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List of Soy Ingredients to Avoid When Following a Soy-Free Diet

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Updated October 12, 2010

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Soybeans

Soybeans are members of the legume family, which includes other beans and peanuts.

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Avoiding soy can be difficult, since it is extremely present in our food supply and in non-food consumer products. Fortunately for people with soy allergies, the Food Allergen Labeling & Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA) requires manufacturers to clearly list soy ingredients on product labels.

There are two exceptions to FALCPA that are specific to soy: manufacturers do not have to label a product "contains soy" if it only contains refined soy oil, or if it contains soy lecithin that has been used as a release agent.

Research shows that soy proteins are present in soybean oil and soy lecithin. However, it is not clear if there is enough soy protein in these ingredients to cause a reaction in most people with soy allergies. Some people are more sensitive to soy than others, so follow your doctor's advice about these ingredients.

In addition, FLCPA does not apply to "raw agricultural commodities" - fruits and vegetables in their natural state. It also does not cover eggs, milk, or meat, which are regulated by the USDA. Soy ingredients may be present in waxes or horticultural oils on fruits, or in raw or frozen chicken that has been processed in chicken broth.

If you see the following statements on a label, the food may be cross-contaminated with soy. These warnings are generally voluntary, so some manufacturers may not include this information, even if there is soy present in their facility.

  • "may contain soy"
  • "produced on shared equipment with soy"
  • "produced in a facility that also processes soy"

Other Names for Soy

Soy is a common ingredient in many Asian cuisines, and may be identified by its name in other languages. Some of the names for soy are:

  • Bean curd
  • Bean sprouts
  • Edamame (fresh soybeans)
  • Kinako
  • Miso (fermented soybean paste)
  • Natto
  • Nimame
  • Okara
  • Shoyu
  • Soy sauce
  • Soya
  • Soybean (curds, granules)
  • Tamari
  • Tempeh
  • Tofu (dofu, kori-dofu)
  • Yuba

Soy Ingredients

Ingredients on a label are not always recognizable as soy. These ingredients are created from soy that has been processed in some way:

  • Hydrolyzed soy protein (HSP)
  • Mono- and di-glycerides
  • MSG (monosodium glutamate)
  • Soy (albumin, cheese, fiber, grits, milk, nuts, sprouts, yogurt, ice cream, pasta)
  • Soy lecithin (see above)
  • Soy protein (concentrate, hydrolyzed, isolate)
  • Soybean oil (see above)
  • Teriyaki sauce
  • Textured vegetable protein (TVP)

Possible Soy Ingredients

These ingredients may or may not contain soy. Call the manufacturer of the product of interest to find out the source of the ingredient.

  • Bulking agent
  • Hydrolyzed plant protein (HPP) or hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP)
  • Gum arabic
  • Guar gum
  • Lecithin
  • Mixed tocopherols
  • Natural flavoring
  • Stabilizer
  • Thickener
  • Vegetable gum, starch, shortening, or oil
  • Vitamin E

Foods That May Contain Soy

These foods often contain soy. You should be extra cautious about eating these foods if you are unable to get a complete ingredient list.

  • Asian cuisine (Korean, Japanese, Thai, Chinese, etc.)
  • Baked goods and baking mixes
  • Bouillon cubes
  • Candy
  • Cereal
  • Chicken (raw or cooked) that is processed with chicken broth
  • Chicken broth
  • Chocolate
  • Deli meats
  • Energy bars, nutrition bars
  • Imitation dairy foods, such as soy milks, vegan cheese, or vegan ice cream
  • Infant formula
  • Margarine
  • Mayonnaise
  • Meat products with fillers, for example, burgers or sausages
  • Nutrition supplements (vitamins)
  • Peanut butter and peanut butter substitutes
  • Protein powders
  • Sauces, gravies, and soups
  • Smoothies
  • Vegetable broth
  • Vegetarian meat substitutes: veggie burgers, imitation chicken patties, imitation lunch meats, imitation bacon bits, etc.

Cross-reactivity

Soy is a member of the legume family, as are other beans, peas, and peanuts. Most people with soy allergies can safely eat other legumes. Rarely, some people may have reactions to other beans or peanuts. Ask your doctor about allergy testing to determine if you are allergic to other legumes.

Soy in Your Environment

See our list of Surprising Non-Food Soy Products for other hidden sources of soy that may be in your medicine cabinet, shower caddy, or around the house.

Sources:

Awazuhara, Kawai, Baba, Matsui, Komiyama. Antigenicity of the proteins in soy lecithin and soy oil in soybean allergy. Clinical & Experimental Allergy. Volume 28, Issue 12, pages 1559-1564, December 1998

Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Soy Allergy. Accessed 10/4/2010. http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/fssa/labeti/allerg/soye.shtml

Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network. Soy-Free Diet. Accessed 10/4/2010 http://www.foodallergy.org/files/media/patient-handouts/Soy.pdf

Gu X, Beardslee T, Zeece M, Sarath G, Markwell J. Identification of IgE-binding proteins in soy lecithin. Int Arch Allergy Immunol. 2001 Nov;126(3):218-25.

Harris A. Steinman, "Hidden" Allergens in Foods. J ALLERGY CLIN IMMUNOL 1996;98:241-50

Porras, O, Carlsson B, Fällström SP, Hanson LA . Detection of soy protein in soy lecithin, margarine and, occasionally, soy oil. Int Arch Allergy Appl Immunol 1985; 78:30-2.

US Food and Drug Administration. Guidance for Industry: Questions and Answers Regarding Food Allergens, including the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (Edition 4); Final Guidance. October 2006. Accessed 10/5/2010. http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/GuidanceDocuments/FoodLabelingNutrition/ucm059116.htm

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