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Processed foods and Soybeans and Tofu– oh my!

Lately, around the blogworld, many bloggers have been getting into the raw-food movement.  I don’t think anyone would question the fact that raw fruits and veggies are healthy.

However (and I really don’t mean to point fingers; I’m just venting, so please don’t take my opinions personally), some posts seem to have taken on a holier-than-thou tone, making it seem like this is the healthiest way to eat and that people who don’t eat this way are inferior.  I’ve actually been getting a few emails from girls who now feel badly about the way they eat thanks to these posts.  Bloggers, please remember that you have a responsibility as someone putting content up for public view!  Yes, you should be allowed to write what you want (freedom of the press, after all).  But remember that impressionable young girls and boys will be reading, so please try to think before you publish.

It’s sad to see people–who don’t have the credentials to give nutritional advice–telling others they are bad if they eat tofu, soy, or processed foods.  There is nothing wrong with enjoying processed foods now and then, sans guilt.  No, you will not live a shorter life than someone who is so strict with her diet that she’ll never allow herself even the occasional treat.  In fact, you may even be healthier than those who are 100% strict all the time.  Why?  The stress caused by ensuring one eats a “perfect” diet (and the amount of time it takes to plan this) could be more detrimental to one’s health than eating the occasional processed food.  My great grandma’s mantra (which is, coincidentally, the mantra of many other centenarians) was “everything in moderation.”  She enjoyed a cup of espresso every day (Gasp! Caffeine!  Evil!), ate sausage on occasion (not that I’m advocating this from an ethical standpoint), and quite enjoyed her cookies, thank you very much.  Oh, and she was a healthy, active lady into her nineties! (My grandma has a similar attitude, and she’s healthy and happy at 85.)

Many processed foods boast health benefits. For example, tempeh has probiotics and protein, frozen veggies actually contain more vitamins than fresh ones, and don’t forget the health benefits and endorphins one can get from enjoying the taste of a delicious food.

And for convenience sake, sometimes an energy bar or a packaged product is a great choice.  If you choose the right one, you can get a nice dose of necessary vitamins (such as Vitamin B12 for vegans), protein, a serving of whole grains, and fiber.  Plus, life should not be all about food, and having some of these convenience items on hand can give you more time to enjoy other aspects of life.  Amy and her Bistro Burgers have helped me out on many an occasion.

All that being said, I do believe it is important to eat mostly unprocessed foods.  Anyone who’s been reading my blog for a while knows that the bulk of the food I eat is unprocessed fruits, veggies, beans, and grains.  Maybe I don’t eat processed foods every day, but I sure enjoy them when I do indulge.  And I don’t think I’m any less healthy than someone who won’t ever allow herself to eat any of these things.  (Perfect past medical tests, through-the-roof energy levels, and strong hair and nails can attest to this.)

Now, on to the soy issue.  Soy is NOT the devil!  The problem is that manufacturers have started to put soy in almost every processed food, causing some people to get too much of it (in its most-processed form).  Too much of any food will be unhealthy.  Did you know that an excessive amount of broccoli can cause acid poisoning?  Yes, the results of a few studies show soy to be detrimental to one’s health. (If you shove an ungodly amount of any food down a rat’s throat and don’t give the rat any other foods for a varied diet, the rat is going to get sick!)  But the Japanese eat soy every day–mostly in unprocessed forms–and history (not a small study on any scale!) has proven these people to have some of the longest, healthiest life spans of anyone in the world.  What would you rather believe: a few small studies or the history of an entire population?

Finally, as I wrote on my FAQ page, one can eat a “perfect” diet, never allowing oneself any processed or so-called “unhealthy” foods, and then get hit by a bus.  Do you really want to look back on your life and say, “Gosh I wish I’d eaten more of my favorite foods and not been so restrictive with my diet”? Besides, with the volatility of science, who knows what “perfect” is anyway!

So my point with the above essay (Did I really just write an essay when I didn’t have to for school?) is that you completely deserve a life that is FREE from food guilt.

