We get asked about soy every single day, and we are always happy to answer your questions and guide you in the right direction by sharing evidence. While we love getting into the nitty-gritty details and talking about the results of scientific research on soy and human health, we know not all of you want to get that granular.
Whether you are just starting on your dairy-free journey and want reassurance that you can keep enjoying those daily soy lattes, or you’re looking for one convenient resource to send to your naysayer friends and family, this page is the perfect summary of all things soy.
Is soy healthy?
Yes! Soy is incredibly healthy. It is a legume that’s packed with protein (including all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein), fiber, and omegas-3s, as well as micronutrients like B vitamins, potassium, magnesium, and iron. It’s also heart healthy and helps lower cholesterol.
Soy has had a bad reputation for decades, but the many negative claims about soy have not been substantiated with evidence.
Does soy cause cancer?
Soy has never been classified as a carcinogen and there is no evidence that it increases your risk of cancer. However, many animal-based foods such as red meat and deli meats have been classified as carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).
Doesn’t soy disrupt hormones, especially estrogen?
Soy contains phytoestrogen, which is similar in structure to estrogen but not the same. Phytoestrogen and estrogen do not have the same effects on the body, regardless of gender or age. Men, women, kids, and teens can all safely incorporate soy into their diets on a regular basis.
In many studies, soy has been shown to help minimize or even prevent the side effects of menopause such as hot flashes, due to its isoflavones that have beneficial antiestrogenic effects.
Learn more about the evidence:
Does soy cause “man-boobs”?
Here’s an experiment for you to try. Go to any beach, park, or mall in America and find a man who fits your definition of having “man-boobs”. Ask him how often he eats tofu or drinks soy milk. He is almost guaranteed to say never (maybe even say, unironically, that he’s afraid of growing boobs). Does that answer your original question?
No, soy does not cause either men or women to grow boobs. If it did, soy would be a multi-billion dollar industry, overtaking the 3 billion dollar breast implant market and making breast enhancement procedures a thing of the past.
Soy is GMO. Isn’t that bad?
First, not all soy is GMO! Most of the GMO soy crops are not for human consumption, but instead fed to livestock, and eventually end up on meat-eaters’ plates.
Second, GMO crops are not worrisome. There have been hundreds of rigorous studies on GMO crops’ effects on human health. Looking at the data holistically, major health organizations, such as the American Medical Association and World Health Organization, have concluded that genetically modified foods are safe for consumers.
However, if you prefer to avoid GMO products in your diet, you can easily incorporate soy anyway. If soy is organic, it is inherently non-GMO. Most of the tofu found in grocery stores is already organic, and it’s very easy to find organic soy milk and other soy-based products.
Isn’t soy a highly processed food?
Yes and no. Like many other foods, there is a spectrum of processing for different products. Tofu is slightly processed, but you can make it in your kitchen with time and the right equipment. Have you ever eaten edamame? The only “processing” is cooking it. Tempeh’s processing is fermentation, which has a host of benefits for our gut microbiome and overall health. Some soy milks have added ingredients like sweeteners or stabilizers, but there are also plenty of brands that are just soybeans and water if that’s what you prefer. Something like soy-based “ham” slices are processed, but guess what? So is deli ham, plus it includes all the saturated fat and sodium that you won’t find in the plant-based analogs.
If you are adamant about avoiding processed foods, soy can still easily fit into your regular diet.
Aren’t soy-based foods expensive?
They typically are not, and in many stores it is cheaper than similar animal-based products. A quick price check at a standard grocery store when this article was released showed a half gallon of organic soy milk was priced at $2.99 while a half gallon of non-organic cow’s milk was $3.19 (the organic was $6.19, more than double organic soy milk!). Organic tofu was $0.20/oz (providing 3 g of protein per oz) and organic chicken breast was $0.56/oz (providing 6 g protein per oz). If you do the math, soy is cheaper per gram of protein and per serving.
What about soy allergies?
It’s definitely true that some people are allergic to soy, and we are not overlooking that. While it is a top 9 allergen in the US, it is ranked near the bottom depending on the age. For those over 14 years old, it is ranked 8 out of the top 9. It is far less common than people think, with peanuts being nearly ten times more common and dairy products being more than five times as common compared to a soy allergy. Looking at beverages, milks made from cows, almonds, cashews, and coconuts are all more likely to affect people with allergies than soy milk. If looking at public places that supply large quantities of food like school cafeterias, soy is a very safe option.
Hopefully this leaves you feeling confident that soy can be incorporated into your regular diet to improve your health. There are so many delicious ways to enjoy soy, whether that’s milk, tofu, tempeh, miso, edamame, or many others, plus there are countless ways to prepare it. Check out some of our favorite recipes to incorporate soy and other dairy-free products into a healthy diet.
Still confused about soy? Send us an email at [email protected] and we’ll be happy to chat more and answer your questions.