MEET THE BRAND: Earth Balance
Soy That You'll Enjoy
If it seems like soy is one of those "weird natural foods products" — OK in a bottle on the Chinese restaurant table but not otherwise a part of your life — think again.
For thousands of years, soy has been one of the world's most important crops, and that's true in this country, too: it's America's second most valuable agricultural export, after corn. Moreover, soy products have found their way into probably every kitchen in America — not just in things that make the meat-and-potatoes crowd suspicious, like tofu or soymilk, but in unexpected places like vegetable oils, margarine, and even infant formula. Soy has many health benefits, in large part because it is a source of complete protein that is the nutritional equivalent of meat and eggs.
But it also has its detractors.
One company that is taking a decidedly "balanced" view is Colorado-based Earth Balance, which is on a mission to set the record straight through education and superior products. And they're going one step further by spreading awareness of the plant-based diet.
Earth Balance has long promoted healthy living through a plant-based diet by making great-tasting products that are 100% vegan. The plant-based or vegan diet is one that completely eliminates the use of animal products, not only meat but eggs and dairy as well. Studies have shown that vegans/vegetarians generally have lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure, and are at less risk for heart disease than meat eaters. A common source of protein for this type of lifestyle is soy products, including tofu and soymilk. And, after great success with their non-dairy spreads and nut butters, Earth Balance is quickly emerging as one of the leading producers in the soy category.
"We launched soymilk in August 2010 because we wanted to offer a soymilk to consumers that was organic, made with USA-sourced soybeans, and did not contain genetically modified soybeans," said TJ McIntyre, Earth Balance, Vice President/General Manager. "As the soymilk category has grown over the last 10 years, these commitments (particularly organic) have gone by the wayside in favor of cost savings."
The Earth Balance team does a great job in educating the public about the benefits of adding soy to a healthy diet. They even created a special website for the plant-based diet community. Made Just Right by Earth Balance provides everything from recipes and product information to an online forum where people can gather to discuss what's on their minds.
One of the biggest misconceptions is that too much soy can raise estrogen levels. Made Just Right by Earth Balance demystifies the claim with facts. A post on the site back in April 2011 gives an in-depth look at this issue, and the overall pros of soy:
"Soybeans contain isoflavones, organic compounds that have antioxidant properties. One of these isoflavones is 'phytoestrogen,' compounds found in plants that function similarly to estrogen but on a much smaller scale. Phytoestrogen has a different chemical structure to estrogen and when consumed in normal amounts doesn't provide sufficient levels to cause a physiological response in humans." (You can find the multi-syllabic scientific references here.)
The company offers their soymilk in four flavors: Original, Unsweetened, Vanilla and Chocolate. In addition, Earth Balance produces all-natural, dairy-free buttery spreads, buttery sticks, nut butters, shortenings and vegan mayonnaises, all made with all-natural ingredients, no GMOs and free from lactose, eggs, hydrogenated oils and gluten. They started on this mission back in 1998 when plant-based or vegan diets were still on the fringe of mainstream consciousness.
Nowadays, with increasing awareness provided by documentaries such as Forks Over Knives and celebrity influence, like Alicia Silverstone's book The Kind Diet, vegetarianism/vegan lifestyles are growing fast, especially in the younger generations. According to a recent study by Bon Appétit Management Company, 13% of college students are vegetarian.
The likes of Oprah, Dr. Oz and Martha Stewart also have discussed plant-based diets on their outlets, further fueling the growth. A stroll through the culinary or lifestyle section at any bookstore (if there are any of those left in your neighborhood!) will turn up stacks of books and cookbooks by vegan authors and food-lovers alike, many of which reference Earth Balance products.
A vegan lifestyle may not be for everyone, but the health benefits are plenty. For more information on Earth Balance or plant-based living, visit the Earth Balance website. It is informative and interactive for anyone looking to convert, experiment or just wanting to learn more.
From the August 2011 edition of Sprouts Farmers Market's monthly e-newsletter. Hungry for more news? Click here to sign up.