One more time, let me stress: Please don’t take offense to this post if you are a raw-foodist.  I have absolutely nothing against you or your lifestyle.  I simply wrote this to counter the people who say raw foodism is the only very healthy diet.  Live and let live. 🙂   .

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Published on June 9, 2009

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Chocolate Covered Katie is one of the top 25 food websites in America, and Katie has been 
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ABC's 5 O’Clock News. Her favorite food is chocolate, and she believes in eating dessert every single day.

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  1. ellie says

    I haven’t seen any of the blogs you are referring to I don’t think, but I definitely agree with you. But at the same time as bloggers have a responsibility to their readers, readers ALSO have a responsibility to themselves. If something is triggering to them in some way, they need to stop reading the blog. There are NO shortage of food blogs out there and all of them have unique aspects to them- if someone’s lifestyle isn’t in line with your goals, turn a blind eye and do your own thing. I posted a while ago (as did Caitlin at healthyTippingPoint) about where the line is drawn between blogger’s responsibilites and readers responsibilities. I’ve been triggered in the past and often do feel guilty that my diet is unclean or not pure, but now I read more blogs about balance and moderation than ones that paint certain foods as damaging/toxic. I do believe in freedom of speech but that DOES come with a duty of responsibility to 1) state that what you are saying is your own opinion based on your own research and 2) not force your beliefs on other people.

    just my $0.02 🙂

  2. mihl says

    There are definitely worse processed foods than tofu! I sometimes really wonder why the pour little tofu gets all that bad reputation. Well, it can still come to my house and to yours, right? Greetings from a fellow tofu lover.

  3. melomeals: Vegan for 3.33 a day says

    I totally agree. I am pretty sick and tired of tofu being deemed damaging. Come on people.. get real.

    Orthorexia seems rapant in the raw food movement. I love raw food, but will NEVER be a part of this crazy restrictive fear based way of eating.

  4. Brittany says

    Word, Katie, word, word, word. I completley agree. I have to admit I have doubted my own nutrition in the past after hearing someone bash soy/processed foods.

    Also, YES chocolate chip Z bars.

  5. Natalie says

    Thank you so much for writing this Katie!!!

    I agree completely with everything you said, honestly reading this post and the comments has put my mind at ease over trying to have a “perfect diet”.

    Once again you have proven your awesomeness. 🙂

  6. Heather Eats Almond Butter says

    Great post Katie. There is no perfect diet for anyone – you’re so right. People simply need to figure out what works best for themselves. Just because someone doesn’t eat this or that doesn’t mean we should all stop eating it. Do you think there will ever be an anti cooked grain movement? If so, that one will never be featured on HEAB. 🙂

  7. Hangry Pants says

    I think a good rant is needed every once in awhile! I will say that when I did my own raw foods experiment a few months ago, I was a little surprised by how, I guess the positive way to say it, passionate many raw foodsists are about their way of eating. In other words, I kinda did feel like I was killing myself by eating anything else. I don’t think Gena is that way at all, by the way.

    I don’t understand how it’s ok to judge someone for not eating the way you do? It’s no one’s business. It’s the same as the person who doesn’t want to be judged by her co-workers as eating healthy when she brings her own lunch to work. Anyway, I think we should all be able to express our opinions without getting judged! I doubt there are any absolute truths in food science!!!!!

  8. Christine says

    I think this is one of the best posts you’ve ever written! I completely agree with you. Obsessing over every little thing you put in your body, to the point where it is stressful and makes you feel guilty, is so harmful to your mental health. It’s unfortunate that food blogs can contribute to these guilty thoughts..as much as I love them, I think they can also negatively influence our intuitive eating habits. If we see someone eating an all veggie lunch and running 5 miles, I know I for one feel guilty for eating something less “healthy”. But eating a 100% healthy perfect diet won’t bring you happiness by itself – yes it’ll reduce your cholesterol and toxins in your body, but is that really the most important thing in life? We don’t win a prize for eating healthy and it’s not like if knowing I have very few chemicals in my body will make me die happy. I do eat a healthy vegan diet most of the time but there are times when a fried General Tso tofu dish or a Vegan Treats white flour, filled with oil, cinnamon roll really hits the spot. I like reading Gena’s blog, and dabble in raw foods time to time for fun, but I will never have the same diet as her, or others, because it doesn’t make me happy. Thanks for bringing up this thought provoking topic Katie!

