Some of our nutritional enquiries about soya.
Q: Can you buy a low-fat soya milk?
A: Alpro produce a low-fat soya milk called ‘Soya Light' that larger supermarkets stock in the chiller cabinet.
Q: What is tofu, and what do you do with it?
A: Tofu is a soya bean curd that you can use in both savoury and sweet cooking. Tofu is vegan as it is made from soya beans and contains no animal produce. There are a wide a variety of different kinds of tofu – You can use smoked tofu in stir-fries, plain tofu in miso soup and silken tofu in desserts. Cauldron Foods Tofu is available in most supermarkets; look in the Chinese section for silken tofu. See the recipes on this site for inspiration!
Q: Is there a vegan soya infant formula on the market?
A: As far as we are aware there are two soya-based formulas - Cow & Gate's Infasoy and SMA's Wysoy - but both contain non-vegan vitamin D3. It is now a legal requirement for vitamin D3 to be in infant formulas and the most common source is lanolin (fat from sheep's wool). Hence there is no fully vegan formula on the UK market.
Q: What nutrients does soya milk contain?
A: Soya milk is an excellent source of nutrients. It is made from soya beans and contains the same amount of protein as dairy milk, all eight of the essential amino acids which the human body needs, is rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, including omega-3, and is cholesterol free. It contains less saturated fat and more unsaturated fats than cow's milk and is an excellent source of B vitamins, calcium and iron. Soya also contains fibre, which is important for good bowel health and can help lower cholesterol levels.
Q: Have soya allergies increased?
A: Although severe reactions to food are rare, approximately six per cent of children under three years old are thought to be affected by food allergy, the most common culprits being cow's milk and eggs. The number of people affected by food allergies tends to decline with age, with around four per cent of adults being affected, with shellfish and nuts being the most common causes. That said, a small number of foods are responsible for 90 per cent of all allergic food reactions and include: cow's milk and dairy products, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (including Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, almonds and walnuts), fish, shellfish, including mussels, crab and shrimps, wheat and soya. The symptoms of soya allergy are similar to those of cow's milk allergy and include rashes, diarrhoea, vomiting, stomach cramps and breathing difficulties. Very rarely, soya can cause anaphylaxis – a severe and potentially fatal ‘toxic shock'. Since November 2005, food labelling rules require pre-packed food sold in the UK to show clearly on the label if it contains soya. There are concerns that genetically modified (GM) soya may be more likely to cause an allergic reaction than non-GM soya. These concerns have been met by biotechnology companies producing even more GM soya, but with the specific proteins thought to cause the allergic reactions removed. GM products, especially soya and maize, are now in so many foods that it can be difficult to avoid them. If you want to avoid GM foods then choose foods that are certified organic.
Q: Is OK to give soya milk to young children?
A: Young children (12-18 months onwards) can be given any of the different soya milks widely available as part of a varied, well-balanced diet. Before that age they should only have formula milk which is designed specifically to meet their nutritional needs. However, we do not recommend giving soya milk in place of solid food as although it is a very good source of protein, essential fatty acids (including omega-3), B vitamins, calcium (if fortified) and iron, it is not as energy-dense as some solid foods – pulses (lentils, beans), avocados, smooth nut butters etc. In other words, they might not consume enough calories if they fill up on soya milk.
Q: I don't see the point in saying how going vegan will help the environment when vegans eat so many soya beans! To grow soya beans, huge chunks of rainforest are demolished and how can this be good for the environment?
A: It is a common misconception that deforestation is occurring so that soya beans can be planted to meet the needs of vegetarians and vegans. However, 75 per cent of the world's soya bean harvest is consumed by farmed animals and not humans. It would benefit the rainforests and the environment in general, if we stopped eating meat and dairy foods – even if we ate much more soya. Click here for more information.