An Ingredient By Any Other Name

(While compiling this information I realized just how poorly I was handling my soy allergy. My Soy-Free existence isn’t so soy-free after all. We never stop learning and we must constantly be researching our allergy to stay on top of the name game.)

An ingredient by any other name couldn’t possibly be soy…right?

When I was first told I had food intolerances, though they didn’t know to what, I had no idea where that string would lead me.

My endocrinologist was the first Doctor to suggest I had food intolerance. While I’ve never been a big eater, I am a foodie so trying new things was kind-of my thing. However, when I wanted to really crack down on my symptoms I knew I had to figure out what I was reacting to.

So I off I went, from reading books to reading labels.

I started by omitting wheat and dairy (as suggested by my doctor) for 10 weeks I avoided gluten and dairy as best I could. Nothing changed, or so I thought, so after the 10 weeks I began to slowly reintegrating wheat and dairy into my diet. As suspected…there was no change.

When checking for food allergies the longer you can go without what you think you are intolerant to the better you will be able to see how the allergen in the food affect you.

While reading labels during that 10 week period there was one thing I noticed. Every thing I picked up to eat contained soy. Some research into the NIH and Mayo Clinic websites suggested that soy was the issue as it is on the rise as far as people being allergic.

So began my long and arduous trek to a Soy-free existence.

One thing to think on, if you think you have food intolerances, is that to truly have a life free of your intolerance you have to know everything about the ingredient. And that if you aren’t careful and keep piling on the ingredient you can’t process correctly it can lead to you becoming allergic to the ingredient. So diligence to avoid your ingredient is crucial to living your best life.

A food by any other name…couldn’t possibly be soy…right?

Wrong!

As I have forged my soy-free existence there is one thing that I have come to understand…nothing is as it seems on food labels. And while you might think you are avoiding soy you are in-fact, not avoiding it at all!

My first clue that I was indeed allergic to soy was when I started dropping weight when I avoided it. And by avoiding it I mean, I basically at fresh vegetables with olive oil and vinegar if I wanted a salad, and if I wanted more than a salad (because I’ll admit salad is my favorite food) I would only eat it if I made it myself. Which is always your best bet, but in this fast paced world – when you aren’t eating enough – it simply isn’t feasible to make everything from scratch.

I started out making sure the word soy was nowhere to be found on my food labels. This basically means I stayed away from:

  • Edamame
  • Miso
  • Soy Sauce and shoyu sauce
  • Soy-based fiber, flour, grits, nuts, or sprouts
  • Soy-based milk, yogurt, ice cream, or cheese
  • Soy protein
  • Tamari
  • Tempeh
  • Textured Vegetable protein
  • Tofu

This is the basic list, as I knew it. [3]. Though now on that list is Natto – something I’ve only recently started avoiding. So long as these weren’t named, and the allergen list didn’t say “Contains: soy” I thought I was OK.

Then there’s the obvious. I can’t eat at Asian restaurants, which really sucks since I love Asian Cuisine! It’s just too difficult to ensure that I don’t get any cross contaminations. Though  believe me when it comes to soy and my reactions – a little is far easier to deal with than a lot.

While figuring this all out I accidently got some soy when eating out and figured, “what the heck, I’ve all ready gotten some soy and I want Chinese food so I’m gonna go all out”.

(It’s hard to stick to the diet, believe me especially when you really like something, so this mindset of “I’m gonna eat it anyway” can, and will, kick-in at any time. However, what I’ve come to realize is the amount does matter.)

So off hubby and I went to a local Chinese cuisine restaurant we loved and I proceeded to eat my weight in my favorite foods: fried rice, low-mein, egg rolls, egg drop soup, sweet and sour pork, and anything else that struck my fancy, and it all received a healthy dose of soy sauce. What’s the point of rebelling if you don’t go all out? Am I right?

It was a big bill, but I left with a contented smile on my face. And that smile lasted for about 18 hours.

Thankfully Hubby was traveling for work and left the next day. He was gone for two weeks and it’s a good thing he was, because once the symptoms started there was no turning back. And when the dog decides he’d rather be on a different floor than you are on…you know it’s bad.

While I lost weight initially, it didn’t stay off and I’ve had to re-evaluate my strategy to remain soy-free.

