We've been talking about soy a lot this week, from tofu to more tofu to edamame and even soy cheese. For many vegetarians and vegans (and people who grew up in Asian households!), these are dietary staples.
So why would I, a lifelong vegetarian who considers tofu one of her favorite foods, decide to stop eating so much of it?
For a long time, I just assumed that as a vegetarian/vegan, I didn't have to consider the environmental impact of my diet the way meat eaters might. Then, a few years ago, I started to examine the amount of excess packaging and waste associated with my purchases. This, plus a growing interest in supporting local food producers, led to a commitment to buying less processed food and as much food as possible from farmers' markets.
Fewer trips to the grocery store meant fewer blocks of tofu and cartons of soy milk in my refrigerator, and I pretty much stopped eating processed meat substitutes like frozen veggie burgers or fake bacon. Over time, these foods became less integral to my diet and I started eating other types of beans, which I could buy from local farmers or in bulk. I also started learning about the environmental impact of soy, which is associated with Amazon deforestation, heavy pesticide use, and genetic modification. (A good article on this may be found at Civil Eats.)
Certainly we all must make personal choices about what we eat and I am not advocating any one path. But for me, it seemed a good idea to eat less tofu (and other soy products). Not zero tofu – it continues to be one of my favorite foods and still inspires many of my recipes. But I limit it to once a week, at the most, and when I do eat it, I appreciate it more than I used to. I'm also looking into buying organic, non-GMO soybeans in order to make my own tofu and tempeh at home. I'll let you know how it goes!