every week oder every few weeks and sometimes tempeh. This is working for me now pretty well. According to a breath test, I do have a very mild fructose intolerance, so I’m trying to reduce my fructose intake, but this ones really difficult because I don’t want to give up on ANY vegetables or fruits 🙂

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    1. Thanks Bianca! I agree, it’s all about moderation and not eating too much of any one thing. It’s just fascinating how different each of our bodies are. I love almond milk too, it’s my go to. If I was a good vegan cook I would make my own…but I don’t 🙂 hahaOh wow avoiding fructose would be SO hard for me! I love my fruits so much! But I have found that my body isn’t really a fan of a fruit-based diet anyway, so I’m trying to reduce my fruit intake a bit as well and focus more on grains and cooked starches. It always sounds much harder to reduce or eliminate foods from your diet than it actually ends up being 😀

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