Other foods found in Asian Cuisine that might contain soy you might not have thought of are [1]:

  • Bean Sprouts
  • Kinako
  • Nimame
  • Okara
  • Yuba

From There I made sure I could pronounce the ingredients. If I couldn’t pronounce it, I didn’t eat it. This helped at first, and made me realize my best option for maintaining this was to eat organic and non-gmo foods only. But even this only got me so far.

Here is a list of soy based ingredients that might not say ‘soy’ [1]:

  • Hydrolyzed soy protein (HSP)
  • Mono- and diglycerides
  • MSG (monosodium glutamate)
  • Soy (albumin, cheese, fiber, grits, mild, nuts, sprouts, yogurt, ice cream, pasta)
  • Soy lecithin
  • Soy protein (concentrate, hydrolyzed, isolate)
  • Soybean oil
  • Teriyaki sauce
  • Textured vegetable protein (TVP)

Then there are the lists of possible Soy Ingredients [1]:

  • Bulking agent
  • Hydrolyzed plant protein (HPP) or hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP)
  • Gum arabic
  • Guar gum
  • Lecithin
  • Mixed Tocopherols
  • Natural flavoring
  • Stabilizer
  • Thickener
  • Vegetable gum, starch, shortening, or oil
  • Vitamin E

Think about those lists for a moment and all the labels you’ve read, seeing those words, and ate anyway thinking they were safe. I know I ate a lot of things that contained those ingredients because they didn’t say “soy”.

Bad on me, I know. But still, the label didn’t say soy anywhere, so it should have been safe. Right?

If you’d like a quick cheat sheet check out [3] and print it out. Though a much more extensive list can be found in [1], though just be ready to have your boat rocked in the realization that what is in your pantry could contain soy.
Compiling this has been an eye opener.  There are so many things I thought were safe, and aren’t. No wonder my reactions have been continuously turning more and more anaphylactic. It started with just gastric upset and has progressed to vomiting and migraines when I consume soy.

Finally I had to do even more research because it was clear, by my continued weight gain and other symptoms, that I was still getting soy somewhere. I realized food manufacturers are very sneaky (in my opinion), and there were other foods to avoid all together if I could because they just might contain soy (this is why an allergy card just isn’t feasible for me).   I’ve even had to drop some of my supplements because they contain hidden soy.

Here are some not so obvious foods that I’ve had to reassess because they might contain soy [1]:

  • Baked goods and baking mixes
  • Bouillon cubes
  • Candy
  • Cereal
  • Chicken (raw or cooked) that is processed with chicken broth
  • Chicken broth
  • Chocolate
  • Deli meat
  • Energy bars, nutrition bars
  • Imitation dairy foods, such as soy milks, vegan cheese, or vegan ice cream
  • Infant formula
  • Margarine
  • Mayonnaise
  • Meat products with fillers, for example, burgers or sausages
  • Nutrition supplements (vitamins)
  • Peanut butter
  • Protein powders
  • Sauces, gravies, and soups (pre-made or sauce packs)
  • Smoothies
  • Vegetable broth
  • Vegetarian meat substitutes: veggie burgers, imitation chicken patties, imitation lunchmeats, imitation bacon bits, etc.

How is that for a list, huh? I mean what is left at this point? That doesn’t include breads, hotdog buns, and hamburger buns.

But wait! It only grows more intensive.

I was sent to the Nation Institutes of Health (NIH) for testing for an environmental allergy and found out that chicken and pork may also cause reactions because they are fed soy. My response was…”Then what the heck am I allowed to eat?” The answer,“Grass-fed beef”. Thanks!

I can also eat wild caught fish, and wild caught sea food.  That’s great, but overall very expensive, so I’m trying to find other ways to eat chicken.

And what do I eat? Organic chicken (so long as there’s no chicken broth used) and pork from a local store that can scale the care given to the animals, while I don’t eat a lot of pork it helps knowing if its local and what it was fed.

All of this to say…  I still have a lot to learn about soy and what I need to avoid.  I do my best to make things from scratch, if you’d like to follow along on that journey follow me on Instagram  I recently made chicken soup with multicolored carrots. It was very interesting…the purple ones turned white while cooking.  I also had my first success at baking a sweet potato.  It was awesome!  Check me out, and follow me for more of my cooking adventures.

[1] A Soy Free Diet Means More Than Just Checking For ‘Soy’. By Jill Castle, MS, RD (2016)

[2] Diseases and Conditions: Soy Allergy. By May Clinic Staff (2014)

[3] Living With A Soy Allergy. Web MD