Soy milk is one of the most popular dairy milk alternatives today, mainly because so many people have a lactose intolerance, a condition wherein they can’t properly digest lactose in cow’s milk, which can lead to issues such as bloating, gas and diarrhea.1 When lactose is digested, it’s broken down into glucose and galactose, which are then absorbed through your intestinal lining.2
However, lactose-intolerant people lack an enzyme called lactase to process cow’s milk properly. In these cases, the lactose in food goes directly to the individual’s colon, where the bacteria living there begin to digest it, leading to digestive problems.3
Since lactose-intolerant people can’t drink dairy milk, but would still like to consume a product that looks like milk and comes with similar health benefits, they turn to other alternatives, one of which is soy milk. The thing is, while soy milk has been touted to be a healthy beverage — an abundance of scientific research says otherwise.
What Is Soy Milk?
Soy milk is a beverage made by blending soybeans and water, then straining the resulting mixture.4 It is quickly becoming a popular product these days; according to a report from Mintel, a marketing intelligence agency, soy milk has a 13% share of the market of milk alternatives, with almond milk having the biggest share at 64%.5
Is Soy Milk Good for You?
The biggest question surrounding soy milk is whether or not it is good for you, and the answer is a resounding “no.” Ninety-four percent of total acres used for growing soybeans are herbicide-tolerant, which means that the beans can be sprayed with glyphosate, glufosinate and dicamba.6
Glyphosate is one of the most toxic chemicals used in agriculture today and is gradually destroying the environment. It’s been found as a residual contaminant in numerous food products, including virtually all children’s cereals.7 Furthermore, studies have linked it to several health issues, such as:
- Disrupted endocrine signaling systems8
- Increased risk of breast cancer through estrogen receptors9
- Increased risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma10
- Chronic kidney disease11
- DNA damage12
Other elements to watch out for in soy milk are the additives mixed into it, such as carrageenan, a substance used to thicken foods. A 2001 study published in the Environmental Health Perspectives journal found that carrageenan causes gastrointestinal ulcers and abnormal tissue growth (neoplasms) in animal models.13 Make sure to avoid carrageenan by taking the time to read product labels carefully, including any milk substitutes you may consider purchasing.
Other Dangers of Soy Milk You Should Know
Soy is high in lectins, which are classified as antinutrients. Lectins are carbohydrate-binding proteins that serve as deterrents to animals. One example is castor beans, which contain so many lectins that they’re toxic to most organisms.14
The specific lectin found in soy is called soybean agglutinin (SBA), and is considered the main antinutrient found in soy products. Research has found that SBA can negatively affect gut health by affecting intestinal structure, barrier function, mucosal immune system and balance of intestinal flora.15
The bottom line is if you’re going to eat soy products, the safest way to consume them and avoid lectin is by fermenting them. A study published in Food Research International notes that fermenting beans can reduce lectin content by up to 95%.16
Soy Milk Versus Almond Milk: Which Is Better?
Almonds are one of the most popular nuts consumed globally, and they can be prepared in various ways. One of its most popular forms is almond milk, which is made by soaking almonds, blending them in water and then straining them using a filter. If you’re deciding between almond milk and soy milk, almond milk may be a better choice, as research has found that almonds may help:
- Lower your risk of heart disease — Almonds are known for their vitamin E content. A single ounce contains 37% of the daily recommended intake of this nutrient,17 which studies indicate may boost heart health.18,19
- Lower your risk of cancer — Vitamin E may also help lower your risk of colon cancer, as noted by a study published in Cancer Research.20
- Improve insulin sensitivity — A 2010 study notes that adults with prediabetes who consumed 20% of their total daily calories as almonds over a 16-week period helped boost insulin sensitivity.21
However, almond milk isn’t the magic answer you’re looking for when it comes to dairy alternatives. Whole almonds are still better than almond milk because they simply offer more nutrients in fewer servings. You would have to drink an entire carton of commercial almond milk to receive the same vitamins and minerals from a single serving of almonds.
Almond milk can be a healthy option if you make your own at home. This strategy allows you to use more almonds (and therefore, acquire more nutrients) while creating a fresh, tasty beverage. Follow this easy procedure to make your own almond milk:
Homemade Almond Milk Recipe
|✓ 1 cup raw organic almonds
||✓ 2 cups filtered water, plus more for soaking
||✓ Raw honey to taste, (optional)
- Place the almonds in a bowl large enough for them to spread out and cover them in water, making sure they’re completely submerged.
