Native to Asia, soy has been a staple of traditional Asian diets for centuries. In fact, research suggests that soybeans were being cultivated in China as early as 9,000 BC. Nowadays, soy is becoming increasingly popular throughout the world. It’s one of the most commonly used alternatives for animal-derived products, especially by vegans. One of the most commonly used soy-derived products is soy milk. Soy milk comes with plenty of health and nutritional benefits thus making it one of the most popular alternatives for cow’s milk. However, soy milk and other soy products are also the subjects of much controversy with a fair amount of them being misconstrued ideas. In this article, we’ll discuss the following topics:
- How Soy Milk Is Made
- Nutritional Content of Soy Milk
- Five Benefits of Soy Milk
- Common Myths About Soy Debunked
- Soy Milk vs Dairy Milk
- Should You Drink Soy Milk
How It’s Made
Soy milk is made in two different ways. One method is more common in East Asian countries, where the taste of the bean itself is much more prominent. It’s prepared by soaking soybeans overnight then grinding them together with hot water. It’s possible to prepare soy milk at home in a similar manner, however, it would not be fortified with any additional nutrients.
Popular brands of soy milk suppliers mass-produce the beverage by harvesting soybeans then cleaning and hulling them off before cooking them in a pressure cooker. The cooked beans are then ground in a milky slurry by a number of grinders. A centrifuge then extracts any insoluble pieces of the bean. This separate soy liquid is then blended with vitamins, flavors, and sugars before being sterilized and homogenized. Once cooled, the milk is then packaged in a manner that ensures it is never exposed to any air.
Soy milk is a protein-rich food for vegans and what’s more, commercial soy milks are often fortified with additional nutrients including calcium, vitamin D, B2, and B12. Both calcium and vitamin D play an important role in maintaining healthy, strong bones whereas vitamins B2, AKA riboflavin, and B12 are used by the body to maintain a healthy nervous system and to release energy from food. Soy milk is also rich in vitamin K, which is beneficial for blood clotting, potassium, which is important for a healthy heart and phosphorous, which helps maintain strong bones.
In general, 100 ml of soy milk contains:
- Calories: 26
- Protein: 2.4 g
- Fat: 1.6 g
- Carbohydrates: 0.5 g
- Sugars: 0.2 g
- Fiber: 1 g
The nutritional profile may vary slightly based on whether it is sweetened or has added flavors such as chocolate or vanilla. The inclusion of such ingredients will typically raise the carbohydrates and sugar content.
5 Health Benefits Of Soy Milk
There are many benefits to consuming soy milk or products derived from soy. Here are five such ways consuming soy milk will benefit your health:
- Lower Cholesterol: Soy may help lower LDL cholesterol. Studies show that consuming at least 47 grams of soy a day is associated with a 9.3% decrease in overall cholesterol levels and a 13% decrease in LDL cholesterol.
- Better Skin: Consuming more soy may help in reducing acne outbreaks. It’s also beneficial in reducing hyperpigmentation, which is a skin condition that causes areas of your skin to darken. Some studies have also found that an element in soy may contain anti-aging properties.
- Hair Growth: Consuming soy milk in tangent with a protein-rich diet may be good for your hair. It can stimulate more hair growth thus improving its appearance. It’s also helpful in managing frizzy and unmanageable hair.
- Strong Bones: Soy milk is an excellent source of calcium and thus it’s beneficial for healthy bones. This calcium-rich beverage maintains healthy bones by making them stronger, ensuring that your bones maintain its structure thus reducing the risk of brittle bones and thereby, reducing the likelihood of developing osteoporosis. Studies have also found that consuming soy products is as beneficial as consuming dairy products for bone health for postmenopausal women and those with low bone density.
- Better Mood: Soy milk is often fortified with vitamin B6 and vitamin B complex, which aids in improving your mood. Moreover, the beverage also contains a hefty amount of magnesium which helps release serotonin in your body, a hormone that acts as an antidepressant.
