Soy often becomes a popular alternative to dairy and meat products for those who consume a mainly plant based diet. Soy food products offer vegans a high quality source of protein, as well as an available source of iron and calcium. So, how do you manage to get the proper nutrition if you’re a vegan-and have the misfortune of also being allergic to soy based products?
Let’s start by looking at the list of food products you will need to avoid if you have a soy allergy. Soy can be hidden in a variety of the foods we eat. In addition to avoiding traditional soy based products, like miso, tempeh, soy beverages, soybeans, and tofu-you also need to read products labels carefully to avoid accidentally consuming soy.
In Canada-if soy is part of the product formulation, it must be declared in the list of ingredients, or in a separate “contains” statement immediately following the ingredients.
However, you need to be responsible for your own safety as a consumer. Avoid products that do not have an ingredient list, and always read through the list of product ingredients-if you see any of the following, do not consume the product if you are allergic to soy:
• Bean curd (dofu, kori-dofu,soybean curds, tofu) • Edamame • Kinako • Natto • Nimame • Okara • Soya, soybean, soja and soyabeans • Yuba
It’s also important to know that some of the following may include hidden sources of soy protein:
• Baked goods and baking mixes • Infant formula • Breaded foods • Beverage mixes • Chewing Gum • Canned meats • Dressings, gravies & marinades • Frozen desserts • Meat products with fillers • Seafood • Seasoning & Spices • Soups • MSG • Cosmetics and soaps • Pet food • Vitamins
*For a complete list, please visit the Health Canada Website.
So, what are some vegan alternatives to soy protein?
• Beans and legumes (other than soybeans) ex: kidney beans, chickpeas, navy beans etc. are all excellent sources of protein, fiber and iron. Pair legumes with a grain product like rice, quinoa or pasta and you have a complete source of protein.
• Seitan is an alternative to soy based meat replacements. Seitan is a dough made from wheat gluten (so of course, do not eat if you have Celiac Disease or a gluten intolerance!) Seitan can be used in salads, soups and stir fries- very similar to tofu.
• Almond milk can be used as an alternative to soy beverages. While almond milk does not have as much protein per glass as soy beverage-it does tend to be fortified with many of the important vitamins and minerals-similar to soy beverages.
• Nuts and seeds are also an excellent source of protein and iron. Of course, avoid soy nuts-and be sure to check the label for warnings that the product may include soy. Depending on where the nuts and seeds were processed-there is a chance that they may have been cross contaminated with soy.
Overall, it will be helpful to prepare foods of your own at home-so you know exactly what ingredients have been added to them. This can be especially helpful when you are preparing your own sauces, soups and breaded items.
If you live with someone who may be consuming sources of soy, it will be important to ensure that your food does not becoming cross contaminated as well. Having your own cutting boards, containers, bowls etc. can be helpful in preventing cross contamination.
For more information regarding soy allergies and planning a vegan diet-please visit a Registered Dietitian who can help you safely plan your meals.
References: Health Canada. Soy: One of the Top Ten Food Allergens. Retrieved from: “http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca.ezproxy.msvu.ca/fn-an/alt_formats/pdf/pubs/securit/2012-allergen_soy-soja/2012-allergen_soy-soja-eng.pdf.”