Healthy Vegan Diets Can Include Meat Analogues

Healthy Vegan Diets Can Include Meat Analogues

By |2011-02-17T10:10:43+00:00February 17th, 2011|Tags: , , , |44 Comments
A little hot dog stand in my town advertises on a big bold hand-written sign that they have vegan hotdogs. (They used to sell “veegun” hotdogs; I’m not the one who corrected them, but I’m glad somebody did.) Even though I live in a hippie town where this sort of thing isn’t unusual, it makes me happy. Vegan fare at a hotdog stand gives me hope for the future.
The first “meat analog” was invented by John Harvey Kellogg in 1895 and it definitely wasn’t a hotdog. He ground peanuts into peanut butter as a meat replacement for patients at his Battle Creek, Michigan sanitarium. The product was introduced at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904 and touted as a health food. Peanut butter made it much easier for Dr. Kellogg’s patients to go vegetarian, and meat analogues continue to ease the transition to meat-free eating for many people.
But, ever since someone wheeled out a cart of veggie meats and cheeses on Oprah (I didn’t see the show myself, so my details on this are a little fuzzy), I’ve been hearing about how this is the wrong way to teach people to be vegan because it’s unhealthy.
I agree that a wagon-load of veggie meats doesn’t make for optimal eating, but does that mean that no one should ever have these foods? Granted, some of the ingredients in popular veggie meats didn’t pop right up out of the ground. They are the result of various degrees of processing. So what? Processed foods—like tofu in Japan, olive oil throughout the Mediterranean, and lime-treated corn tortillas in Mexico—have been part of cultural diets for centuries. Contrary to being harmful, they are sometimes associated with improved health and nutrition.
One popular idea is that vegans who eat processed foods and added fats are the ones most likely to be unhealthy. Therefore, the thinking goes, we need to discourage the use of these foods in order to protect the health of vegans and the image of veganism. But this is based more on a philosophical idea of how vegans should eat than on any empirical evidence. Vegans are most likely to get sick when they refuse to supplement with vitamin B12 and vitamin D or they skimp on calcium and iron—not from eating veggie burgers and pouring a drizzle of olive oil over their salad.
If we base our definition of a healthy vegan diet on extremely restrictive principles and demonize the very foods that help people go (and stay) vegan, it’s hard to imagine that veganism will ever be viewed as mainstream. Vegan diets need to be realistic for kids, college students, people who don’t cook, foodies who like upscale restaurants, and people who eat at fast food restaurants.
This isn’t to say that the vegan norm should be a plant-based version of the typically unhealthy western diet. I’m not advocating that at all. While I want vegan diets to be easy, I also want vegans to be healthy. And healthy vegan diets should be based mostly on whole plant foods. But the all or nothing approach that bans processed foods and added fats isn’t necessary for good health.
We should advocate a way of eating that protects the health of vegans as well as the image and accessibility of veganism. That means keeping the focus on the nutrition factors that really matter, and allowing for the range of vegan diet patterns that can support health.     


  1. Ben Sarsgard February 17, 2011 at 10:40 am - Reply

    It's not the processed nature of these foods that's a problem, but rather that most of them don't taste very good, especially compared to the meat or dairy versions.  So many meat and dairy eaters think all vegan food tastes awful, because they tried a vegan meatball sub or pizza once and it was terrible.  Thankfully a number of delicious products have become available in the past few years (Daiya and Field Roast, to name a couple of my favorites), so I think it's time to start encouraging people to try them.  Just make sure you've tasted something first so you don't lead them into an undelicious misconception.

    • Ginny Messina February 17, 2011 at 12:34 pm - Reply

       I agree about trying these products first–especially for those of us who haven't tasted meat in a very long time, it can be kind of dangerous to say "oh it tastes just like chicken." But I usually tell people that these products are fun and convenient and delicious, but no one should expect them to taste like meat. The Field Roast Apple Sage Sausage is a good example. It's wonderful–one of my favorites–but I don't think there is anything in the meat world quite like it.

