One of the first plant-based milk alternatives on the market, soy milk helped millions of people avoid dairy when veganism was in its infancy and lactose intolerance was less well known. Now that there are so many more milk alternatives available, you may be wondering how the nutrition of soy milk compares.
In fact, many concerns have been raised about the safety of consuming soy milk. Over the years, it has been accused of disrupting hormonal health, harming those with thyroid conditions, or even causing various types of cancer. So it’s understandable that you think twice about putting a carton of soy milk in your shopping cart.
But does soy milk deserve such a bad reputation? Here, we’ll take a closer look at its nutritional value and potential health benefits. And if you want to learn more about a plant-based diet and how it can benefit your health, check out our plant based diet for beginners for more tips.
Soy milk: nutritional information
|Amount per serving (1 cup)
|% Daily value
|Riboflavin (vitamin B2)
|Cobalamin (vitamin B12)
How long does soy milk last?
Like cow’s milk, soy milk can be divided into two categories: UHT (ultra-high temperature)/shelf-stable and fresh/refrigerated. UHT beverages undergo extensive thermal processing to increase their shelf life, while refrigerated beverages do not. As a result, they come with different expiration dates and storage guidelines.
Shelf-stable soymilk generally has a shelf life of six to 12 months. Refrigerated ones tend to have much shorter expiration dates, usually a couple of weeks from when they were produced, and stay fresh for about a week after opening.
What are the benefits of soy milk?
Soy is one of the best sources of complete vegetable protein. One cup of cooked soybeans provides nearly 30g of this macronutrient, so if you’re not using the best vegan protein powdersoy milk can be a great way to meet some of your daily protein needs.
According to a comprehensive review published in nutrients (opens in a new tab)Soybeans also contain a significant amount of calcium, manganese, and selenium, as well as highly bioactive polyphenols called isoflavones. Multiple studies included in a review published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (opens in a new tab) have shown that a high intake of soy products can reduce the risk of dying from several different types of cancer, including breast, gastric, colorectal, prostate, and lung cancers, as well as cardiovascular disease and metabolic conditions.
Many of these positive effects have been attributed to isoflavones. According to a review published in the molecules (opens in a new tab) magazine, these polyphenols can play multiple important roles in the human body. It has been suggested that they may protect against hypertension, regulate blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol levels, prevent atherosclerosis, and lower inflammation levels. Soy isoflavones have also been shown to improve arterial flexibility, contribute to better gastrointestinal health, and prevent bone loss related to osteoporosis.
Far fewer studies have been done on soy milk, but it is possible to assume that this plant-based milk alternative will show similar benefits, albeit less pronounced due to its high water content.
However, the results of the available research are quite mixed. A review published in Journal of Functional Foods (opens in a new tab) found that regular consumption of soy milk can contribute significantly to lower blood pressure, a better blood lipid profile, and improved waist circumference. At the same time, no tangible differences were detected in terms of body weight, “good” HDL cholesterol, fasting blood glucose, or markers of systemic inflammation.
Another review published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine (opens in a new tab) journal evaluated the impact of soy milk on blood serum lipids and found no significant associations between these two factors.
However, soy milk remains popular with vegans, vegetarians, and health-conscious consumers due to its affordability and availability. You can easily find cheap cartons of soy milk in most grocery stores and supermarkets across the country, and there are usually a variety of different brands and flavors to choose from. Additionally, most manufacturers fortify their beverages with a host of vitamins and minerals that are likely to be lacking in plant-based foods, making them a convenient dietary supplement for vegans and vegetarians.
Is soy milk bad for you?
Soy and soy milk may have a number of health benefits, but there are some risks and considerations.
If you compare soy milk with cow’s milk, the latter has a better absorption of proteins in the intestine. In addition, soy milk contains several compounds that are often referred to as antinutrients. Antinutrients have the ability to interfere with natural digestion processes and reduce the absorption of certain nutrients in the intestine. According to a review published in the Journal of Agricultural Sciences (opens in a new tab), there are several of these compounds present in soybeans. These components can lead to a lower intake of micronutrients, in particular vitamin A, vitamin B12 and vitamin D and even affect the formation of red blood cells. Fortunately, modern manufacturing processes are getting better at removing most of these antinutrients.
Another concern is related to the possible negative impact of soy isoflavones on thyroid function and iodine metabolism. It has also been suggested that they may interfere with the absorption of synthetic thyroid hormones. However, researchers at Thyroid (opens in a new tab) The journal pooled the results of 14 different trials and concluded that there is no evidence that soy consumption poses any risk to adults with hypothyroidism or people with iodine deficiency. Still, to minimize any potential problems, soyfood consumers are advised to ensure their iodine intake is adequate.
Since isoflavones can mimic the effects of female reproductive hormones, many people have been concerned about soy’s potentially negative effect on men’s health. But the evidence suggests that this is not the case. According to a meta-analysis published in Reproductive Toxicology (opens in a new tab)Isoflavones do not affect levels of testosterone, estradiol, estrones, or sex hormone-binding globulins in adult men.
Certain soy milks can also have high amounts of added sugars, especially if they are flavored. Since excessive consumption of sugar is bad for your health, always check if the product is artificially sweetened.