Common Myths About Soy Debunked
Soy is a phytoestrogen, which is a plant-based estrogen. It consists of two isoflavones, genistein, and daidzein, whose behavior is similar to that of estrogen. And since estrogen has a hand in everything from sexual reproduction to breast cancer, much of the controversy stems from this particular aspect. Let’s take a look at some of the most common myths about soy milk.
MYTH: Soy milk causes breast cancer
Fact: It is true certain breast cancer can grow in the presence of estrogen. It is also true that soy can act like estrogen. However, there is no real, conclusive evidence suggesting that soy can cause cancer. Most tests regarding soy and breast cancer have been done on animals. In these animal tests, pure isoflavones have been linked to promoting tumor growth. However, humans metabolize isoflavones differently to rodents and isoflavone supplements are very different from dietary soy.
In fact, studies show that consuming high amounts of dietary soy either has no link to breast cancer or actually lower rates of the disease. In fact, one study found that consuming soy along with probiotics may reduce the risk of breast cancer. In addition, research also suggests that adding soy to the diet of breast cancer survivors could even reduce the risk of recurrence. Thus, it appears soy consumption does not appear to cause any potential harm to humans.
MYTH: Soy milk is bad for men
Because of the estrogen-like nature of soy, many have expressed concern that it could lower testosterone levels in men thus causing them to become more feminine. This fear, however, is unsupported by clinical studies. Science has no evidence that suggests men should refrain from consuming soy. In fact, a study from Japan that the hormone fluctuations experienced by men who consume soy products on a daily basis may actually protect against prostate cancer.
MYTH: Soy milk disrupts thyroid function
Fact: According to numerous clinical trials, soy foods and/or isoflavones, have little to no effects in thyroid hormone levels. But rather, those who are undergoing synthetic thyroid hormone replacement therapy may have to be wary of consuming foods such as soy, fiber, walnuts, and calcium as it may reduce thyroid hormone bioavailability by affecting its absorption. It’s possible to avoid such a situation by taking your medication on an empty stomach or refraining from consuming soy for at least four hours after taking your medication.
Soy vs Dairy
While the dairy industry touts a lot of benefits, the reality is that there’s a darker story behind the scenes. From cholesterol and pus-infused milk to the needless killings of newborn baby calves, it’s evident that soy milk is the less cruel option.
When compared with dairy, soy milk is not only a cruelty-free alternative but also a healthier one. In terms of caloric content, soy milk is significantly lower in calories than dairy milk at just 26 calories per 100 ml. In comparison, whole milk from cows contains 63 calories per 100 ml, semi-skimmed contains 46 calories and skimmed milk contains 32 calories. Moreover, soy milk is as calcium-rich as cow’s milk with 120 mg of calcium per 100ml and much higher in vitamin K than cow’s milk. Soy milk also contains as much protein as cow’s milk. In fact, soy is most noteworthy among plants for its high-quality protein and is one of the most commonly consumed plant protein that is akin to animal protein.
Furthermore, around 65 percent of the human population suffers from some form of lactose intolerance, meaning that they have difficulty digesting a sugar called lactose (a carbohydrate found in dairy milk). Thus, many such people turn to plant milks such as soy milk so as to avoid uncomfortable gastrointestinal side effects.
Not only is soy milk better for your health than dairy products, but it’s also healthier for the planet too. It takes 7,000 square feet of land to produce a glass of dairy milk every day for a year. This amount is more than half the amount it takes to produce soy. Additionally, producing just 200 ml of milk requires nearly 120 gallons of water while 200 ml of soy milk requires nearly ten times less.
Should You Be Drinking Soy Milk?
To sum it up, soy milk is a highly nutritious beverage that boasts a plethora of health benefits including lowering cholesterol levels, strengthening bones, improving your skin and hair as well as your mood. It’s also considerably better than cow’s milk with just as much calcium and protein and considerably fewer calories and saturated fat. Unfortunately, due to many misconceptions regarding its estrogen-like properties, it’s assumed that it has received a bad reputation. In reality, soy milk is a great source of both protein and calcium as well as many other nutrients and minerals and can be consumed safely numerous times a week. The only way soy milk may be harmful is if you are allergic to soy, in which case, it would be wise to look to other types of plant milks such as almond, rice or oat.