- Soak the almonds overnight for up to two days. They will become plump as they absorb water. When soaking, you can cover the container with a cloth or place it in the refrigerator. Rule of thumb: longer soaking time creates creamier milk.
- Drain the water from the bowl and then rinse the almonds thoroughly under cool running water. You’ll know they’re soaked correctly when they feel squishy when pinched.
- Place the almonds in a blender and pour in 2 cups of water.
- Begin grinding the almonds by pulsing the blender. Afterward, blend continuously until the water becomes opaque and the almonds have the same consistency as a fine meal.
- Using a cheesecloth, strain the almond meal and extract the liquid. To do this correctly, squeeze the cheesecloth.
- Add organic honey to taste, if desired.
Note: Homemade almond milk lasts up to two days.
5 Benefits to Drinking Homemade Almond Milk
Adding raw honey to your almond milk can improve the taste and adds additional health benefits. Did you know that raw honey is one of the healthiest foods you can add to your diet? Plenty of research demonstrates the health benefits of raw honey, showing that it may help:
- Boost your antioxidant profile — A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry notes that honey contains an assortment of antioxidants such as phenolics, peptides, organic acids and enzymes that may help boost your body’s ability to fight free radicals.22 Antioxidant intake is crucial because free radicals may play a role in many life-threatening conditions, such as heart disease and cancer.23
- Manage cholesterol levels — Diabetics are advised to minimize their sugar intake, but an exception may be made in the case of honey. In one study, Type 1 diabetics who were fed a serving of honey based on their body weight experienced a reduction in subscapular skin fold thickness, fasting serum glucose, total cholesterol, serum triglycerides and LDL cholesterol levels.24
In another study that examined Type 2 diabetics, researchers noted that honey helped decrease body weight, total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels. However, researchers urged diabetics to use caution when consuming honey, as the study subjects did experience rises in A1C levels.25
- Promote heart health — The phenolic compounds in honey such as quercetin, caffeic acid phenethyl ester (CAPE), acacetin, kaempferol and galangin may help reduce the risk of heart diseases. Research has shown that honey possesses antithrombotic, anti-ischemic, antioxidant and vasorelaxant properties that may benefit your heart.26
- Manage inflammation — Chronic inflammation affects countless people around the world, and honey may help in this regard. A study published in Innate Immunity notes that intake of Manuka, kanuka and rewarewa honeys from New Zealand is linked to anti-inflammatory activities.27 One study notes that inflammatory conditions such as chronic bronchitis and bronchial asthma may be managed with honey.28
- Lower your risk of cancer — Honey is linked with reduced risk of cancer by inducing apoptosis, modifying cell cycle progression and causing mitochondrial membrane depolarization in several types of cancer cells.29
Moderation is advised if you’re thinking about adding honey to almond milk. It contains glucose and fructose, which can interfere with mitochondrial function and metabolism. Carefully control your honey servings so that its negatives won’t outweigh its positives.
Coconut Milk: A Healthier Substitute for Soy Milk
When it comes to milk alternatives, coconut milk, a product made from the expressed juice of grated coconut meat and water, should be at the top of your list. The main benefit of drinking this beverage is its healthy fat content.
Coconut milk contains lauric acid, which is converted into monolaurin when digested. Monolaurin is a triglyceride that offers various benefits to your health, such as fighting various germs. In one study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, monolaurin was found to have antibacterial effects, including strains resistant to antibiotics.30 In another study, monolaurin exhibited antifungal capabilities against Candida albicans, a yeast responsible for various fungal infections such as Candida albicans.31
Lauric acid is also classified as a medium-chain fatty acid (MCFA) or medium-chain triglyceride (MCT). Research has found that this type of fat may help promote health by:
- Controlling hunger — Consuming MCTs can help release hormones that promote feeling full, thereby helping you reduce your overall caloric intake.32
- Boosting energy — MCTs are digested quicker compared to other triglycerides.33 This means that they can be used as an instant source of healthy energy compared to sugar and carbs.34
- Improving cognitive function — Studies indicate that MCT consumption may help manage the symptoms of cognitive conditions such as autism35 and Alzheimer’s disease.36
Just like almond milk, coconut milk can be made in the comfort of your own home. Having your own stock of fresh coconut milk will give you access to healthy fats all year round, as long as you have a supply of fresh, organic coconut meat. Follow the procedure below to make your own, according to The Kitchn:37
Homemade Coconut Milk Recipe
|✓ 8 ounces of unsweetened shredded coconut meat
||✓ 4 cups of filtered water
|✓ Measuring cup
||✓ Nut milk bag
|✓ Medium-sized bowl
||✓ Mason jars for storage
- Bring the water to a boil, then pour it (along with the coconut meat) in the blender.