  2. Melissa February 17, 2011 at 10:51 am - Reply

    Excellent! A wonderful blog post and one I totally agree with.
    Lunch today? A light in sodium Amy's California burger on a whole wheat bun with a HUGE bowl of roasted, oil free cauliflower and a tangelo for "dessert". Some processed, some whole plant foods. All delicious and healthy. 🙂

    • Ginny Messina February 17, 2011 at 12:35 pm - Reply

      It seems like you have the perfect balance of healthy, delicious and convenient 🙂

  3. Abis Mal February 17, 2011 at 12:27 pm - Reply

    "So what? Processed foods—like tofu in Japan, olive oil throughout the Mediterranean, and lime-treated corn tortillas in Mexico—have been part of cultural diets for centuries."  Although I agree that processing food to some degree is part of the very nature of humans, especially after the advent of fire for cooking, there are clear differences in the processing of tofu and tofurky.  Perhaps the synthetically added vitamins in tofurky might increase its nutritional value in some senses, but the added processing might make it less nutritional overall.  I think the real point is we do not know of the long term effect of the modern highly processed but more realistic meat analogues, and hence it might be wise to avoid them. 

  4. Ginny Messina February 17, 2011 at 12:36 pm - Reply

    What's in Tofurky that you think might be unsafe?

    • Robert February 17, 2011 at 5:37 pm - Reply

      Tofu! I'm still not sold on soy. I'm not risking anything that could affect thyroid function or brain atrophy. The only soy I would touch with a 10" pole would be fermented products like tempeh, natto, etc. According to the studies I've seen the negative effects are more pronounced in the 50 and older age group so even if you have consumed soy without any apparent adverse effects in your younger years this is not proof that you will never encounter problems. I'll err on the side of safety. The health of the brain and thyroid isn't something I'm willing to take lightly.

      • ForTheVoiceless February 18, 2011 at 10:51 am - Reply

        I wouldn't put too much stock in that Price foundation anti-soy propaganda, recent legitimate research shows soyfoods consumption to be quite safe & beneficial, and especially beneficial later in life if one has been consuming them since childhood. But either way, if one chooses to not enjoy soyfoods, check out the entire Field Roast selection of goodies, as they are all soy-free and fantastic ! Some of the best veggie meats in existence, derived from good wholesome ingredients.

        • Robert February 18, 2011 at 12:56 pm - Reply

          Weston Price? No, I was talking about actual studies. In any case, its not worth the risk IMO and there are so many other foods to choose from.

          • j February 25, 2011 at 3:27 am

            Robert, can you please give an exact reference to the peer reviewed (I presume) empirical studies you are basing your strict anti-soy stance on? Thanks. I’m asking because I don’t have the impression that mainstream nutritional science supports what you claim.

          • Robert February 26, 2011 at 11:03 am

            1. White LR, Petrovich H, Ross GW, Masaki KH, Association of mid-life consumption of tofu with late life cognitive impairment and dementia: the Honolulu-Asia Aging Study. Fifth International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease, #487, 27 July 1996, Osaka, Japan.
            NOTE: Men who consumed tofu at least twice weekly had more cognitive impairment than those who rarely or never ate the soybean curd
            2. White LR, Petrovitch H, Ross GW, Masaki KH, Hardman J, Nelson J, Davis D, Markesbery W, Brain aging and midlife tofu consumption. J Am Coll Nutr 2000 Apr;19(2):242-55.
            NOTE: Soy’s ability to interfere with enzymes and amino acids may have direct consequence for the brain. As White and his colleagues suggest, "isoflavones in tofu and other soy foods might exert their influence through interference with tyrosine kinase-dependent mechanisms required for optimal hippocampal function, structure and plasticity."
            3. O'Dell TJ, Kandel ER, Grant SG, Long-term potentiation in the hippocampus is blocked by tyrosine kinase inhibitors. Nature 1991 Oct 10 353:6344 558-60.
            NOTE: High amounts of protein tyrosine kinases are found in the hippocampus, a brain region involved with learning and memory. One of soy's primary isoflavones, genistein, has been shown to inhibit tyrosine kinase in the hippocampus, where it blocked "long-term potentiation," a mechanism of memory formation.

