Green Eats: Handle with care

For people who are lactose-intolerant and for for vegetarians, soy products appear to be the ultimate answer. But studies indicate that consumption should be limited.

Soy illustrative 311 (photo credit: MCT)
Soy illustrative 311
(photo credit: MCT)
Virtually everyone I know thinks soy is healthy – and no wonder.
Throughout the 1990s and up until today, the soy industries’ massive investment in advertising has paid off.
Indeed, according to the Soyfoods Association of North America, the sale of soy products has increased from $300 million in 1992 to nearly $4 billion by 2006. Pretty impressive.
For many people who are lactoseintolerant, soy milk and faux-cheese products seem like a godsend. And for vegetarians, soy products appear to be the ultimate answer to animal foods, and there are many children and adults who consume manufactured microwavable soy-based products daily.
But even if you don’t knowingly consume soy, you’re getting it anyway, as fillers in industrial meat and chicken products, in health bars, candy bars, crackers, protein powders, and an incredible assortment of other edible items. And forget about what nature intended – these days cows, farmed fish and poultry are all have soy in their feed.
Soy contains high concentrations of the isoflavones genistein, daidzein and phyto-estrogens possessing a range of hormonal and non-hormonal activities.
And while they been reported to have beneficial effects in the prevention or treatment of some hormone-dependent diseases. A study published in the prestigious Lancet magazine found that “the daily exposure of infants to isoflavones in soy infant-formulas is 6- to 11-fold higher on a bodyweight basis than the dose that has hormonal effects in adults consuming soy foods, and…may be sufficient to exert biological effects.” (The Lancet, July 5, 1997).
One of the largest, if not the largest proponent of soy is Monsanto, the world leader in genetic modification of seeds, and soy in particular. In America 91% of soy (which makes its way into American cattle and various products as well) is genetically modified to be resistant to Round Up, a toxic herbicide also produced by the same company to kill weeds. In the past, the same company was also the manufacturer of toxic PCBs, and dioxin (Agent Orange), the infamous chemical used in the Vietnam war.
And although touted as the healthiest and most ecological source of protein in early health and eco-cookbooks like Diet for a Small Planet, today we know that the rush to grow soy (80% of the world’s soy is used to feed farm animals), is contributing to deforestation even in the rain forests in Brazil.
I’m not suggesting eliminating soy altogether, but rather limiting consumption and not relying on it as a frequent substitute for protein.
Soy oil never enters my kitchen, and I try to avoid purchase and consumption of American products that list soy in any form as one of its ingredients. And while some manufacturers have told me that they use non-GMO European soy in their products, I still prefer to use basic raw materials (like frozen green soy beans – edamame, tofu or tempeh (the latter a fermented soy product considered healthier than non-fermented ones), rather than soybased manufactured foods.
So what to do about getting protein? It’s far easier and less expensive than buying soy products. By combining any type of (preferably whole) grain and beans, we get complementary protein that contains all eight essential amino acids, and lots of vitamins, minerals and fiber. To make up for the B12, however, you’ll need to have either dairy products or eggs in the same dish.
This comforting easy-to-prepare dish cooks up quickly and is delicious. Black-eyed peas (called lubia in Hebrew) are available in open-air markets and health food stores. A quick soak is all they need before cooking.
✔ 2 cups basmati rice ✔ 2 cups black-eyed peas ✔ 2 bay leaves ✔ 4-6 dried shiitake mush rooms ✔ 1 onion, chopped or thinly sliced ✔ 1-2 cloves garlic ✔ 2 tsp. coconut oil (or olive oil) ✔ 4 large Swiss chard leaves, sliced crosswise ✔ Salt and pepper to taste
Soak the rice for 30 minutes or more in water to cover by 5 cm.
Soak the beans separately in water to cover. Soak the mushrooms in 2 cups of boiling water.
Cook the rice in the soaking water: Bring to a boil in a large pot with a cover. Lower heat and cook for about 10 minutes till water is absorbed. Taste – the rice should be done or just slightly al dente. If still hard, add a little more boiling water. Fluff with a fork, add salt, cover and let stand 15 minutes.
Cook the beans with the bay leaves till tender and drain. If you need additional water, use some of the mushroom soaking water.
Cut tough stems off the soaked mushrooms. Slice mushrooms thinly. In the meantime, heat the oil and stir-fry the onion, garlic, mushrooms and Swiss chard quickly till tender, but the green of the chard is still bright. Add a little of the mushroom soaking water to help the vegetables steam and create a little sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Put a dollop of rice in each of 4 individual bowls and top with some beans. Spoon the chardmushroom mixture over the beans and add a little of the cooking liquid.
Serve warm (with grated Parmesan cheese if desired).