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Soya Allergy

Sian Baker

Medically reviewed by Sian Baker, Dip ION mBANT mCNHC
on March 29, 2023. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Check My Body Health blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

Soy (or soya) refers to various foods derived from the soybean plant, including:

  • Soybeans: the whole, mature beans, often sold dried or fresh
  • Tofu: a soft, cheese-like food made by curdling soy milk
  • Tempeh: a fermented soy product with a nutty flavour
  • Soy milk: a non-dairy milk alternative made from grinding and boiling soybeans
  • Edamame: immature soybeans often served as a snack or side dish
  • Soy sauce: a condiment made from fermented soybeans, salt, and wheat
  • Textured vegetable protein (TVP): a high-protein product made from defatted soy flour

Soy is widely used in many Asian cuisines, but has also gained popularity as a plant-based alternative to meat and dairy products. It is a good source of protein and contains various vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that are beneficial to health. However, some people may have soy allergies or be sensitive to certain components of soy, such as the isoflavones, so it is important to monitor personal reactions to soy.

What is a soya allergy?

A soya allergy is an allergic reaction to proteins found in soybeans and soy-based foods. Symptoms of a soya allergy may include itching, swelling, hives, trouble breathing, vomiting, and diarrhoea. If you suspect you or a loved one may have a soya allergy, it is important to seek medical advice from your doctor. If an allergy is confirmed, it is important to avoid any foods containing soy and soy-based ingredients. Common sources of soy include edamame, tofu, miso, tempeh, soy sauce, soy milk, and various forms of processed foods. It is also important to read food labels in order to identify any hidden sources of soy.

What foods contain soya?

Many foods contain soy, either as a primary ingredient or as an additive. Here are some common food items that may contain soy:

  • Tofu
  • Tempeh
  • Soy milk
  • Edamame
  • Soy sauce
  • Textured vegetable protein (TVP)
  • Vegetarian meat alternatives (e.g. veggie burgers, sausages, meatballs)
  • Dairy alternative products (e.g. soy-based yoghurt, cheese, creamers)
  • Baked goods (e.g. bread, crackers, pastries)
  • Snacks (e.g. granola bars, protein bars, energy bars)
  • Processed foods (e.g. canned soups, sauces, broths, salad dressings)

It is important to check ingredient labels when shopping, as soy can be listed under different names (e.g. soy protein isolate, hydrolyzed soy protein).

What are the symptoms of soya intolerance?

A soya intolerance is not a food allergy, but rather a sensitivity to certain foods that contain soy. Symptoms of a soya intolerance may include digestive issues such as bloating, gas, abdominal pain, constipation, and/or diarrhoea. Other signs of soya intolerance may include fatigue, headaches, skin rashes, and joint pain. If you suspect that you or someone you know may have a soya intolerance, it is important to speak with a doctor to receive an accurate diagnosis. To manage soya intolerance, it is important to eliminate soy and soy-based foods from your diet. This can be a challenge since soy is a common ingredient in many processed foods. It is important to read food labels in order to identify hidden sources of soy in food. Some recipes for people with a soya intolerance include vegetarian chilli with beans, roasted vegetable salad, and quinoa with mushrooms and spinach.

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