Soymilk Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Soy milk, annotated

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Soymilk, sometimes spelled "soy milk," is one of many milk alternatives that are consumed by people who prefer to supplement their dairy consumption or avoid dairy altogether. Fortified soymilk is also the only dairy alternative recognized by the dietary guidelines for their nutritional profile that is similar to cow's milk.

The plant-based liquid is made by soaking soybeans, then grinding and boiling the mixture. Finally, the soybean particles are filtered out, leaving a drinkable soy beverage. Some people make their own soymilk at home, but most consumers buy it at their local market. Numerous brands and varieties are available.

Soymilk can be a healthy addition to your diet, providing calcium and other nutrients often for fewer calories than dairy milk. But the nutrition varies substantially based on the variety that you buy.

Soymilk Nutrition Facts

The following information is provided by the USDA for 1 cup of unsweetened soymilk.

  • Calories: 105
  • Fat: 3.6g
  • Sodium: 115
  • Carbohydrates: 12g
  • Fiber: 0.5g
  • Sugars: 8.9g
  • Protein: 6.3g

Carbs

According to USDA data for soymilk, 1 cup of soymilk provides 105 calories and 12 grams of carbohydrate. Most of that comes from sugar (8.9g) but a very small amount comes from fiber (less than a gram).

But if you visit your local grocer, you may see that carb counts, calories, and sugar grams can vary based on the variety and brand that you buy. For example:

  • Silk Original Soymilk provides 110 calories, 9g of carbohydrate, and 8g of protein and 2g of fiber per 1-cup serving. It also includes 6g of sugar, 5g of which are added sugars. Cane sugar is the second ingredient in this variety.
  • Eden Organic Original Soymilk provides 130 calories, 11g of carbohydrate, 8g of sugar, 10g of protein, and 1g of fiber per 1-cup serving. The beverage is flavored with malted wheat and barley extract.
  • Silk Light Original Soymilk provides 60 calories, 5g of carbohydrate, 6g of protein, and 1g of fiber per 1-cup serving. It includes just 3g of sugar. The milk is sweetened with a combination of cane sugar and stevia.

If you are looking for soymilk with fewer carbs and calories, choose one that is unsweetened or sweetened with stevia or another zero-calorie sweetener.

Because the carb counts and sugar in soymilk products vary, the glycemic index (GI) also varies. Some estimates put the GI at about 44 with the glycemic load estimated to be about 8 for a 1-cup serving. Glycemic load takes portion size into account when estimating a food's impact on blood glucose.

Fats

USDA data reports that a cup of soymilk provides about 3.6 grams of fat. Again, that number can vary with some brands providing as much as 5 grams and some "light" varieties providing as little as 2 grams.

Protein

According to USDA data, you'll benefit from about 6.3 grams of protein in a single serving of soymilk. But the number can range as high as 10 grams depending on the brand that you buy.

Vitamins and Minerals

Again, the micronutrients in your soymilk will vary substantially based on the brand that you purchase. Most popular brands that you see in major markets fortify their soymilk with vitamins and minerals.

For example, many brands are fortified with calcium and may contain from 300–450 grams of calcium or more. Unfortified soymilk may contain 45 grams of calcium or less. You can check to see if your brand is fortified by looking at the Nutrition Facts label for the grams listed or checking the ingredients list. If you see "calcium carbonate" included as an ingredient, then it is fortified.

Other minerals in major brands of soymilk may include vitamin D (15% of the daily value), iron (6% daily value), vitamin A (15% daily value), folate (10% daily value), phosphorus (15% daily value), potassium (8% daily value), riboflavin (30% daily value), vitamin B12 (120% daily value), and magnesium (10% daily value).

As a basis for comparison, when you consume dairy cow's milk you will get vitamin D (15% daily value), vitamin a (15% daily value), folate (3% daily value), phosphorous (20% daily value), potassium (8% daily value), riboflavin (35% daily value), vitamin b12 (50% daily value), and magnesium (6% daily value).

Health Benefits

Consuming soymilk may provide certain health benefits.

Supports Bone Health

People who choose to avoid dairy products may not be able to reach their recommended daily allowance (RDA) of calcium unless they are very careful about their consumption of other calcium-rich foods like spinach or certain types of legumes.

One should also be especially careful of plant-based, calcium-containing products because "anti-nutritional" agents such as fiber, oxalate, tannins, and phytate inhibit the absorption of calcium into the body. This is whether the plants is consumed fresh or cooked.

Calcium is needed for the structure and function of healthy bones and teeth. The RDA for calcium varies based on age and sex but ranges from 1,000mg to 1,200mg for adults who are not pregnant or breastfeeding.The daily value (found on food labels), is 1,300 mg

A 1-cup serving of fortified soymilk can provide a third to almost half of your recommended daily allowance. Also, be aware that the fortification of calcium sediment settles to the bottom of the carton and may not re-suspend after shaking. Combine this issue with lower bioavailability (compared to cow's milk), and there may be issues with the total amount of calcium consumed. Supplementation with calcium beyond fortified soy milk may be necessary, especially if all dairy products are avoided.

Aids Calcium Absorption

Calcium in the diet is absorbed by the body with the help of vitamin D. Many soymilk products are not only fortified with calcium but also with 15% of the daily recommended intake of vitamin D.