- Let the mixture rest for a few minutes to help the meat soften.
- Blend the mixture on high speed for one to two minutes until the meat is pulped and looks milky.
- Open the nut bag and place it in the bowl. Pour the coconut pulp over the bag.
- Squeeze out the milk by cinching the bag shut. To do this effectively, use both hands. If done correctly, the resultant milk should come out easily. Keep squeezing until all liquid comes out.
- Place the milk in the mason jars. You can use any other container, as long as it’s airtight.
Note: This coconut milk recipe can last up to four days upon straining. When frozen, it can last for three months.
Soy Milk for Babies Should Be Avoided
There’s no question surrounding the topic of feeding soy milk to infants; it should be avoided, as it can interfere with essential functions of body tissues and nutrient absorption. A report from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia notes that infants who consumed soy-based formulas had subtle changes in their reproductive system cells and tissues compared to those who used cow’s milk or breastmilk.38
In another study, daily exposure of infants to soy formula caused a concentration of isoflavones that are 13,000 to 22,000 times higher than normal.39 In conclusion, researchers who published a study in Paediatrics & Child Health still recommend breastfeeding as the first choice for infant feeding.40 There is simply no comparison to what a mother’s breastmilk provides.
Drinking Soy Milk During Pregnancy Is Not Advised, Either
Since soy milk is bad for babies, it’s safe to presume that it should be avoided by pregnant women, as well. As mentioned earlier, the majority of soy used in soy products contains dangerous herbicide residuals that can end up in your food and be disastrous to your health. Compounding the problem further, the soy milk you’re drinking is most likely made from GMO soybeans.
In addition, soy inhibits mineral absorption, which can affect your unborn child’s health. In a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, soy contains phytate, a substance that hinders the digestion of iron from other foods you eat.41 If your iron levels are too low, you might develop anemia, causing you to feel weak and tired.42
Your body needs to double the amount of iron to help supply oxygen to your baby. If left untreated, you may develop severe anemia, which can lead to premature birth, a low birth weight and postpartum depression.43
Soy Milk Nutrition Facts
Soy milk contains protein and an assortment of vitamins and minerals that contribute to its popularity as a milk alternative. The table below provides an overview of what a single cup of soy milk contains:44
Soy Milk Nutrition Facts
Serving Size: 3.5 ounces (100 grams)
|Total lipid (fat)
|Carbohydrate, by difference
|Fiber, total dietary
|Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid
|Vitamin A, IU
|Fatty acids, total saturated
|Fatty acids, total trans
Soy Can Still Be Healthy for You, but Make Sure It’s Fermented
Soy can be part of a healthy diet, but make sure that what you’re eating is organic and fermented. Regular soy products, including soy milk, are out of the question here. A few foods you can try instead include miso, natto, tempeh and traditionally made soy sauce, which are staples in Japanese cuisine.
Frequently Asked Questions About Soy Milk
Q: Is soy milk vegan?
A: According to The Vegetarian Resource Group, soy milk adheres to veganism since it is a pure, plant-derived product.45
Q: Is soy milk dairy?
A: Soy milk is a nondairy product since it is not made using cow’s milk.46
Q: Is soy milk healthy?
A: No, as soy products are often made from GMO soy beans that are contaminated with glyphosate.
Q: How is soy milk made?
A: Soy milk is made by blending together soybeans and water, then blending the two until smooth. The mixture is strained until milk is produced.47
Q: Does soy milk have lactose?
A: No, since soy is not a dairy product.48
Q: Is soy milk gluten-free?
A:Yes, soy milk is gluten-free since gluten only appears in grains, namely wheat, barley and rye.49
Q: Where does soy milk come from?
A: Soy milk comes from soybeans and water that have been grinded or blended together.50