            4. Lephart ED, Thompson JM, Setchell KD, Adlercreutz H, Weber KS, Phytoestrogens decrease brain calcium-binding proteins… Brain Res 2000 Mar 17;859(1):123-31.

            NOTE: researchers found that consumption of phytoestrogens via a soy diet for a relatively short interval can significantly elevate phytoestrogens levels in the brain and decrease brain calcium-binding proteins.
            5. Divi RL, Chang HC, Doerge DR, Anti-thyroid isoflavones from soybean: isolation, characterization, and mechanisms of action.Biochem Pharmacol 1997 Nov 15;54(10):1087-96.
            NOTE: Scientists at the National Center for Toxicological Research showed that the soy isoflavones genistein and daidzein "inhibit thyroid peroxidase-catalyzed reactions essential to thyroid hormone synthesis."
            6. Ishizuki Y, Hirooka Y, Murata Y, Togashi K,The effects on the thyroid gland of soybeans administered experimentally in healthy subjects. Nippon Naibunpi Gakkai Zasshi 1991 May 20;67(5):622-29.
            NOTE: Japanese researchers studied effects on the thyroid from soybeans administered to healthy subjects. They reported that consumption of as little as 30 grams (two tablespoons) of soybeans per day for only one month resulted in a significant increase in thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), which is produced by the brain's pituitary gland when thyroid hormones are too low. Their findings suggested that "excessive soybean ingestion for a certain duration might suppress thyroid function and cause goiters in healthy people, especially elderly subjects."

          • Erin March 2, 2011 at 2:49 pm

            Here's where I get confused.
            You've done some good looking research Robert from mostly peer reviewed sources, even though some of the studies are getting a bit old.
            But I can find articles such as this that state basically the opposite, also from a peer reviewed journal:
            Lee, Y. B., Lee, H. J., & Sohn, H. S. (2005). Soy isoflavones and cognitive function. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 16(11), 641-649. doi:10.1016/j.jnutbio.2005.06.010
            From abstract: " Soy isoflavones may mimic the actions and functions of estrogens on brain, and they have been shown to have positive effects on the cognitive function in females; however, studies on their effects on spatial memory have not provided consistent results in males. Although data from humans, cultures, and animal models are currently insufficient for elucidating the metabolism of soy isoflavone actions on cognitive function and the nervous system, we suggest two putative pathways; (1) an estrogen receptor-mediated pathway and (2) via the inhibition of tyrosine kinase, in particular by genistein, which is one of the soy isoflavones."

  5. Scott February 17, 2011 at 1:17 pm - Reply

    Thank you for another grounded post Ginny. I think this new "all processed foods are evil!" self-righteousness is coming from the new "foodie" trend that is absolutely killing me lately. People are jumping the vegan ship like it's the new hipsterism, sometimes basing their arguments on "processed meat alternatives" . Granted, when I went vegan back in '94, we freaked out over Mock Duck and the like, because it was such a rarity and a nod to our dietary choices, but it wasn't a big deal because those options were so limited and didn't comprise our entire diet. I have noticed nowadays that some people do rely HEAVILY on processed meat alternatives and therefore suffer the consequences of ignoring so many other necessary nutrients they won't get in those foods…but like you said, it's not the once in awhile processed foods that are the problem, it's ignoring the other nutrients. We still indulge in processed foods, desserts, etc. etc…..sometimes even a bag of twizzlers!!! But we're also incredibly active and primarily eat a variety of whole foods over anything else. THAT is what ultimately matters.
    If people want meat alternatives to help them transition, then go for it! The main point is to make sure we don't tell them that the ONLY vegan foods available are processed alternatives….but I don't think that will be very hard.