  9. Melinda Pollard says

    I totally agree Katie! I always say moderation in everything- no certain food or drink is “evil”- if someone wants a slice of cake- let them eat cake!

    I’ve been a raw foodist on and off for a few years, but lately I’ve been eating foods like organic yogurt, veggie burgers, grains, raw cheeses and raw milk- I remember being on the raw sites and some people (not all) there do tend have a holier than thou stance- I don’t think that there is any perfect diet- everything God made is good! I just try to eat as natural and unprocessed as I can:D
    Great post btw!

  10. ruby red vegan says

    Hey, girlie! Rock on – every single word of this post needed to be written. Thankfully, this is an exciting essay! Many essays I am forced to write (or read) are borrrring, but this is not one of those, so I will not call you a dork for writing an essay during the summer. 🙂

  11. Mark says

    Good post. I think balance is the key to any diet. Being so dogmatic about food is definitely not a good thing. Granted I believe that everyone needs some raw foods in their diet. You just have to listen to your body and what it needs. For me personally I need about a 50/50 balance of raw and cooked to feel my best. Also about the Japanese and soy…. Most of the soy they consume is in FERMENTED form i.e. tempeh, shoyu, miso etc. Not exactly like the soy burgers, soy cheese, and everything else made from soy protein isolate.

  12. processed-food says

    There are so many ways to eat that there is NO PERFECT DIET FOR EVERYONE , vegitable food as more good for health

  13. Adam says

    I am really sorry i missed this post. Couldn’t agree more. “Processing” can take on so many different faces, and foods like tempeh, amy’s, and other locally produced products that undergo very little to no changes what so ever should not be feared as much as some of the tainted, highly-processed foods out there!

  14. Lisa Rasa Devi says

    Katie,

    I just discovered your blog today and I LOVE LOVE LOVE it! You are so young and so smart! I agree with everything you’ve said about processed foods. BALANCE is the key. You have inspired me to finish a piece I started writing about raw vegan extremism that was inspired by a luntic that I met in a Whole Foods store. I’d been doing research on adding more raw vegan items to my diet (besides salads). I was being bashed left and right for not either going cold turkey with it or planning to eventually adopt a strict raw vegan lifestyle–and that is what it ends up being–a lifestyle. Thank you and keep up the great work.

  15. Jen says

    I just found this post and I really wanted to comment. I would say that I started the raw food vegan lifestyle. I was headed down the wrong road and the more I was around others the more I felt I had to live this way and strictly. Unfortunately, even raw foodist say they don’t look down on others and they are flexible, I really don’t think they feel that way. At least that is my experience. I would say it took over my life and I felt so guilty and afraid of anything that was not raw food to even the temperature had to be below 115 degrees. I became obsessed. I finally said this enough, I felt isolated from society and being able to enjoy time out with others. I began to do more research on others lifestyle diets that people follow and what really is healthy and who lives longer. What I found was it really is the “flexitarian” type people who are mentally and physically healthy. You have to be careful of the deficiencies that raw food diets can cause in the long term. Even vegan diets, you have to make sure you get nutrients that are not in animal products.

    I guess my point is that I totally agree with you that leading a dogma type of lifestyle and diet is very harmful on the mind and body. Too many times we only look at the physical effects of the way we eat. It is not healthy to be black and white or extreme in area of life.
    I feel I have to spread this message, because I have been there with exercise and food and it kills me to see people feeling guilty and bad about themselves for ideas that are created by our society. People for centuries did not eat the perfect meals and lived and were probably happier because they focused on other areas of life instead of feeling guilt and stress about what they ate.

