Soy Sauce Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

soy sauce in a bowl

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Soy sauce is an Asian condiment that originated over 2000 years ago in China. There are different types of soy sauce, but the type you are likely to see in most supermarkets is Japanese soy sauce or shoyu. Shoyu is usually thinner and clearer than some other types of soy sauce. It can be either light or dark.

Traditionally, soy sauce was made by hand using a Japanese process called honjozo. During the process soybeans are fermented and then other ingredients such as wheat or barley were added. The mixture was allowed to ferment and then a salt brine was added. Today, commercial methods are used to make many brands that you see on store shelves.

Soy sauce imparts umami or savory flavor to foods. It also makes foods saltier. While there are lower-sodium varieties on the market, most soy sauce is very high in sodium and provides no significant nutritional benefit.

Soy Sauce Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for one tablespoon (16g) of soy sauce.

  • Calories: 8.5
  • Fat: 0.1g
  • Sodium: 879mg
  • Carbohydrates: 0.8g
  • Fiber: 0.1g
  • Sugars: 0.06g
  • Protein: 1.3g

Carbs

A one-tablespoon serving of soy sauce provides just 8.5 calories and has just under one gram (0.8g) of carbohydrates. There is very little sugar (0.06g) or fiber (0.1g) in soy sauce. If you consume a packet of soy sauce (such as the packet that you often get when you order Asian take-out food), you will consume a smaller portion, just 9 grams, so you'll consume fewer calories, carbs, and sugar.

There is no recorded glycemic index or glycemic load for soy sauce. But since the portion size is generally very small and since it contains few carbohydrates, it is likely that the impact on blood sugar is minimal. Soy foods in general are believed to have a relatively low glycemic response.

Fats

Soy sauce is very low in fat, providing just 0.1g per serving.

Protein

Soy sauce provides a small amount of protein, approximately 1.3g in each one-tablespoon serving.

Vitamins and Minerals

Because soy sauce is consumed in such small amounts, it is not a good source of vitamins or minerals. The only significant micronutrient is sodium. A one-tablespoon serving provides 879 milligrams of sodium, according to USDA data.

Health Benefits

Foods like soy sauce that are consumed in very small quantities are not likely to provide substantial health benefits. Including soy in your diet with foods such as tofu or soybeans may provide benefits because soy contains isoflavones, a phytoestrogen similar to the hormone estrogen.

Soy sauce does contain isoflavones and there is some evidence that the soaking and fermentation process used to make soy sauce could help the bioavailability of isoflavones. But you're not likely to consume enough soy sauce to gain substantial benefits and any advantage you gain needs to be balanced by the potential drawbacks of consuming excess sodium.

There is also some limited evidence that soy sauce can provide antioxidant benefits. But the research is limited and contradictory. There are other foods that are likely to provide more substantial antioxidant benefits, such as fruits and vegetables.

Allergies

Soy is a common allergy, especially in children. People allergic to wheat, beans (legumes), milk, or other food can also have an allergic reaction to soy.

Symptoms of soy allergy range from mild, including hives or itching in and around the mouth, to severe reactions including anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening. Those who are allergic to soy should not consume soy sauce as it is a common trigger.

Adverse Effects

Certain people should be cautious when consuming soy sauce. Those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity should be careful when choosing soy sauce, as many brands are made with wheat and contain gluten. There are some brands, however, that produce tamari soy sauce that is made without wheat.

Those who are watching their sodium intake should be cautious about consuming soy sauce. Some brands contain up to 900 milligrams or more of sodium. The American Heart Association recommends that adults consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. They suggest an ideal limit of 1,500 mg per day or less, especially for those with high blood pressure.

There are some brands that make soy sauce that contains less sodium, but it is important to read labels. Some may not necessarily be "low-sodium" products, they might just provide less sodium than traditional soy sauce. For example, Kikkoman Less Sodium Soy Sauce contains 575 milligrams of sodium per teaspoon.

Lastly, soy sauce contains monosodium glutamate (MSG). MSG is the sodium salt of an amino acid called glutamic acid. Glutamic acid is naturally present in some foods including soy sauce. The FDA considers MSG to be “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS), however, there are some reports of symptoms including headache or nausea after eating foods containing MSG.

Varieties

The most common types of soy sauce are shoyu and tamari. But there are other varieties as well. For example, dark soy sauce is a sweeter, darker sauce that has had molasses or caramel added to it. White soy sauce has a lighter color that is preferred by cooks who don't want the dark color of common soy sauce to carry into their recipes.

When It's Best

Soy sauce is available all year long in almost any supermarket. You'll find it in the condiment aisle of most major markets. You'll also find specialty soy sauces in Asian markets and online.

Storage and Food Safety

Shelf-stable soy sauce should be used within one month of opening. It does not need to be refrigerated, according to the USDA. But according to some manufacturers, soy sauce will start to lose its freshness and flavor immediately after opening. Refrigerating it will keep the flavor and freshness at their peak for a longer period.

How to Prepare

Soy sauce can be used in marinades, sauces, and other savory recipes. In addition to Asian dishes, soy sauce pairs well with Caribbean food and many American dishes. For example, you might use it instead of salt on grilled vegetables or french fries.

You can use soy sauce alone as a marinade for steak, poultry, seafood, and other foods. Or combine it with other ingredients such as garlic, Worcestershire sauce, honey, or balsamic vinegar. Marinate the meat for at least 30 minutes or up to eight hours to get the flavor you desire.

You might also add soy sauce to your favorite soup recipe. For instance, try adding to beef noodle soup or hot and sour soup to punch up the flavor.

Recipes

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Article Sources
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