  6. beforewisdom February 17, 2011 at 1:38 pm - Reply

    (They used to sell “veegun” hotdogs; I’m not the one who corrected them, but I’m glad somebody did.)


  7. Eric February 17, 2011 at 1:51 pm - Reply

    I went vegan all at once, and it was the analogues that made it "possible" for me to do this. I used soy crumbles for tacos and pasta. I used soyrizo and tofu scrambles for weekend breakfasts. I used Tofurky slices in sandwiches. This stuff all tasted just fine to me, it made it super-easy to go vegan overnight, and this was 9 years ago.
    Some of today's products are far superior. While Daiya is awesome, and even many non-vegans find themselves liking vegan pizza made with it, I agree that it's not the same as cheese. But it is not an immediate turnoff (the mere idea of a replacement for "real" cheese is a turnoff for these people, regardless of whether the replacement is even better than "real cheese). Some of these processed foods are even better than what was available 9 years ago. Coconut milk ice cream? Soooo much better than soy ice cream, if pricier. Gardein frozen and refrigerated entree items? Wayyy better than Yves and LightLife.
    Now, most of the transitional foods I ate are processed soy, and I agree that we shouldn't be eating a lot of processed soy all the time, but my reliance upon these products didn't harm me in the short term, and allowed me to transition comfortably to a more balanced plant-only diet as I learned more about what that meant. Sure beats the alternative of continuing to eat animals and their secretions until I finally got to that same point.

  8. Mary February 17, 2011 at 4:51 pm - Reply

    Thank you Ginny for this great post!  I think you sum it up perfectly.  I recently posted on Facebook that  I was excited to find out that oreos are vegan, and got a lot of foodie preaching about the evils of processed food.  But it warms my heart to know that, amidst all my healthy eating, I can go home and dunk an oreo in some almond milk if the mood strikes.  To me a vegan lifestyle is a long term plan, and the faux meats definitely have their place, albeit a small place, in that plan.

  9. Alissa February 17, 2011 at 6:15 pm - Reply

    I worry about over-consumption of soy protein isolate… I've heard some scary things about that stuff.

  10. Matt February 18, 2011 at 7:46 am - Reply

    Brilliant post, Ginny. In the end, the question is: Is our goal to celebrate our personal diet / views, or try to get as many people as possible to start making a change from the standard American diet? Let's be honest — if all we will promote and accept are people eating local whole food organic meals, the animals are screwed.
    But it doesn't have to be that way: 

  11. Friday links | A Thinking Reed February 18, 2011 at 9:51 am - Reply

    […] nutritionist Virginia Messina argues that healthy diets can include meat analogues. (A corrective of sorts to anti-processed-food […]

  12. ForTheVoiceless February 18, 2011 at 10:39 am - Reply

    Excellent post ! 95% of the country eats "processed" animals, as all meat is derived from processing, nobody is out there gnawing the raw flesh off of freshly killed warm corpses (and even the killing is a step in the processing), so I would certainly say that processed plants are a big step in the right direction, and should be embraced. They provide familiarity in the transition to the veg way of life, without the violence of the traditional choices. Once the evolution occurs, folks then become more informed about the many other aspects of their food choices, and incorporating more whole foods into the diet usually comes naturally, slowly but surely afterward.

  13. Dustin Rhodes February 18, 2011 at 1:59 pm - Reply

    It's funny: like many vegans, I started out eating a lot of meat analogues. Oddly, I ate a lot of meat analogues that I didn't even eat an an omnivore—namely sausage and hot dogs. Then I got real snooty about my vegan diet, and turned to "whole foods diet"—a phrase I come to despise in all of its cliche glory.
    All these years later, what I've noticed is (and it's certainly been good for me, too!) that the vegans who DO eat the meat substitutes and don't obsess about food seem/appear to be the healthiest to me. Obsessing about food and diet is not healthy. I feel better too not thinking about it so much. Don't get me wrong: I obsessively take b-12, but that's where it begin and ends, and I think I am healthier and happier for it.
    There's way too much health obsession in the vegan community — to the point that it's gotten out of control. You see vegans defending their way of eating (on the internet, especially) as if they have PhD's in nutrition, and have lived 300 years eating that way. Which is to say, it's a load of crap.
    Once again, thanks for writing another fabulous piece to remind us all to lighten up, live a little and enjoy some junkfood.
    Dustin Rhodes

