If you're new to managing a soy allergy, it might feel overwhelming. From reading food labels to knowing foods that can commonly contain soy, this is a guide to show you how to eat well with a soy allergy.
Soy allergy is more common in children than adults. Luckily, children often outgrow an allergy to soy. Serious reactions to soy, such as anaphylaxis, are not seen as commonly with a soy allergy as they are with other allergens like peanuts. This is interesting because soybeans and peanuts are both legumes and have similar protein structures.
The fact that the proteins in soy and peanuts are so similar, allergy tests often give a false-positive result for one or the other. For that very reason, we included soy as one of the allergens to avoid in our house for a number of months.
Soy is one of the more difficult allergens to avoid because it is in a lot of processed foods. Sure, you might not be a fan of edamame or tofu but that boxed dinner you love? It probably contains a soy ingredient. Ingredients derived from soy are widely used but you can more easily avoid it if you can cook meals from scratch.
When you're managing a soy allergy, it's important to learn what ingredients to watch for that might contain soy and also foods that commonly contain soy.
Ingredients Containing Soy
Soy is often used in foods to make them "high protein". If you see this claim on food packaging, look closely at the food label. Soy flour or other soy ingredients may have been used.
Watch for these ingredients on food labels if you have a soy allergy:
- Hydrolyzed soy protein
- Miso - a paste made of rice, barley and/or soybeans; used as a seasoning often in Japanese cuisine
- Shoyu sauce - a type of soy sauce
- Ingredients derived from soy such as albumin, flour, grits, nuts, milk, sprouts
- Protein isolate from soy
- Soy sauce
- Soybean, soybean granules, soybean curd
- Tamari - a type of soy sauce, mostly produced in Japan
- Tempeh - similar to tofu
- Textured vegetable protein, aka TVP
The following ingredients may indicate soy:
- Bulking agent
- Guar gum, gum arabic, vegetable gum
- Hydrolyzed vegetable protein
- Hydrolyzed plant protein
- Mono- & di-glycerides
- MSG or monosodium glutamate
- Natural flavoring
- tocopherols/vitamin E
- Vegetable broth, oil, starch
Can I have soybean oil?
Most people with a soy allergy tolerate soybean oil, vegetable shortening, and hydrogenated oils.
This is because the soy protein is removed during processing. Cold-pressed or expeller-pressed oils, however, still have the protein intact and should be avoided. If you have a history of anaphylaxis, be cautious with all of these ingredients.
Foods Commonly Containing Soy
Soy is in many, many foods, especially processed foods. Here is a sampling of foods that soy is commonly found in:
- Baby foods, formula, cereals
- Baked goods including cakes, cookies, muffins, breads
- Baking mixes and canned frosting
- Breakfast cereals, instant breakfast drinks
- Breading mixes, stuffing mixes
- Boxed and canned puddings
- Packaged and canned dinners like spaghetti or macaroni and cheese
- Canned tuna packed in oil
- Chocolate chips, chocolate bars
- Imitation meats and seafood
- Meat fillers
- Margarine, shortening, cooking spray, vegetable oil
- Snack foods including crackers, chips, pretzels
- Soy and teriyaki sauces
- Soy milk, yogurt, non-dairy creamers
- Tofu, miso, tempeh
- Vitamin supplements
You might also find soy in some non-food items such as:
- Lip Balms
Soy substitutes and soy free recipes
To eat well with a soy allergy, you need to have safe foods that you can enjoy. Check out the soy substitutes page for soy free products for cooking and baking. Then head to the recipe index for lots of soy free recipes!