Soya milk, obtained from soya beans through a soak, grind and boil process using water has been a traditional beverage in Japan and China for a very long time, but recently it has been adopted in many parts of the world as an alternative to cow’s milk for various reasons like lactose intolerance, health concerns and veganism. The nutrition content being high, there are both benefits and side effects of soya milk.
The benefits of soya milk
For a person who is allergic to dairy products or is lactose intolerant or dislikes the taste of dairy products, soya milk is the preferable alternative. Even for vegans, who do not want to consume an animal by-product, soya milk is a good alternative. Soya milk is high in protein, fibre, minerals, vitamins and essential fatty acids and is low in saturated fat, unlike cow’s milk. It also has longer shelf life than dairy milk, and some varieties of soya milk can be stored at room temperature. Since soya milk come in various varieties, it is important to choose the healthiest ones with fewer additives like artificial sweeteners.
1. Soya milk is beneficial for health conscious people
The calorie content of a cup of soya milk is equivalent to the same quantity of skimmed milk, with lesser sugar content. Drinking soya milk is better for weight loss as it does not compromise with the other nutritive values. The presence of monounsaturated fatty acid in soya milk prevents intestinal absorption of fat, and the fiber content leads to a prolonged sense of satiation.
2. Soya milk can reduce the risk of coronary diseases
Soya milk is high in protein and contains all nine essential amino acids. The amino acids are reconstituted in the body as protein to facilitate the strengthening of the immunity system, synergizing of tissues and release of energy. Protein obtained from plant sources is more effective for the human body as it reduces the risk of loss of calcium loss through the kidneys. One cup of soya milk has seven to ten grams of protein. Due to the presence of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, soya milk is also known to lower LDL cholesterol level and increase HDL cholesterol level which leads to decrease in coronary heart disease instances.
3. Soya milk can help you sleep better
Soya has high levels of magnesium compared to many other legumes and grains. Magnesium helps you fall asleep faster and improves the quality of your sleep. It is particularly beneficial for adults who suffer from excessive stress that affects the quality of sleep, and for people who suffer from chronic insomnia.
4. Soya milk can help with post-menopausal symptoms
During menopause, there is reduced production of estrogen in the body of a woman which leads to a number of health problems like obesity, increased risk of heart disease and diabetes. It is during this time that she has to deal with mood swings, depression, insomnia and symptoms of osteoporosis. The phytochemicals called isoflavones present in soya milk are effective in estrogen replacement. Being rich in antioxidant, soya milk also helps in eliminating free radicals caused by oxidation in the body.
5. Soya milk improves bone health
Osteoporosis is a bone disease in which bones loses mass, become weak and brittle—an age and hormone related issue that can be alleviated through the consumption of soya milk. Since calcium is the building block of your bones, and your body can source calcium only from your diet, increasing intake of calcium rich soya milk can help keep the risk of ailments related to weakened bones at bay.
6. Soya milk can help with your hair loss
Although soya milk is not known for directly arresting hair loss, it is a good source of protein and other nutrients that benefit your hair. The rich quality protein that is present in soya milk can help your body generate new tissue, including lustrous hair.
Side effects of soya milk
1. Qualitative concerns related to raw soya bean production
Soya milk became super popular and gained widespread acceptance in consumer market owing to the increased demand of non-dairy milk products. Soya milk offers relief to those allergic to dairy products and to those who want to steer clear of using any food product associated or derived from animals. While soya milk has its advantages, there various controversies as to how they are manufactured. There are studies saying that the sudden surge in availability of various soya based products is due to the increased production of genetically modified soya. Genetically modified soya beans have an overall poor nutritional profile compared to organic soya beans. The increase in demand of raw soya beans also means that the soya bean crops are being potentially exposed to herbicides and pesticides for quicker and higher yield. Some of these yield facilitating boosters are probably carcinogenic (cancer-causing) to humans.
2. Soya milk can cause mineral deficiencies
Soya possesses a very high level of phytate content than any other legume or grain that has been studied. This limits the absorption of minerals like zinc, magnesium, and iron from other sources. Adequate levels of these minerals are important for a healthy body and healthy mind. To reduce the phytate content in legumes and grains techniques like cooking, soaking and sprouting are used. Unfortunately none of these work on soya beans. So, soya milk might have zero cholesterol, but at the same time, they are not friendly when it comes to letting you absorb minerals.
3. Soya milk can cause digestive and sinus problem
Soya milk contains proteins, yes, but they also contain enzyme inhibitors that can restrict the action of enzymes like trypsin essential for digestion of protein. They also cause hindrance in the digestion process that may lead to indigestion and constipation. Once our body breaks down soya milk, it leaves a mucus-like coating in the gastrointestinal tract, which slows down digestive and respiratory systems in our body. Over a period of time, this can cause sinus problems, asthma, cold, and irritable bowel syndrome.
4. Soya milk can lower testosterone and natural estrogen levels
While the isoflavones can imitate the natural estrogen and help women recover from post- menopausal symptoms that they experience after their natural estrogen level drops, there is a major downside to this. Isoflavones block the natural estrogen and take away the proactive effect estrogen levels have against uterus and breast cancers before menopause. In men, soya milk lowers testosterone levels, which on one hand lowers the risk of prostate cancer, but at the same time can inhibit sex drive and increases chances of growth of man boobs.
5. Soya milk can cause itchy throat
Oral allergy syndrome is caused when your body mistakes proteins in certain raw foods for the same allergic characteristics found in pollen. Soya is one such food. Your immune system confuses and increases your allergic reactions. While soya is processed as milk, these proteins are not thoroughly broken leaving them apparent in soya milk and exposing you to allergens.
6. Soya milk can also increase body weight
While purchasing soya milk, you may also have to be extra conscious about hidden calories. Soya milk usually comes in various flavours which can easily contain 80- 120 extra calories per serving depending on the flavour. If you consume a couple of glasses a day, you will have to compensate by reducing your food intake. However do not shy away from including soya milk just because of the fear of sweeteners. You can buy unsweetened soya milk and add some honey for flavour.