  14. AlisonM February 19, 2011 at 12:09 am - Reply

    Thanks for writing this Ginny! I get all kinds of hassle from people about eating "fake meat" — some of it good natured, some of it less so.. I try to get my protein from unprocessed sources wherever possible, but sometimes products like tofu and vegan sausages are a really useful addition, especially with the amount of training I do.
    I also find that "aping" an omni diet can be useful in the early stages of getting people to accept veganism, as it seems less alien and hence less threatening. I'll take Sheese for pizza parties, or "facon" for brunches and so on. It's not about trying to "fit in", but I do think from a pragmatic perspective, if I (we) want people to be more open to veganism, it can be useful sometimes to align ourselves with the norm. At least until they stop being so freaked out by the idea!
    For both those reasons I include meat analogues in my diet.

  15. Lindsay February 19, 2011 at 10:09 pm - Reply

    AWESOME post. Yes, I was thinking the same thing after the Oprah show. I think processed foods are processed foods and should be kept to a minimum regardless. Now, would I rather have a vegan dog than a hot dog? Of course, but I'm not going to eat vegan dogs several nights a week, ugh. 
    The problem is most people (non-vegetarians or vegans) can not even FATHOM living off of grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts alone.  So I DO believe that to incorporate healthier vegan alternatives into becoming mainstream these vegan processed foods are absolutely necessary. 
    I hardly ever touch them personally but I like to know they are there for emergencies and dinner parties 🙂 

  16. Rebekah February 21, 2011 at 12:49 am - Reply

    Thank you for this post.  I have been noticing a type of dietary polarization happening in the vegan community – on the one hand, you have the no added oils crowd, who advocate only whole plant foods all the time.  And on the other hand you have vegan cookbooks calling for 1/2 cup of earth balance along with a lot of other fat.  It's easy to get confused!
    I prefer to use common sense – it's not going to hurt anyone in my family if I use 1-2 Tbsp of olive oil to sautee the onions and garlic that form the base of our lentil soup.  I've tried those no-fat "sautee" methods and it created a really horrible smell as the onion was cooking, not that delicious smell you get when you sautee in oil.  But 1/2 cup is not necessary or healthful either!
    We buy tofurky deli slices on a regular basis.  It allows me to pack a normal-looking sandwich for my son's lunch box and provides an alternative to peanut butter and jelly.  

  17. Gena February 21, 2011 at 11:48 am - Reply

    As usual, a brilliant post, Ginny.

  18. TheTastyVegan February 24, 2011 at 6:30 pm - Reply

    Excellent post!  I'm glad the majority of the responses have been so balanced too!

    When I turned vegan, I started eating less processed stuff, but that was mainly because I did it after bingeing on vegetarian processed foods for two years and not being particularly healthy.  I had more time on my hands and that meant I could actually enjoy cooking more and thinking about soaking pulses overnight and sprouting seeds and all those things that mean that you have to put a little more effort in, whatever your dietary choices or restrictions. 
    These days I still have 'emergency' processed foods in the fridge/cupboards etc, and have probably eaten more 'meat analogs' (that phrase conjures up images of old TVs made of veggie sausages to me) in recent months.  The reason for this is because, since I moved to Canada from the UK I've had a whole new load of such wonderful things to try! I've discovered that I can't stand the taste of Yves products in general, and that Tofurky is a bizarrely addictive midnight snack, but only intermittently.  I tend to use more processed stuff simply when I'm busy, but it doesn't take long before I feel an urge to just eat a big pile of raw veggies and braised lentils, so I think I'm lucky in that it's self-limiting. 

