First, it was an itchy scalp and then the red rashes appeared. Although I did not know it at the time, my immune system was reacting to one of the many proteins found in soybeans. Rather than an actual soy allergy, it was explained that I have a soy intolerance. While some people can eat trace amounts of soy without a problem, I react almost immediately to any type of soy ingestion.
My initial thought was this isn’t that big of a deal. I would just stay away from soy sauce, edamame (immature soybeans in the pod) and tofu – never a favorite of mine. I learned through trial and error that my biggest soy triggers were products with soybean oil, soy flour and soy grits. Thank goodness, I can tolerate the small amounts of soy lecithin found in chocolate products. I do however have to be disciplined and only eat a few bites.
So, the journey to eliminate as many soy products from my diet as possible started with food labels. I pay careful attention and you would be surprised to see how much soy can be found in packaged foods. During some recent air travel, I checked the ingredient list of those little cookies the airlines pass out and found even they had soy flour. For me, there was enough soy in those two little cookies to cause my scalp to start itching before the plane would land.
I next focused on shopping the perimeter of the grocery store where fresh produce, meats, seafood and dairy are located as well as taking time to read the food labels on canned and packaged products located in the interior aisle of the store. I began cooking with more fresh ingredients using fresh herbs for flavoring rather than bottled sauces. I stopped buying salad dressing and started using flavored vinegars and a little olive oil and my salads. Salads taste better now because I can taste the flavors of the fresh vegetables.
My family is enjoying these new healthier habits. The scalp itching and rashes have subsided and we all eat better with the healthier food choices. I have become more focused and motivated to eat clean or whole or “real” foods that are minimally processed. Our grocery cart is usually filled with foods like fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and healthy fats (avocados are a personal favorite).
I am also learning that the shorter the ingredient list on food labels, the better and closer to real food that product will be. Here is a great example of the ingredient list on a protein bar I discovered in our local natural food store and they are delicious.
I leave you with a few tips about having a soy allergy or intolerance:
- Read labels. If soy is an ingredient, it will be listed on the label.
- Eating away from home can be a challenge. If you are unsure if your entree choice contains soy, ask! I have found restaurants to be straightforward when asked and if they don’t know, they will make that extra effort to ask the chef.
- Consult with your healthcare provider about your symptoms not only regarding soy but other legumes you might need to avoid.
I truly believe that my soy intolerance has been a blessing in disguise for me as well as my family. We have changed our eating habits and are reaping the benefits of simpler, cleaner eating.