    I am now fighting back against these messages and I still choose to eat mostly vegetarian/vegan, fresh vegetables, fruit, grains, legumes, and unprocessed foods. However, life is hectic and I can’t spend it in the kitchen making things from scratch, so I will eat processed foods. I also will not feel guilty about eating something that has a trace of something that is not vegetarian/vegan and I try to eat some sort of dessert everyday. If I have dairy or meat once in awhile, I will survive. Life is short and have and many others are wasting it obsessed about controlling their lives through diet and exercise. Once we accept ourselves,lives, and our bodies for what it was intended, you won’t have to obsess and worry and that is freedom!
    I think we also have to remember that many diets are compared to the SAD, and new diet where you eat more whole foods is going to be healthier. So that is my rant.. Just needed to get it out.

    • Chocolate-Covered Katie says

      Wow, Jen, I agree 110% with everything you wrote! Stress is the unhealthiest thing of all… except for the media, which is the devil!
      We need to listen to our bodies, and if they say “I want a treat,” we should indulge in exactly what they are asking us for!

  16. liz says

    Yes the media is horrible but I believe its the power behind it that is the true devil! Soy in Asian countries is usually consumed like you said in an unprocessed and actually its usually fermented. Which in turn helps build intestinal flora. They also only have about 2 teaspoons a day… Unlike the SAD diet and unfortunately most vegan/vegetarian diets. I can avidly say this since I reside in Austin Tx with an extremely large vegetarian population where dozens of restaurants serve imitation meat in every other dish! The problem with soy is in the processing… And of course the round up ready soy beans that are 85% of the soy grown in this country. Thanks to Monsanto! The study I believe your referring to is the mice fed only soy and their testicles literally fell off… I do agree that anything in excess is detrimental but comparing us to a country that only eats two tsp of fermented soy is just not the same. Also the alarming increase in reproductive cancers are in my opinion questionable links to over consumption of soy products. Soy isn’t the enemy but Monsanto definitely is!

  17. Marybeth Salem says

    Katie! You are the most amazing blogger I have ever had the privilege to encounter!! You are so wise, down to earth, and interesting! I stumbled on your blog because a lot of vegan blogs I follow on tumblr reblog your wonderful dessert recipes! I think I have seen almost every single dessert recipe you have posted on tumblr lol. Yet, I never took the time to read further into your blog until today! I’ve read so much so far and still have numerous tabs open on firefox that I plan on reading! I am now addicted to your blog and generally for everything you promote and stand for which from what I get is that you promote veganism to a degree but most importantly HEALTH! I love that you are a fellow vegan but promotes more about being healthy than preaching about how the vegan diet is the best diet.I also love that you are promoting such a positive view on eating healthy and just eating in general (other health blogs I follow tend to make me feel guilty if i eat dessert one day even though I eat dessert in moderation). I also just love that you have a link for everything you answer (which explains the numerous unread tabs on my firefox -_-). Thank you for creating this blog and thank you for existing (actually personally thank your parents for me lol)! I love desserts and discovered I love them even more when they’re actually not bad for me! Your recipes are wonderful and so helpful! After becoming vegan, I always wanted to experiment in baking since I have such a sweet tooth but even when I stumbled on simple dessert recipes like the ones you provide, I somehow discourage myself from trying to make it myself! However, from all the things I read on your blog today, you have inspired me to finally try baking/making vegan desserts for myself :] Thank you so much! I hope you continue this blog forever!

    • Chocolate-Covered Katie says

      Aww wow, thank you SO SO MUCH, Marybeth!
      When I first became a vegan, I think I was probably way too preachy… it definitely turned people off. I find that so many more people are interested in veganism when you present it in a POSITIVE light. After all, who can resist a good dose of vegan chocolate, right? 😉

  18. Anonymous says

    While I think this was a great post, and I totally agree with looking to traditional culture for nutritional guidance, I just wanted to say that the Japanese actually don’t eat very much soy, certainly not nearly as much as vegetarians/vegans in North America. They use soy as more of a condiment, and pretty much only eat it in its fermented form. Fermenting soybeans gets rid of most of the phytic acid, and fermented, organic soy foods (like natto) can be really healthy. Most soy is just overly processed and is made from genetically modified soy, which is not only dangerous for one’s health, but also for the environment and the health of others.

