The idea of “simple” has evolved. Soy once seemed the answer to milk’s problems, growing at an epic pace. But no longer.
In 2015, U.S. almond milk sales were double those of soy milk.1 What happened? It turns out, in the search for perfect plant-based protein, soy has its own issues. Let’s look at a few of these.
GMO. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are living things “enhanced” in a laboratory, to have certain characteristics not written in nature’s code. For all of its intricacies, nature is pretty simple. It regulates itself responsibly, doesn’t take more than it needs – and is positively beautiful.
GMOs are not so simple – and we doubt they are better. Unfortunately, GMO soybeans are rampant. According to the USDA, as of 2017, 94 percent of soy-growing acreage was planted with crops engineered for herbicide-tolerance.2 So, if you are drinking soymilk, you might be consuming GMOs that have been treated with chemicals.
Soy Allergy and Intolerance. While usually outgrown, up to 5 percent of children under 5 are affected by soy allergies.3 This is an age when milk or plant-based alternatives are foundational to growth. Reactions range from rash and itchiness, to anaphylaxis, a life-threatening condition.4 This is more concerning since soy gets around. It’s common in Asian Foods, for instance, and may be used as an added source protein in plant-based drinks.
Less dangerous, but (quite literally) highly unsettling, is soy intolerance. This is a gastrointestinal issue that behaves similarly to its more famous lactose counterpart.
Gluten Connection. Given their respective problems, it is no surprise to find “gluten-free” and “soy-free” printed in tandem on packages these days. But gluten and soy are not just two separate things we might avoid: they may be related. Studies have shown that many forced, by celiac disease or other gastrointestinal sensitivities, into gluten-free diets also react adversely to soy.5 So, it may not be as easy as swapping one for the other.
Jane Anderson, writing for Verywell, suggests that soy products may irritate people with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease because of cross-contamination. This is when an undeclared ingredient – usually an allergen – sneaks into contact with legitimate components. The risk starts at the farm level, where soy and wheat crops are often rotated on the same fields, harvested with the same equipment, stored in the same place, etc.6 It is an intriguing position, given that even trace amounts can cause a reaction.
Our advice? Look beyond soy. There are options, and then there are better options. We’re discovering them growing right under our feet (peanuts), over our heads (tree nuts), and right in front of us (whole grains). It’s an exciting world with plenty to digest – including things you haven’t even thought of.
Take the journey with us. We’re happy to have you on the road to simpler, better.
1Elizabeth Crawford, “Almond Milk Sales Continue to Surge, as Dairy Milk Contracts, Nielsen Data Shows,” Food Navigator, 4-15-16
2USDA, “Recent Trends in GE Adoption,” 7-12-17
3Cheryl Harris, R.D., “So Long Soy: Tips for a Gluten-Free, Soy-Free Diet,” 1-30-13
4 American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, “Soy Allergy,” 2014
5 Kaayla Daniel, “The Little Known Soy-Gluten Connection,” Weston A. Price Foundation, 6-28-10
6 Jane Anderson, “Is Soy Gluten-Free? Why Do I React to It?,” Verywell, 2-27-18