With so much clashing information about the foods we put in our body, it’s hard to know what to believe. As a vegetarian, I face a lot of questions about plant-based protein, such as soy, and whether or not these processed replacements are adequate for my health. Today I’m compiling a list of the top six foods I hear controversial information about, and how I personally feel about putting these foods in my body. This story is going to be a combination of facts and opinions, so I encourage you to do your own research to form your own thoughts about these foods!
The pros: Like I said, eating soy-based products is a huge part of my ovo-vegetarian diet. So many of the food staples in my fridge are soy-based, including vegan burgers, hot dogs, deli meat, cheese, yogurt and of course, tofu. Vegan meat replacements are a great way to get in your daily dose of protein, and because soy has a very mild flavor, it can be easily manipulated to take on the flavor of something new. Soy replacements are also easily accessible at supermarkets, and many restaurants are starting to offer plant-based entrees as well.
The cons: Soy allergies are common, so it sadly isn’t an ideal meal replacement for everybody. Soy also contains isoflavones, which can mimic the effects of estrogen and can thus disrupt your body’s natural hormone balance. For me, the best way to eat soy is to eat it in careful moderation, and ultimately balance the sources from which you receive your complete proteins.
The pros: There is no conclusive research that shows white rice can cause weight gain, so you can stop worrying about that. White rice is also extremely easy to digest, making it ideal for anyone struggling with nausea, heartburn, or vomiting. If you’re dealing with any of these symptoms, white rice can be an excellent food to alleviate those uncomfortable systems. White rice can also be beneficial for pregnant women, due to the extra folate found in enriched white rice! I personally prefer brown rice over white rice, but I don’t think there’s anything detrimental about eating the latter. Again, it’s all about moderation.
The cons: Unfortunately, white rice is stripped of many nutrients and minerals found in brown rice. White rice is much more processed than brown rice, because it is stripped of its protective coating (called the hull). In a nutshell, white rice is just an empty carb, and doesn’t contain nearly as many nutritional benefits as its brown rice (which is a whole grain). That being said, white rice does have a longer shelf life, so it’s really your call. If you’re not too worried about your carb intake, then bring on the white rice.
The pros: As a vegetarian, eggs are my absolute favorite protein source. They’re cheap, easy to prepare, and are generally really nutritious. Although one large egg only contains six grams of protein, it’s still an excellent source to due the presence of all the essential amino acids (Or should I say, egg-sential). Eggs are easily accessible to me on my campus, and it’s usually a safe breakfast option for me. I’m glad I decided to reintroduce eggs into my diet after not eating them for a year, because my energy levels and overall health has definitely improved.
The cons: While eggs are a great source of protein, they’re also very high in cholesterol. High cholesterol can be a leading factor in heart disease, so most nutritionists say limit your egg consumption to one a day. Eggs can also cause food poisoning if not cooked correctly, so make sure you cook them properly to avoid any illness. In general, scrambled eggs are less likely to make you ill than eggs with runny yolks. That’s not to say you can’t enjoy eggs, but make sure they’re properly cooked and safe to put in your body!
The pros: For a while, it seemed like everyone was talking about how amazing coconut oil is. And then… everyone suddenly changed their mind? Coconut oil is often found in vegan snacks and baked goods, which is why so many people love it. I personally consume a lot of products containing coconut oil, because it works as a great filler for butter and lard. It also has a light, non-detectable taste, hence why it’s used in so many products.
The cons: Unfortunately, although it is natural, coconut oil is extremely high in saturated fat. Similarly with high cholesterol, this can lead to heart disease and other serious issues. It’s been argued that consuming coconut oil is actually worse for you than butter, but again, if you’re a vegan, that’s usually your only option. I like to think of coconut oil in the same light as butter- it’s not healthy to eat all the time, but in a baked good or a sweet treat, a little bit is okay. One vegan cupcake will certainly not kill you.
Zero Calorie Sweetener
The pros: Zero-calorie sweeteners were introduced for consumers seeking to limit their sugar and calorie intake. These types of sweeteners, both natural and artificial, can be useful for people with certain allergies who need these types of substitutes in their diet. Zero-calorie sweeteners will also not raise your blood pressure, making them ideal for folks with diabetes.
The cons: I personally do not consume any zero-calorie sweeteners, because I believe the cons outweigh the pros in this case. These sweeteners can cause a variety of problems down the line, including, uh, CANCER. Some sweeteners can also have a laxative effect, and can cause bloating, gas and diarrhea. I’m personally not a big soda person, but I always choose the real deal over the “diet” variety. I’d rather deal with a few extra calories than diarrhea and cancer, personally speaking. If you are looking for an alternative sweetener, try fruit juices/nectar, honey, molasses, or maple sugar.
The pros: Drinking dairy milk during childhood has been linked with preventing childhood obesity, and can help to promote healthy bones and weight management. The high calcium in milk is what makes it so great for bone health, and that’s a leading reason why some people choose it over nut milk. Cow’s milk is also a great source of potassium, which can reduce high blood pressure.
The cons: I am a little bit biased with this viewpoint, because I personally do not consume any dairy (no butter, cheese, ice cream, and certainly no milk). I primarily do this for ethical reasons, but I also abstain from dairy for health reasons. To put it simply, cow’s milk is not designed for human consumption. Excessive amounts of calcium can cause an influx of mucus and kidney stones in your body, which certainly doesn’t sound pleasant. I personally just feel healthier and lighter drinking almond milk instead, and I don’t notice a significant difference in taste, either. In a NUTshell, to each their own!
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