  19. Lulu says

    Hi Katie,

    This post is amazing!! Yes, I admit that I am flirting with the ideas of several radical diets, NOT because I think they will truly benefit my body, but because the people online that advocate these diets make me feel guilty and unhealthy for not following their ways. Your post really set aside a lot of my doubts. Thank you so much! And Keep up the your awesome work too!

  20. Anonymous says

    Just to play devil’s advocate a little here…I think that the problem with processed foods is that they become addictive and your body craves the extra sodium and sugar going into them. I am not speaking about “bars” in this instance, I believe that there are some really great brans that are 100% whole foods, and organic just in a really convenient bar. But the majority of processed “foods” are just food-like products. I don’t think it can be considered restrictive when someone’s diet is 100% planet-based and all natural because they really aren’t restricting anything. You can literally “indulge” in fruits, medjool dates, cashew cream…you name it. It isn’t restrictive because you lose the cravings for highly processed sugars and fats. Just sayin- if at the end of my life I think back and say “I wish I had eaten more processed cookies” I will be shocked. The homemade all natural raw cookies on the market are to die for- and I wouldn’t choose a processed alternative any day.

  21. Trajayjay says

    We’re learning about nutrition in my culinary class, and the teacher likes to go on about how coconut oil is “horrible for you” becuase it is a saturated fat. She says it like we should run away screaming. When she says that I want to jump up on the table and say why it is actually a good fat, but the reason behind why coconut oil isn’t death in a jar is complicated and has to do with the chemical structure of the fatty acids in coconut oil. The kids in my class aren’t very bright in my opinion and I really don’t want to sound pretentious.

    I think her aversion to coconut oil is caused by the fact that coconut oil is used in many processed cookies and snacks and crackers. I like how you said “The problem is that manufacturers have started to put soy in almost every processed food, causing some people to get too much of it (in its most processed form). ” Because my culinary class made me think of that. Coconut oil in those snacks is usually hydrogenated crap, extracted from coconuts by using toxic solvents, and highly processed. That causes people to get coconut oil in a processed form, which is “horrible for you”.

    That being said, I’m a big proponent of coconut oil’s unique properties. A saturated fat that is actually good for you, and even saturated fat as a whole now seems to nutritionists as something you don’t have to avoid like the plague. And I definitely see nothing wrong with virgin coconut oil, except that it is expensive as hell. If coconut were bad, the Pacific Islanders would have died out centuries ago, and they’d have heart disease at rates sixfold of the United States.

  22. Emily says

    I’m age 14 and have been a vegetarian for about a year and a half now.
    As a child, living in England, I also was one and the amount of grief my parents received was astonishing. And even now so, I still receive all comments about how I eat e.t.c. I’ve always had body issues (as I’m sure EVERYONE has/does)
    But I recently found your website and have created as many recipes as possible in the short time of my school and home life. I’ve loved every single one and felt no guilt indulging one and a while on them! Thank you.
    I agree with a lot of what you’ve posted here, some people do not understand healthy meals and what it means to carry out a healthy lifestyle.
    However, I have heard at school nutrition classes and other nutrition experts that soy in forms like tofu may cause problems for growing children and teens.
    I still love tofu (and not to mention tempei) and eat it quite happily. Especially in stir fries, sandwiches and salads.
    Thank you again for you’re great recipes and insight. 🙂

  23. shanainka says

    Uggh, you should come onto yahoo answer’s vegetarian and vegan section. Some of the crap there that is posted is ridiculous. You have your meat eating trolls, and your stuck up vegans. There’s this one raw food poster, who’s like 16, and he types lyk this all the time with no periods or capitalization or anything like that all his sentences are run on and its really hard to read because he cant type at all and he needs his keeboard taken away ahahahaha whatadumb idiot. He’s one of the raw foodists you describe.

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