Is soy milk good for you? An expert answers all questions

Once upon a time there was soy milk the alt milk to drink, but negative claims rocked his fame and his reputation eventually turned sour. Since then, other tasty (and less confrontational) plant milks have entered the scene, pushing soy milk even further away. Today, soy milk is still one of the most confusing products in the food world. First it was good, then it was bad – so what’s the problem? Turns out, it might be time to put down what you know about soy milk, because it is one of the healthiest alternative milks you can drink.

The soy milk debate, explained

Let’s go back to the 1980s, when soy milk first stole the show. At the time, it was recognized as one of the first mainstream plant-based milks. It was also popular for its non-dairy nature, as it’s great for people with lactose intolerance, says Megan Byrd, RD, registered dietitian and founder of The Oregon Dietitian. Additionally, soy products in general were touted as “perfect” health foods, as soy offers an impressive list of nutrients including fiber, iron, and calcium, to name a few. -a. (In fact, he even holds Following proteins than cow’s milk, depending on the Functional Food Journal.) It also didn’t hurt that soy milk had a wonderfully smooth and creamy texture, making it “a great replacement in recipes that call for milk, like creamy sauces.” [and] smoothies, ”Byrd explains. Needless to say, soy milk was a superstar.

However, in the early 2000s, the story changed. Studies have started to report that soy milk increases the risk of cancer, especially breast cancer, Byrd says. Other studies have claimed that soy milk can cause other conditions, such as thyroid problems and dementia. Specifically, these effects were associated with compounds called isoflavones, which are found in soy milk in high amounts. Isoflavones are phytoestrogens, or plant estrogen, which means they act like the hormone estrogen, according to the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. And since elevated estrogen levels have been linked to certain breast cancers, as well as thyroid function and cognitive decline, these findings ultimately damaged soy milk’s reputation.

But there was a catch: For starters, the studies in question failed to find a strong, solid link between soy and estrogen-related health issues. Many factors also had to be taken into consideration, including the type of the studies concerned. For example, “the first studies on soy milk were done in rodents, which treat soybeans very differently from humans,” Byrd shares. In addition, animal studies use very high doses of isoflavones, much higher than those seen in humans. All this to say that such research is now considered obsolete and inconclusive, although the uncertainty it created remains.

Is it healthy?

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Over the past decades, scientists have continued to study its effects on the human body. More recent research has shown that isoflavones can actually reduce cancer risk, Byrd says, as well as other problems like osteoporosis and thyroid function. And as a 2021 scientific review of more than 400 studies notes, there is little evidence that soy isoflavones significantly alter estrogen levels in humans.

That being said, soy milk might deserve an apology. “Soy milk is incredibly healthy,” says Byrd. “It contains natural flavonoids, which are known to be anti-inflammatory and reduce the risk of cancer.” (Flavonoids, by the way, are antioxidant compounds found in plants.) Soy milk is also generally fortified with calcium and vitamin D – an essential nutrient for optimal calcium absorption – which is great news. if you are lactose intolerant or allergic to dairy products.

What to look for when buying soy milk

Ready to give soy milk a second chance? You will be happy to know that it is still widely available at the grocery store. To find the most nutritious choice, “look for soy milk that is [contains] water, soy and added vitamins and minerals, ”suggests Byrd. In general, such milk is considered healthier because it will be free from excess refined sugar and artificial flavors, Byrd explains. On that note, choose soy milk labeled as “unsweetened” as this indicates that it contains no sugars or added flavors.

But what if you to do Do you want flavored and / or sweetened soy milk? The unsweetened version is always your best bet, as you can easily flavor it at home. For example, you can add a touch of high-quality vanilla extract for added flavor or incorporate a natural sweetener, such as honey or maple syrup. Another option is to make your own chocolate soy milk (or hot chocolate) with natural cocoa powder or dark chocolate. This way, even if you add additional ingredients, you will know precisely what is in your soy milk.

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