People who don't get enough vitamin D can develop osteomalacia (also known as rickets in children) The condition causes you to develop soft, thin, and brittle bones. Vitamin D also plays other roles in the body, such as proper muscle and nerve function and a healthy immune system.

May Help Lower Cholesterol

Studies have shown that including soy foods in your diet may be able to lower your LDL ("bad") cholesterol. A study published in a 2016 issue of Nutrients found that consuming 25 grams of soy protein per day produced a modest 4% to 6% reduction in LDL levels, reduction of triglycerides by about 5%, and an increase of good cholesterol (HDL) by about 1% to about 3%. People with high cholesterol will see a greater reduction in LDL when 25 grams of soy protein is consumed. A single cup of soymilk provides about 6–10 grams of soy protein.

Supports Heart Health

In addition to potentially lowering cholesterol, a diet that includes soy products may also be able to modestly lower triglyceride levels, raise HDL ("good") cholesterol levels, reduce arterial stiffness, and reduce blood pressure. Soy also contains both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids which contribute to heart health.

Isoflavones, a phytoestrogen found in soy, show more promise in females versus males. In post-menopausal women, isoflavones has been shown to improve blood flow, decreasing cardiovascular events.

May Help Reduce Hot Flashes

Some evidence suggests that if you are a peri-menopausal, menopausal, or post-menopausal woman experiencing hot flashes, adding soy to your diet may help. Symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, sleep disturbances, and vaginal dryness during this time are attributed to decreasing levels of estrogen.

A small study published in 2018 found that the phytoestrogens in soy products such as soymilk may be able to reduce the frequency and severity of hot flashes with only insignificant changes to breast or endometrium tissue. More research is warranted in order to be more conclusive.

Allergies

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI), soy allergies are one of the most common allergies in children.

Any soy product, including soymilk, can trigger the allergy. Symptoms may include vomiting, stomach cramps, indigestion, or diarrhea. More severe symptoms can include shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, confusion, and dizziness, though anaphylaxis is rare. The organization advises that you work with your healthcare provider to develop an individualized written emergency treatment plan.

According to ACAAI, most children outgrow soy allergies by the time they are 3 years old. Reports of soy allergy in older adolescents and adults are lacking but it is possible.

Adverse Effects

Some people may worry that consuming soymilk can adversely affect estrogen levels. For instance, for many years, some worried that the phytoestrogens in soymilk could increase the risk for certain cancers.

The American Cancer Society provides sound advice regarding soy consumption and your risk for cancer. According to the organization, "There is growing evidence that eating traditional soy foods such as tofu may lower the risk of cancers of the breast, prostate, or endometrium (lining of the uterus), and there is some evidence it may lower the risk of certain other cancers."

The organization adds, however, that if a woman has had a breast cancer diagnosis, the evidence is not as clear. These women should seek the personalized advice of their healthcare provider.

There was also a popular myth that soymilk can cause high estrogen levels and feminizing side effects in men. But this myth has been debunked in the scientific literature. Studies have shown that men don't need to be concerned about gaining feminine traits from drinking soymilk. 

Lastly, those with thyroid disorders should seek the advice of a healthcare professional before including soymilk or soy products in their diets. While the evidence suggests that including soy in your diet may not provide any adverse outcomes, researchers are still not certain about its full effect. Since it has been a topic of a wide body of research, your healthcare provider can provide the most up to date and personalized guidance.

Varieties

There are many different types of soymilk. The most popular varieties include unsweetened and sweetened options along with flavors like vanilla and chocolate. There are organic and non-GMO varieties and also some that are labeled as gluten-free.

You may notice that the soymilk product you buy is labeled "soy beverage." The reason for this language is that the FDA determined in 2014 that the word "milk" could only be used to refer to cow's milk. That left soy beverage producers frustrated about how to label their products without confusing customers. However, the USDA has continued to use the term "soymilk" in its materials, so that name has been adopted by the industry as the easiest way to label their products.

When It’s Best

Soybeans are harvested in the late fall, but soymilk is produced year-round and can be found any time of year in most markets both in the refrigerated section and in self-stable packaging.

Storage and Food Safety

According to the USDA, for peak freshness and quality, you should refrigerate soymilk and consume it within 7–10 days after opening.

When you buy soymilk, you'll notice that it is kept in two different areas of the grocery store. Some brands are stocked in the refrigerator section and should be refrigerated immediately when you bring it home. However, there are brands of shelf-stable soymilk. These can be stored in a cool, dry pantry or cupboard until opening. Refrigerate shelf-stable soymilk after opening.

You can freeze soymilk, but it doesn't freeze well as it may separate when frozen. After you thaw it, you'll probably need to shake it to blend the ingredients. If you do choose to freeze it, be sure to freeze it before its "best by" date.

How to Prepare

You don't need to do anything special to soymilk to use it—simply use it like you would use dairy milk. Drink it straight, add it to cereal, use it in coffee, or make smoothies with it.

If you use it in recipes, it's usually best to use plain unsweetened soymilk. Using a sweetened variety might make your baked goods or savory dishes too sweet. Use equal amounts of soymilk when substituting for dairy milk. But be careful when using recipes that require you to cook the milk, because soymilk can curdle at high temperatures.

Recipes

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