Is your favorite soy latte really vegan? Soy milk has been the conventional and go-to option for non-dairy beverages for many years. Soy milk is a vegan favorite because it contains no animal components in commercially available versions.
Understanding the origin, many uses, and applications of soy milk show whether this dairy milk alternative is indeed vegan. Its nutritional benefits and sustainability make it one of the most widely used food sources.
Keep reading to learn more about this impressive crop and whether its milk is genuinely vegan.
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What Is Soy Milk?
Soy milk is a plant-based, dairy-free beverage frequently used instead of milk. It’s manufactured from soybeans, and several brands add vitamins and minerals like vitamin D and calcium to their soy milk. A healthful, multipurpose legume, soy originated in East Asia.
Many words refer to soy, the world’s most common protein source, including soybean, soya, or glycine max.
According to the USDA, America is the world’s leading producer of soybeans and the world’s second-largest exporter. Soy milk, along with its other soy products, edamame, tofu, tempeh, soy sauce, and soy oil, accounts for 70-80% of all soy consumed.
This milk alternative is the world’s most widely used non-dairy milk and began modestly as a byproduct of tofu production in 14th-century China. It had become popular in North America and Europe by the second of the twentieth century.
Technological advancements cemented soy milk’s role in plant-based eating, which gave it a texture and taste more akin to animal milk rather than its original watery consistency.
Soy milk has many culinary applications, a creamy texture, and a healthy nutritional profile, including vital omega-3 fatty acids, when fortified, and flavonoids with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and cardioprotective effects.
Soy milk, including shelf-stable, refrigerated, and powdered, is readily accessible in grocery shops worldwide.
So, is Soy Milk Vegan?
The simple answer is yes! Not only is soy a vegan-friendly product on its own, but soy milk is a safe alternative for those adhering to a vegan diet, as it does not include any other additional ingredients that aren’t vegan.
While soy milk is safe for vegan and plant-based diets, looking closely at other substances added to enhance taste and fortify soy milk products is essential.
If you are mainly concerned with ensuring all-natural products are used in your soy milk, thoroughly read through all the milk’s ingredients.
Finding Popular Vegan Soy Milk Brands
Soy milk is available in most supermarkets and food retailers.
Soy milk can be found in the refrigerator section near the dairy or shelf-stable packaging on the same aisle as the breakfast cereals in any U.S. supermarket store. It can also be found in any health food store, most convenience stores, and internet grocery stores.
Fortunately, many brands offer various unique options to suit every taste. Here are a few of the most popular and trusted soymilk brands:
- PEARL (Kikkoman USA)
- Pacific Foods
- Wholesome Pantry
- Nature’s Promise
Over 50 types of soy milk are available in Japan, including seasonal and unique flavors like cherry blossom and black sesame seed. Only basic tastes like vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry will likely be found in the United States.
However, larger retailers may carry brands with seasonally varied offers. Although unsweetened vanilla variants are available, most flavored varieties contain sugar. Soy milk comes in low-fat and non-fat varieties and certified organic varieties.
Choosing The Healthiest Soy Milk
You’re on the lookout for a couple of things. To begin, choose an unsweetened brand. The sugar content of sweetened variants can range from five to 10 grams per serving.
Unsweetened vanilla is your best bet if you want a hint of taste. If your price allows, going organic is also a good idea.
Although most soy milk is fortified, check the label to be sure yours has calcium and vitamin D, as soy milk does not contain calcium naturally. This ensures that the nutrients most closely mimic those in cow’s milk.
When You Should Avoid Soy Milk
If you have a soy allergy, you should avoid soy milk. Otherwise, it’s a fantastic meal for everyone else.
Soy can be consumed when pregnant. Eating a reasonable amount of soy is also OK if you’ve had breast cancer.
The Sustainability of Soy Milk
There are many unique reasons people maintain a vegan diet. For some, it is to dietary choice; for others, it is an ethical choice to eliminate all animal products from their diet, as well as a way to lessen their carbon footprint.
Animal products come at a high environmental cost, which is not worth the dietary lifestyle for some. Plant-based foods can provide nourishment while maintaining sustainability.
Soy output has increased with the rise in interest in a plant-based diet. Soy consumption has risen in the previous two decades, resulting in excessively converting natural grasslands and forests into soybean farms, particularly in South America and the United States Great Plains.
Soy is a resource-intensive crop that takes a lot of energy, water, and agricultural inputs, such as herbicides and pesticides, which can lead to soil erosion, natural vegetation degradation, and water cycle disturbances.
Alternative milk, on the other hand, utilizes far less energy to create than typical dairy milk. Soy milk has a three-fold lower water footprint than cow’s milk, and organic soybean farming may minimize greywater waste by 98 percent.
Glyphosate, an industrial pesticide once patented by Monsanto under the brand name Roundup, is still used in nearly all soy farms in the United States.
The Health Benefits of Soy Milk
Vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in soy milk may provide considerable health benefits. Soy milk is also high in protein. Soy milk protein is a nutrient-dense, plant-based protein that can help maintain healthy muscles and organs.
Soy milk can also have various health benefits, such as:
Improved Cardiovascular Health
Soy milk can also improve your heart and circulatory system. Soy milk, whether fortified or not, is an excellent source of potassium. Potassium is essential for maintaining healthy blood pressure and pulse. Soy milk has also been linked to reducing cholesterol levels, particularly in those with high cholesterol.
Enhanced Brain Health
Omega-3 fatty acids in soy milk are healthy fats that your body does not make alone. Omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to a lower risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The impact of soy milk on various illnesses is still being studied. Conversely, soy is one of the most essential plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
Lessened Menopause Symptoms
Soy milk contains isoflavones, a type of chemical known as “phytoestrogens.” These isoflavones act in the body like a weaker kind of estrogen. As a result, studies have suggested that soy milk and other soy products may aid in the relief of menopause symptoms such as hot flashes.
What Does Soy Milk Taste Like?
Fresh soy milk in Asia has a distinct bean flavor. Still, soy milk made for Western markets loses some of its flavors during pasteurization for long-term storage and added sugars and other natural and artificial flavorings further mask the soybean flavor.
The flavor of soy milk is described as nutty or grassy by those who frequently choose this kind of milk as a dairy alternative.
How is Soy Milk Made?
- Water is removed from soaked, ground soybeans to make soy milk.
- The soybeans are dehulled and steamed after harvesting, then cooked under high pressure before being coarsely crushed.
- The white slush is thinned with hot water, and the beans are finer ground.
- The liquid is removed from the residual solids, which will later create tofu or other soy products.
- To make it taste like cow’s milk, the liquid is blended with sweeteners, flavors, and nutritional components like calcium and vitamin D.
- After sterilization and homogenization, the raw soy milk is packaged in sealed containers for mass consumption.
Making Your Soy Milk
- Soak ten ounces of soybeans overnight in water. Then, for 10 minutes, boil these beans in twelve cups of water.
- Combine the water and soybeans until smooth, then continue to cook for another 40 minutes. You can season it with a bit of salt or sugar to taste.
- After the soybeans have finished cooking, strain the mixture through a cheesecloth to eliminate the solids.
- Soymilk can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week, which is roughly the same amount of time as dairy milk.
The great news about soy milk is that you are safe to consume it regularly if you are vegan! You don’t have to worry about digging deep to determine whether your soy milk has been ethically sourced and made without animal products.
Enjoy it however you please, and make it a vegan diet staple!