    When my partner and I were cycling across Canada last summer it was really hard to find good protein sources, which we clearly needed doing 100miles a day! So few places had tins of beans or lentils, and having a single pan to cook in (yes, we were carryign all our luggage and camping!) made it mightily difficult to cook elaborate meals from scratch.  Our saviour on many occasions was the use of tvp chunks or mince that we bought in bulk at every healthfood store we came across (an average of about two per central province!).  These chunks and the occasional yves slice or mushroom burger monstrosity were the only reason we didn't develop kwashiorkor – perhaps I exaggerate slightly.  When we arrived in Vancouver I revelled in cooking stuffed peppers, huge veggie soups and all-day curries, and baking things in the oven… bliss. 
    So, yes, the reliance on processed foods is a bad thing in everyday life as it's probably indicative of poor health overall and little interest in things other than the ethical side of veganism.  Having worked in a UK healthfood store and seen people piling baskets high with processed vegan foods and thinking they were healthier than omnivores simply because of their veganism, I think it's important that these products are not too heavily promoted or relied upon. In moderation, as always, they're fine, and all the fine folk who've already commented reassure me that there are enough sensible vegans around to counteract the faddish Oprah types.
    Sorry for rambling, I'm hopped up on Tofurky…

  19. Paul March 2, 2011 at 8:56 am - Reply

    I agree to a point about meat analogues.   McDougall has cited a 40 gram per day limit of isolated soy protein and its effects stimulating IGF 1.   IGF 1's link to cancer and aging is enough for me to limit (not eliminate) soy meat analogues.   I use a little TVP now and then, that's about it.

    • Ginny Messina March 2, 2011 at 10:01 am - Reply

      Forty grams per day of isolated soy protein would be around 3 servings of meat analogues that contain this type of soy protein. Most meat analogs don’t contain isolated soy protein so someone would have to be trying really hard to eat this much!

      • Paul March 3, 2011 at 8:50 am - Reply

        I agree Ginny.   The dose is the poison. McDougall starts discussing the study around 6:30 and his estimate is about the same as yours,  3 to 4 servings.   I guess since it's only a single study, and a small one at that, I will continue to eat one soy burger or soy dog once in a while guilt free.   There's also seitan products and good old portabellas!! 

  20. Ronald March 8, 2011 at 12:51 am - Reply

    Around the world, the health of many populations has suffered when they forsook their natural, traditional diets for processed foods. (Look at Nauru, the diabetes capital of the world.) And the analogs are all quite high in sodium, which causes urinary calcium loss. I have no objections to moderate consumption of natto, tempeh, and tofu, but  isolated soy protein doesn't have enough history behind it for us to know the long-term effects over, say, a lifetime. I doubt they would be positive. Tofu, olive oil, and lime-treated corn are minimally processed compared to the food technologists' wonders (although olive oil is nutritionally like white flour). You could make your own tofu and masa, and press your own olives, but you couldn't make soy protein isolate in your kitchen, could you? That's a pretty good test to determine that it's too processed.
    I think it's backwards to say that we should eat fake foods because we haven't proven that they're harmful. We should eat whole, natural foods until fake foods are proven to be beneficial. The greatest danger, however, is one of quantity. These foods are tasty and convenient. They do help people make the transition, but some folks get stuck eating analogs too often–but then we get to the question of how often is too often.

  21. Ginny Messina March 8, 2011 at 8:28 am - Reply

    I agree that the sodium content of most meat analogues is high and that's a reason to limit them in your diet. For people who eat a pretty low sodium diet overall, though, even a daily serving of these foods would probably be okay. And why do you assume that only foods we can make in our own kitchens are healthy? That's a popular opinion, I know, but it's more rhetoric than science.

    Regardless, not all meat analogues contain soy protein isolate. In fact, if Field Roast would be willing to give you their recipe, I think you could make their products very easily in your kitchen.

