Sunday, August 26, 2012

I Am Jack's Human Science Fair Experiment: Or How I Learned That I May Not Be Allergic to ALL Soy Products

When I was diagnosed with a soy allergy in the early 2000's, I assumed that it was something I randomly developed.  After all, as a kid, I lived on terriyaki chicken from Yanagi Too at the Cherry Hill Mall Food Court.  However, when I was reading John Robbins' Food Revolution and Diet For a New America, he mentioned that in the late nineties, a new variety of soy that was genetically modified came on the market. 

The timing of the "new soy" piqued my curiosity.  Could I only be allergic to certain varieties of soy, just like I can't tolerate walnuts and hazelnuts, but I have no trouble with other tree nuts?  It's not impossible to follow a vegan diet without soy, but being able to eat the occasional soy product would sure be helpful.  So, I made a note to one day test this theory that I'm allergic to the "new soy," but not the "old soy."

Last weekend, I finally decided to bite the proverbial bullet and try some organic, non-GMO tempeh.  To be safe, I cooked it separately from some veggies, even using a separate spoon.  I ate it and had no reaction.  Not even a runny nose.  It didn't taste so hot, probably because I burned it a little due to my inexperience cooking tempeh, but it was improved the following night when I reheated it in a homemade tomato sauce.

Tonight, I had experiment #2 - Gardein Mandarin Orange Crispy Chick'n.  I was excited to experiment with Gardein because I've seen it on a number of restaurants vegan menus and I wanted to see if it might be an options for me if I eat out.  Gardein has both fresh and frozen vegan meet substitutes, and the ingredients actually aren't so scary - soy protein isolate, vital wheat gluten, pea protein, carrot and beetroot fiber, etc.  It's also got 17g of protein and 20% of the DV for iron.  On the sodium side, it's not too bad either - 260 mg without sauce and 325g with sauce.

I prepared the Gardein according to package directions, sauteing the Chick'n in oil on medium high heat.  The package said to use a non-stick pan and I definitely will do that next time, as a lot of the crust stuck to my stainless steel pan, but a little bit of wine and the sauce packet helped remedy that.  Unfortunately, that did mean that the breading came off my Chick'n, so I'll use our non-stick next time.

It wasn't bad at all - it reminded me of the chicken you get with Chinese take-out.  Granted, it's been about four years plus since I've eaten chicken, so my memory might be a little fuzzy.  More importantly, no sneezing, no wheezing and no upset stomach and other unpleasantness, so we can mark Gardein on my safe to eat list! 

Needless to say, I have been a bit like a kid in a candy store over the past few weeks, bookmarking recipes I had normally written off as unattainable (Tofu Scramble!  Tofu Lasagna!  Tempeh Bacon!).  Yeah, it's great that I've found food that doesn't make me sick, but I do know that a lot of the soy-based products, GMO-free or no, are still processed foods.  And, we're still not sure if I'm going to have a bad reaction to other soy products I haven't tried.  However, being able to eat organic/GMO free soy does give me a lot more options, especially when eating out at restaurants.  Also, in my mind, it makes it especially easy for me to really kick dairy products, which make me almost as miserable as the "new soy" do, but I tend to eat when I felt a yen for "comfort foods," like a bagel and cream cheese.  Case in point - I found a GMO-free soy cream cheese by Galaxy Foods that'll be checking out this week.

I am going to allow myself some minimal indulgence for a week or two, but also stick to my diet of whole, plant based foods - whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables. I reminded myself of that tonight by having a small amount of Gardein and a big side salad of spring mix, red and yellow tomatoes and olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  And tomorrow, I'll be having farro and fava beans with some veggies.

I'll try and keep everyone posted on other discoveries!

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