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Navigating Allergies and Food Sensitivities

Soy Allergy

Soy Allergy Info

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A Soy Allergy, or Soya Allergy as it is called in Europe, is an abnormal response of the body to the proteins found in soy. Soybeans are classified as a legume.

Other foods in the legume family are navy, kidney, string, black, and pinto beans, chickpeas (garbanzo beans), lentils, carob, licorice, and peanuts. Sensitivity to one legume can often be associated with sensitivity to another legume, which is termed cross-reactivity. If you have soy allergy, you should talk with your doctor about what other legumes you might need to avoid.

In many cases soy allergy starts with a reaction to a soy-based infant formula. Although most children outgrow soy allergy by age 3, soy allergy may persist and is becoming more common in adults.1

If you know you are allergic to soy, the only sure way to avoid an allergic reaction is to avoid soy products. Know what you’re eating and drinking. Be sure to read food labels carefully. Because soybeans and peanuts contain common allergy-causing components, you may also need to avoid peanuts. Some processed soy foods, such as soy oil or soy sauce, may not cause a reaction because processing removes certain allergy-causing proteins.

Soy milk, tofu and other soy products have become more popular because of their apparent health benefits. These products are easy to identify — and avoid. Soy may be called any of the following on a product label: 1

  • Soy
  • Soya
  • Soybeans
  • Glycine max

But soy is also a common ingredient in other food products. It is used in meat products and meat substitutes, baked goods, candies, ice creams and desserts, condiments, butter substitutes, and in other foods.1,2

Table 1 list names, products and ingredients that contain, or may contain, soy.

Table 1: Sources of soy1,2
Products with soy as a main ingredient: Hidden sources of soy products:
  • Tofu
  • Miso
  • Natto
  • Tempeh
  • Soy sauce
    (these include shoyu and tamari)
  • Soy flour
  • Soy nuts
  • Soy milk
  • Soy sprouts
  • Edamame
  • Hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP)
  • Textured vegetable protein (TVP)
  • Lecithin
  • Monodiglyceride
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • Vegetable oil
  • Vitamin E
  • Natural flavoring
  • Vegetable broth
  • Vegetable gum
  • Vegetable starch
  • Asian cuisine flavoring

Many fast-food restaurants commonly use soy protein in hamburger buns (soy flour) hamburger meat (soy protein) and hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP) in sauces. On their respective websites, McDonald’s and Burger King list soy flour as an ingredient in their hamburger buns.3,4 Multi-grain breads, doughnuts, doughnut mix and pancake mix commonly contain soy flour. Nearly all bread products available in the US now contain soy. Soy can now be found in nearly all types of foods, from meat to ice cream, to cheese, to french fries. Many foods are contaminated with soy due to being cooked in soy oil.

As a result, there are a long list of foods that a person with soy allergy must carefully review for the possibility of soy being included as an ingredient, or being present during preparation. Table 2 list some of the foods that may contain soy.2

Table 2: Foods that may contain soy2
Types of Foods Foods that may contain soy
Breads & Starches
  • Breads, crackers, cakes, rolls, or pastries containing peanuts, peanut oil, soy flour
  • Processed and "natural" cereals
  • Soy pasta
Vegetables
  • Soy beans, soybean sprouts
  • Any vegetables prepared with sauces or breading containing soy products
Fruit
  • Fruit drink mixes
  • Sauces/toppings for fruit which contain soy ingredients
Beverages
  • Soy-based infant formulas
  • Coffee substitutes with soy
  • Instant coffee
  • Hot cocoa mixes
  • Malt beverages
  • Fruit drink mixes
  • Milk drinks or milk substitutes
Meat & Meat Substitutes
  • Pork link sausage
  • Deli/luncheon meats made
  • Meat or cheese substitutes which contain soy: tofu/bean curd, natto, miso
  • Textured vegetable protein (TVP)
Milk & Milk Products
  • Milk drinks or milk substitutes
Soups & Combination Foods
  • Many canned soups, commercial entrees, and combination foods
Desserts & Sweets
  • Baked goods, such as cakes or cookies which contain soy flour
  • Commercial ice creams and other frozen desserts
  • Hard candies, nut candies, fudge, and caramels made with soy flour
Fats & Oils
  • Margarine and butter substitutes
  • Some salad dressings, mayonnaise, sauces, or gravies
  • Roasted soybeans or "soy nuts"
Condiments & Miscellaneous
  • Commercial vegetarian products and meat substitutes
  • Heinz® Worcestershire sauce
  • Lea & Perrins® sauce
  • Fermented soybean pastes (miso and natto)
  • Soy sauce
  • Tamari sauce
  • Granola, or breakfast bars made with soy
  • Imitation bacon bits made with soy

Citations

1

Mayo Clinic.

Soy Allergy.

2

Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford.

Soy Allergy Diet.

3

McDonald’s

"McDonald’s USA Ingredients Listing for Popular Menu Items" Effective August 16, 2011.

4

Burger King Brands Inc. USA

"Burger King Nutrition and Ingredients".