Health Benefits of Soy: Why Choose Soy Milk? Is It Bad For You?
The idea for this article actually came from my girlfriend! She's lactose-intolerant, and as a result regularly drinks soy milk. Me and my smart mouth once told her that "Soy milk is unhealthy for you."
When she rebutted with the bemused reply, "Soy milk is perfectly fine," the competition was on to see who was, in fact, correct.
Unfortunately, it seems she was right - Or was she?
What Is Soy Milk?
Most of us have heard about soy milk, and many of us have also heard rumours concerning it's safety. All throughout society, and across the world wide web, it's possible to find droves of information all geared towards destroying the reputation of soy milk in the western world. Until recently, even I was convinced of the health dangers of soy.
The conspiratorial among us might think that this misinformation has been spread by the big dairy companies, trying to shut down any upstart competition. However, whether this is true or not, I can't honestly say. Despite the nay-sayers who oppose it, soy milk is here to stay (for a while at least).
Essentially, soy milk is a type of beverage popular in Eastern cuisine, made by soaking dried soy beans, boiling them, and then grinding them in water. Soy milk has similar nutritional properties to dairy milk, and for this reason is popular in countries that cannot support large cattle farming, or amongst the lactose-intolerant.
There is considerable debate regarding the purported health benefits of soy and soy milk.
Other Names for Soy Milk
Soy milk is known by many different names throughout the world. Some of these are the result of the agreed-upon name for the product. Others however, are the result of technicality. In some places, milk must come from a mammary secretion to be called milk:
- Soya Milk
- Soy Drink
- Soybean Milk
- Soy Juice
Benefits of Soy Milk
The health effects of soy and soy milk are highly contested, particularly within medical circles. Here, I'll be mentioning the purported benefits of drinking soy milk.
Soy Milk Is Good for your Heart
Soy milk naturally contains high amounts of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. When these bind with your blood, they increase the flexibility of your blood vessels. This in turn helps the body adapt to pressure changes more efficiently, reducing the risk of strokes and haemorrhages.
Soy Milk Helps Prevent Prostate Cancer
One of the more medically-frowned-upon claims by soy milk, is it's ability to help prevent prostate cancer. Soy milk contains a chemical by the name of phytoestrogen, (phy-to-estrogen), which slows the production of testosterone. The link here is the belief that a lower level of testosterone reduces the risk of prostate cancer.
Soy Milk Promotes Weight Loss
If soy milk is not modified for taste, it is a good source of fibre without the added sugar. A lower sugar content is obviously related to weight loss, and a high-fibre diet increases feelings of fullness, reducing hunger pangs.
While there are more health benefits associated with soy products and soy milk, I decided not to include them due to a lack of supporting evidence. For example, a common belief is that drinking soy milk will prevent symptoms of post menopause. It is often cited that the very same phytoestrogen mentioned above, achieves the same purpose as the natural estrogen that is lacking after menopause.
Soy Milk Dangers
I might hear some people saying, "People from Eastern countries drink soy milk, and they seem perfectly fine. What's the problem?"
The problem with soy products, and soy milk in particular, is that people in the Western world are not drinking the same soy products as those in Asian countries. While many overseas consume ground soybean milk, most supermarket brands that we will encounter are made from soy protein isolate powder.
This is then flavoured with water, additives, colourings and the like to suit the average consumer. So, while there is a debate raging over whether soy milk is actually bad for you, we have to remember that it really can depend on where you live.
The only well-researched negative health effects of drinking soy milk that are known, is for those suffering from gout. A chemical called purine, found in soy products and other common-place foods, can worsen the effects of gout, particularly in those that do consume large amounts of red meat.
Soy Milk or Dairy Milk?
Complete Food - for calves
Complete Food - for seedlings
Large ecological footprint
Moderate ecological footprint
Complete Amino Acid Profile (The building blocks of proteins)
Complete Amino Acid Profile (But in smaller amounts)
Contains Lactose (Even lactose-free varieties can contain 20% of it's original sugar content)
Completely Lactose Free
Contains Natural Amounts of Cholesterol, Saturated Fats, and Sodium
Low in Cholesterol, Saturated Fats and Sodium
An Acquired Taste
Soy Milk Nutrition - Plain
|Serving size: 250 grams (1 Cup)|
|Calories from Fat||36|
|% Daily Value *|
|Fat 4 g||6%|
|Saturated fat 0 g|
|Carbohydrates 15 g||5%|
|Sugar 10 g|
|Protein 8 g||16%|
|Cholesterol 0 mg|
|Sodium 125 mg||5%|
|* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.|
Which Is Better?
So after all this discussion, which is the better option, cow's milk, or soy milk?
The answer is, it depends.
If you're a vegan, you're concerned about the ecological effect of cattle, or you're lactose intolerant, soy milk may be the better option for you. If you manage just fine with dairy milk, then maybe the old adage, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," might come into play.
Both soy milk and dairy milk have their nutritional benefits, and pitfalls. Dairy milk is generally higher in fats, good or bad, whereas soy milk is naturally lower in fats (but is likely to have added fats and sugars, for taste).
The truth is, we don't know enough about soy to make a definitive call on it's health effects. But, this is fast changing, and only time will tell which is the healthier option.
Interesting Facts About Soy
I enjoy a bit of trivia, so I thought it'd be a good idea to add a few surprising facts about soy.
- One acre can of soybeans can produce approximately 82,000 soy crayons. These cost less to produce than petroleum-based crayons, and are healthier for the environment.
- The United States produces 1.5 million bushels of soybeans per year. Most of this is used as livestock feed, (Perhaps even to feed dairy cows?)
- Only 2% of soybean plantations are harvested for human consumption.
- Soybean plantations use less acreage than cattle. Not only that, but soybeans actually replenish the nitrogen of the soil they are grown in!
Do You Trust Soy Milk?
Please take the time to vote in the poll above. If you trust soy milk, or if you think it's unhealthy, feel free to make your opinion heard by commenting below.
Otherwise, thank you for reading my article. If you enjoyed it, there's even more of these guys at My Homepage.