  22. Ronald March 8, 2011 at 2:08 pm - Reply

    Ginny, thank your for responding.
    Yes, you can make seitan at home, and I've done it (but have since learned that I'm gluten sensitive). The gluten-based products without the over-refined soy would be pretty good foods if the sodium content weren't through the roof, and vegans didn't already use too much salt, which most do–although whole wheat berries would be better nutritionally.
    The saltiness of these products physiologically reinforces salt tolerance. Go about a month eating no salt, and then taste a processed food, and you'll see that you've made a neuro-adaptaton that allows you to be satisfied with the natural sodium present in unsalted foods. Processed foods feed the salt addiction, putting vegans at risk of hemorrhagic stroke. Do we want to eat an amount of salt that probably won't hurt us, or eat close to the optimal amount, which is none? Vegetables have plenty of sodium, and a chloride deficiency is almost impossible to develop. The Yanomami were studied because they ate no salt. They had low blood pressure, and it didn't rise as they aged.
    The reason I assume that only what we can make in our kitchens is healthy is that if you look at the track record of processed foods, it's dismal. I can't think of one case where industrial processing to create a convenience food (as opposed to public health measures like iodizing salt) has been beneficial. You lose nutrients. You add heated oils, acrylamide, salt, BPA in can linings, etc., plus there are the environmental costs of processing, packaging, refrigerating, and transporting them. Where on the planet is a population that thrives on a high percentage of processed foods? Nowhere. How much processed food can you eat and still be healthy? I don't know. But it is the right question. The idea that highly processed foods improve health would be an extraordinary claim requiring extraordinary evidence. If meat and cheese analogs improve health, please show me the studies. Until we have the evidence, the onus is on processed food companies and their apologists to demonstrate healthfulness. If vegans live successfully while including processed foods in their diets, is it because of them, or in spite of them? Surely the latter.
    The only advantage I can think of nutritionally is fiber reduction, which would make some nutrients more bioavailable. But so will a Vita-Mix. You could also peel your fruits and veggies, and soak/sprout/ferment grains. (I do concede that enrichment or fortification will no doubt benefit some people who don't take supplements they probably need, like B12 and vitamin D. I'd rather take the supplements I need and eat whole, natural foods.)
    Optimal nutrition and maximum convenience just don't go together, as far as I can tell. We need to ask ourselves how much we're willing to sacrifice the former for the latter.

    • Ginny Messina March 8, 2011 at 3:53 pm - Reply

      I agree that <i>maximum</i> convenience won't support optimal nutrition, but some convenience is likely to be beneficial if it allows/encourages more people to eat plant-based diets. At the very least, it isn't going to be harmful within the context of a mostly whole foods plant diet. We should eat mostly whole plant foods but if we become too rigid about it, a vegan diet isn't a very realistic option for most people.

  23. Julie March 12, 2011 at 5:11 am - Reply

    I have many recipies I want to try, but I don't know where I can find the meat analogue products.  And I can't add my tofurkey to everything and tofu is hard to texture right for some recipies.  Does anyone out there know where I can purchase this item either online or what stores may carry them?  I live in the Dayton Ohio area.

    • Ginny Messina March 15, 2011 at 5:37 pm - Reply

      Julie, I don't know what's available in your area, but many of these products are available online. Check for some choices.

      • Julie March 18, 2011 at 5:29 pm - Reply

        Thank you so much!  This is exactly what I needed.  My local store sells about 5 of these items and no matter how I try to use them for some recipies, they never work out.  These are the products i need.  Thanks again!!!

  24. patazdweller April 7, 2011 at 1:44 pm - Reply

    I became Vegan several months ago and the only thing I really missed from non Vegan days was BLTs. While shopping, I came across veggie bacon. It looked kinda funny but I thought "what the heck" and decided to try it. Granted, it was not the same as regular bacon, but it was close enough for me and I truly enjoyed the sandwich. I'm a happy camper.

