ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Health Benefits of Soy: Why Choose Soy Milk? Is It Bad For You?

Updated on July 8, 2013
Soy can be used as an alternative to dairy in many soy recipes because it comes in different forms.
Soy can be used as an alternative to dairy in many soy recipes because it comes in different forms. | Source

Funny story:

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 comes in many forms, and the health benefits of each can vary.
Soy comes in many forms, and the health benefits of each can vary. | Source

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?

Dairy Milk
Soy 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
Tastes Great
An Acquired Taste

Soy Milk Nutrition - Plain

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 250 grams (1 Cup)
Calories 132
Calories from Fat36
% Daily Value *
Fat 4 g6%
Saturated fat 0 g
Carbohydrates 15 g5%
Sugar 10 g
Protein 8 g16%
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium 125 mg5%
* 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.

A crane attachment in Japan, resembling a soy sauce sachet.
A crane attachment in Japan, resembling a soy sauce sachet. | Source

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?

See results

Feedback

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.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      jojo 3 years ago

      soya milk is yum but it brought on a gout attack !! so no more for me.

    • Jared Miles profile image
      Author

      Jared Miles 4 years ago from Australia

      Thanks @Indian Chef, for reading and commenting on my Hub. I personally don't drink soy milk either, I've always have a suspicion of it, but that's because I've been exposed to the modified stuff, and not the natural soybean milk, thanks too for sharing!

    • Indian Chef profile image

      Indian Chef 4 years ago from New Delhi India

      I liked your informative hub. I don't drink Soy milk but like Tofu. voted up and shared.

    • Jared Miles profile image
      Author

      Jared Miles 4 years ago from Australia

      Thanks for commenting weavesandbraids, your welcome for all the info. Unfortunately we can't really be certain of the link between soy and fertility, scientifically at least. We can only hope for the continued research of soy, because it could eventually lead to a greener source of nutrients and milk substitutes. :)

    • weavesandbraids profile image

      weavesandbraids 4 years ago from Africa

      One more thing about soybeans. They are great for women trying to conceive.

      Thanks for all the information..

    • Jared Miles profile image
      Author

      Jared Miles 4 years ago from Australia

      @peachpurple, your welcome for the assurance, thank you for commenting your opinion on soy milk. You're right when you say it has a short shelf life, only around a week I think?

    • Jared Miles profile image
      Author

      Jared Miles 4 years ago from Australia

      @AliciaC, thank you very much for noticing! I really tried to balance the positives or negatives and provide an unbiased view. Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment. :)

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you very much for a balanced look at the benefits and disadvantages of soy milk, Jared! It's a refreshing change to read an article that isn't completely against or in favor of drinking soy milk. The facts that you have shared are very interesting.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 4 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      Yes, i love soy drink, soy based products and soybean milk. Soy is tasty, delicious and sweet however it cannot last overnight. Thanks for writing down the benefits. Great to know I am on the right track. Voted up