Soy is either healthy, or a hidden form of poison, depending on who you ask. As more and more people decide to drink soy and plant-based milks instead of cows' milk, we decide that it would be good to get the real low down on the health benefits, or dangers, of soy.
If you haven't already heard of it, soy is a kind of legume (like green beans) that come from Eastern Asia and is known for is use as a very versatile food source. One of the most famous products made with soy in soy sauce, but it is also used to make oils, milk, meat-substitutes as well as everyone's favorite tofu. Soy milk in particular is made by soaking soybeans and grinding them in water as is the favored milk-substitute for the lactose-intolerant and health conscious. But the question remains, is soy really good for you?
As soy milk has risen in popularity, so have its critics. Recently, there has been wider criticism by 'so-called' health officials against the regular use of soy milk, insisting that the plant-based product contains harmful chemicals that may contribute to certain diseases like thyroid problems and even contribute to the development of more serious neurological diseases, like Parkinson's, over time. Others point out that soy milk contains 'isoflavones', or plant-based compounds that mimic the female hormone, estrogen, and if you consume too much of those, you could detrimentally upset the body's hormonal balance.
However, on the other side of the debate are those that insist on soy's health benefits: as an aid to weight-loss, an effective substitute for those sensitive to milk products and as a way to protest the harsh realities of the cow-milking industry. But what does the research say?
Well, it appears after much our own research that indeed there is no definitive research proving the harmful effects of soy milk nor its clear health benefits. Indeed, most soy milk does contain some sugar for taste (about 4 g for every 100 g of milk, surely not a lot), but it is also lower in cholesterol, hormone-free, and lower in fat. It is also rich in natural protein, about 7 to 10 grams per cup. However, it does lack in calcium and vitamin B12, two important nutrients for bone health and strength. Most major brands of soy milk add these vitamins to their product, but it is important to get them if they don't.
So, despite the mixed messages on soy milk and its dangers or benefits, one thing is clear: there is no conclusive research on harmful effects and therefore there is no reason to stop drinking soy milk. If you are lactose sensitive, soy, almond or other plant-based milks are suitable alternatives to dairy products. However, if you do drink them, make sure that you take a daily dose of calcium and B12 to fill in the nutrients you are missing. Oh, and it's important to remember that soy milk is not necessarily 'healthier' than regular milk, but rather a great substitute or humane option to drinking traditional cow's milk.