  25. Amy May 4, 2011 at 4:48 pm - Reply

    Thanks Ginny!
    I appreciate your commentary. I do try to keep processed foods to a minimum but I may have a meat analog once a week, as well as tofu a couple times a week. I don't see a whole lot of harm in it but I agree it may not be wise to base the majority of your diet on convenience foods. I worry more about the sodium content of some of these foods which can be really high.

  26. VegeMarian May 8, 2011 at 2:39 pm - Reply

    Thank you, Ginny, for offering so much science-based information and dietary guidance! You are a great asset to the vegan community.
    Regarding IGF-1, are there studies that suggest at what level soy protein isolate starts to be dangerous? I read the 40g maximum McDougall purportedly set, but I don't know the basis for it.
    Also, regarding consumption of soy and cognitive function, I heard that a study of Indonesians which linked tofu consumption to cognitive decline, also showed no such link between tempeh consumption and cognitive function. Use of formaldehyde (!) in tofu is suspected of being the reason for tofu's harmfulness. But, I see Robert (above, on Feb 26) cited 2 studies (his #2 and #3) that link soy with sub-optimal hippocampal function. Are you familiar with those studies? I would love to hear your comments about them. Perhaps there are simply many more studies showing positive effects of soy consumption in humans, and you are favoring the predominance of evidence ….?

    • Ginny Messina May 12, 2011 at 2:13 pm - Reply

      VegeMarian, this comments escaped my notice; sorry to take so long in responding.

      At least one study showed that 15 grams of soy protein isolate didn't raise IGF-1. And studies that did link SPI intake to higher levels of IGF-1 weren't associated with markers of cancer risk, so it's not really clear what the effects are. But I would say that you could safely consume 15 grams of SPI per day. And keep in mind that a lot of meat analogues that are made with soy are not made with the protein isolate.

      As for the Indonesian study, the follow up analysis didn't find any relationship between tofu consumption and cognitive decline so that study doesn't support a harmful effect. As for the studies showing an effect on hippocampal function, the first one that Robert mention didn't actually show that effect; the researchers were just speculating about it. And the second one is an old study in animals–so not especially useful for looking at what the effects might be in humans.

      • Robert May 13, 2011 at 1:35 pm - Reply

        If you spend enough time searching the Internet for studies, you'll find plenty of studies pro and con on the use of soy. We can do this ad nauseam. I do believe there's enough evidence to raise concerns though. Also, how much of this pro soy research is funded by the soy industry and those with a financial interest in it? Would you accept conclusions from research funded by the dairy industry? Let's not kid ourselves. We all tend to seek out information that agrees with our biases. ;o)

  27. […] First of all, congratulations Melisa! And secondly, thanks for bringing up such a great point. The truth is, when I first when vegan I *also* ate a lot of the pre-made products. They’re fun and new and exciting, and they can also provide that familiar feeling you might be needing to stay on the ol’ veg wagon. One of my favorite blogs, The Vegan RD, has an interesting article relating to this: Healthy Vegan Diets Can Include Meat Analogues […]

  28. […] of vegan options. And they ranked the diet as “really restrictive,” which may be true for some vegan diets, but certainly not for all. They also suggested that being vegan can be a lot of work, and that […]

  29. Katherine September 20, 2014 at 12:47 pm - Reply

    Some preachy vegan got all up in my Kool-Aid last week because I committed the *gasp!* unpardonable sin of commenting on someone’s Daiya dish prepared on YouTube that it looked delish. This idiot preached at me how stupid I am for eating something processed and evil like Daiya. Then he CUSSED ME OUT, eff words and all, because I told him what I eat was none of his business, to mind his own. He went on and on, calling me a fat little b***h, and how he’s a vegan, and how I’m a moron who’s poisoning herself, etc. I’m a vegan too, who eats a LOT of veggies, greens, seeds, nuts, fruit, sprouts, legumes… you know, a variety. Crazy people like that guy who believe the internet exists for them to declare war on total strangers boggle my mind — whyyyyyyy so warlike and angry, guy? Pbthhhhhhh. I shake my head. I eat a little Daiya in moderation, but this guy acted like I was eating his kids for lunch.

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