Q. What is soy?
Soy and soy products are derived from soybeans, a legume native to East Asia. Soybeans grow in pods of two or three and are covered in fine brown or gray hairs. The beans are taken out of the shell or pod (the shell is not eaten) and they are used to make a variety of edible prodcuts including soy milk, soy oil, soy yogurt, soy meat, or the bean itself (often steamed), called edamame. Soy is common in the Asiatic regions of the world where it's frequently fermented and used in products such as miso, tempeh and soy sauce. Soy sales in America have increased from millions to billions of dollars in sales over the past fifteen years.
Q. Why might one avoid soy?
Soy has become a commodity health product, and is often used to make products taste salty, thus reducing their sodium values (which has health benefits of its own). However, it's often sold in the United States in its non-fermented forms, which may cause malnutrition, digestive distress, immune system breakdown, thyroid disfunction, cognitive decline, kidney stones, and fatal food allergies. You may feel 'bad' after eating soy because it contians natural toxins such as saponins, soyatoxin, phyates, and estrogen which may interfere with the enzymes you need to digest protein. Soy also contains goitrogens which block the synthesis of hormones and interfere with thyroid function, and phyates which bind to metal ions and prevent the absorption of certain minerals. And, soy is also one of the eight most common allergens and like all food allergies can cause reactions ranging from mild to anaphylactic, so it's important to speak with a board-certified allergist if you think you might have a soy allergy.
Q. If I'm allergic to soy am I allergic to soy oil and soy lecithin?
Soy(bean) oil and soy lechitin are highly processed forms of soy. Many individuals who are allergic to soy products do not react to soy oil or soy lecithin, but it's critical to speak to your doctor about whether you need to avoid these derivatives as well.
Q. How do I get started on a soy-free diet?
With all the products that contain soy, going soy-free may seem like quite a lifestyle change. However, soy allergies have become much more common and thankfully you have the freedible database to help you out! Here are som suggested next steps:
1) Make a shopping list of all the go-to items you'll need to replace in your pantry.
2) Follow our guide to Meal Planning for a New Food Challenge and make out your 'plan of attack' for the first week or so, and our Food Challenge Survival Guide to help you get through this transition.
3) Browse soy-free recipes here on freedible, which have been shared by other custom eaters like yourself.
4) Follow our Soy-Free Dible to connect with others who are just starting out - and 'old hands' that can show you the ropes.
5) Check out the links below for more detailed information for those who are highly sensitive to soy.