The Truth About Soy

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OCTAVE TIPS 05: Food Nutrition of Soy Milk

OCTAVE Institute, the pioneering platform for research, mindful learning and holistic wellness in China strives to provide a foundation for growth towards a purposeful life, mindfully lived. In the fifth chapter of OCTAVE TIPS, Maggie Xu, the Resident Dietitian at SANGHA Retreatshares the health benefit and nutritional knowledge of soy milk.

Waking up early with a cup of freshly ground soy milk, paired with a healthy, nutritious and delicious breakfast, helps you start the day with vitality. As one of China’s national drinks, soy milk is considered a must-have but there are many rumours about soy milk that drinking it will lead to precocious puberty, or that drinking soy milk during menopause can increase the risk of cancer.

Nutritional Composition of Soy Milk

Soy milk is plant-based milk and is one of the most popular vegan substitutes for milk. It is not only very nutritious but also easy to digest and absorb. It is suitable for all and contains a variety of nutrients:

  • Protein: The protein contained in soy is a complete protein, which is also called high-quality protein, containing eight kinds of amino acids necessary for the human body
  • Carbohydrates: Soybean carbohydrates include starch, soybean oligosaccharides, and cellulose. Among them, soy oligosaccharides and cellulose are good prebiotics, which contribute to intestinal health
  • Fat: Soybeans contain mainly unsaturated fatty acids, up to 85%, and are abundant in linoleic acids, among which the most distinctive is soybean lecithin
  • Minerals: Soybeans can help to balance electrolytes and certain nutrients which can also help lower blood pressure. But after soybeans are ground into soy milk – which requires a large amount of water dilution – the content of almost all minerals are drastically reduced, except for sodium
  • Vitamins: The vitamin content of the ground soy milk is relatively low, and there is no outstanding vitamin benefit.

Special Ingredients of Soy Milk

Soy milk and soybeans contain some special ingredients, which have different effects:

  • Lecithin: This is very important for brain function. However, some studies have shown that too much lecithin can increase the risk of certain cardiovascular diseases.
  • Anti-nutritional factors: Soy milk can hinder the body’s absorption of certain nutrients, but the trypsin inhibitor of boiled soy milk is killed by the high temperature treatment, so there is no such concern.
  • Soy isoflavones: Isoflavones are a class of phytoestrogens that execute two-way regulation. You should regulate the balance of estrogen in the body by supplementing or inhibiting the secretion of estrogen. For menopausal women, the body’s level of estrogen drops sharply, thus menopause can be smoothly experienced with the consumption of soy products while helping to prevent the occurrence of breast cancer.

Therefore, there is no need to worry that the phytoestrogens contained in soy milk will be harmful. On the contrary, soy milk is a beneficial drink for women of all ages and can be enjoyed with confidence.

Precautions for Drinking Soy Milk

Do not drink raw soy milk. Raw soy milk contains saponins, hemagglutinin and trypsin inhibitors. Drinking untreated soy milk can cause food poisoning, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting.

When soybean milk is boiled to 80 ℃ to 90 ℃, a large amount of white foam will appear. This is a “false boiling”. You should continue to heat it for 3 to 5 minutes until the foam has completely disappeared before removing it from the heat.

The purine content in dried soybeans is very high, but after soaking or making soy milk, the purine content will be greatly reduced. Nevertheless, it is true that those suffering from gout should not drink too much soy milk. It is safe for menopausal women with gout to drink soy milk in small amounts but try to avoid excessive intake of concentrated soy milk, and do not consume it with other high-purine foods.

About Maggie Xu, the Resident Dietitian at SANGHA Retreat

Maggie graduated from the State University of New York at Buffalo and studied bioengineering (pharmaceutical direction) at Nanjing Normal University with a bachelor’s degree. She is very experienced with the various clear or potential risks of TCM and western medicine on the human body and has explored the importance and necessity of nutritional support and intervention for maintaining health, preventing disease and shortening the duration of illness. Maggie firmly believes that: “Nutrition is the foundation of health, how to eat nutritiously, and build a healthy lifestyle is important and always needs our attention for long term health benefits.” 

  • Registered dietitian
  • Master’s degree in Nutrition Sciences, State University of New York at Buffalo
  • China Science Communication – China Nutrition Society-Health and Nutrition Science specialist
  • Nutrition Society
  • National Senior Health Manager
  • Health science writer for《LifeTimes》
  • Writer of 《Mixed Feeding Guide for Babies》for DingXiangMaMi
  • Member of Chinese Nutrition Society
  • Member of the American Society for Nutrition
  • Member of ICNYSN
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