Can Soy Milk Make You Gain Weight?
In recent years, many people have started slowly replacing dairy milk with plant-based options, due to claims that these alternatives are better for your health and the environment. Popular among these plant-based alternatives is soy milk. However, recently some reports are claiming that soy milk may increase your weight. So can soy milk make you gain weight?
What is soy milk?
This is a plant-based non-dairy beverage that is made from soybeans and water. Traditionally, it is made by soaking soybeans in water overnight, then grinding the beans with water (13).
What are soy milk nutrition facts?
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 1 cup of soy milk has the following nutrition facts (9):
- Water – 220 g
- Protein – 6.34 g
- Fats – 3.59 g
- Fiber – 0.49 g
- Carbohydrates – 12 g.
When it comes to minerals and vitamins, soy milk nutrition details are also quite impressive. 1 cup (244 g) of this plant-based are:
- Calcium – 300 mg
- Iron – 1.02 mg
- Magnesium – 36.6 mg
- Sodium – 115 mg
- Riboflavin – 0.449 mg
- Vitamin B-12 – 2.07 mg
When compared to cow’s milk, this plant-based option is higher in some nutrients and vitamins. When comparing a cup of soya milk to traditional cow’s milk, the former is higher in calcium, iron, magnesium, sodium, riboflavin, and Vitamin B-12. However, the latter is higher in potassium and phosphorus (5).
What are the benefits of drinking soy milk?
If you are considering soy milk as your alternative to consuming dairy, here are some benefits of soy milk:
Our bodies need cholesterol for the production of healthy cells. However, high cholesterol levels put you at an increased risk of heart disease. Fatty deposits develop in your arteries, making it hard for blood to flow. If these deposits form a clot, you could eventually suffer from a stroke or a heart attack (2). In 1995, a meta-analysis from 38 controlled clinical trials showed that consuming about 50 grams per day resulted in a 9.3% decrease in total cholesterol and a 13% decrease in LDL (bad) cholesterol without significantly affecting serum HDL (good) cholesterol concentrations (14).
May alleviate symptoms of menopause, i.e., hot flashes
Hormonal therapy is one of the treatments that menopausal women experiment with to reduce hot flashes and other terrible effects of menopause. However, this treatment is also feared as it could potentially increase the risk of diseases such as breast cancer and stroke.
Many believe that soy products and soy milk can help these women due to soy isoflavones, which boost estrogen levels in the body. This claim is further supported by the fact that only 10-20% of women in Asian countries, where soy is consumed daily, experience hot flashes as compared to 70-80% of women in the United States (14). If you are going through menopause, it might be a good idea to try this plant-based option. However, it should be noted that more research is needed on this matter.
May reduce the risk of breast cancer
The first thing to note is that, just like in the matter of reducing hot flashes, the relation between the prevention of breast cancer and soy products requires more research. However, over more than 7 years in China, a study showed that women who consume a lot of soy throughout their life have a 59% lower risk of premenopausal breast cancer. In the United States, research done on women diagnosed with breast cancer revealed that women who ate the highest amounts of soy isoflavones had a 21% lower risk of death compared to the women with the lowest intakes (14).
May reduce the risk of prostate cancer
Chinese and Japanese men who have moved to western countries and adopted a western diet are seen to increase prostate cancer risk. This risk is lower in men from these countries who continue to consume a traditional diet including soy-based products despite being in the West. It is assumed that high amounts of soy in a traditional Asian diet provide these men with enough soy isoflavones, specifically genistein and daidzein. These isoflavones collect in prostate tissue and act as a protective layer against prostate cancer (14).
High in protein
When it comes to soy milk nutrients, 1 cup of soy milk has 6.34 g of protein (9). Unlike other plant-based milk, soy milk also has all nine essential amino acids.
High in calcium and iron
Your body uses calcium to maintain dense and strong bone tissue. On the other hand, iron is used to help red blood vessels function properly by ensuring that all the tissues throughout your body get the oxygen they need.
Does not cause sensitivity to lactose or casein
Lactose is a sugar found in cow’s milk, which some people cannot digest. This leads to symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and cramps. On the other hand, casein also found in cow’s milk causes allergy symptoms and immune system malfunctions, especially in people with sinus infections and asthma. Soy milk does not bring issues related to casein, and since it is lactose-free, it can be safely consumed by anyone who is lactose intolerant (6).
Soy milk calories: How many calories are 1 cup of soymilk?
Another one of the benefits of soy milk is that it is low in calories. Here are the calories in 244 g (1 cup) of soy milk:
What are the possible risks of drinking soy milk?
Here are some possible risks that you may encounter when you add this plant-based alternative in your diet.
Soy can block the absorption of nutrients
Soy milk contains compounds that are referred to as antinutrients. These ‘antinutrients’ are, namely, trypsin inhibitors, lectins, phytic acids and indigestible oligosaccharides. When they are ingested, they can reduce the body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients and impair the digestion of protein and carbohydrates (1).
Some people could be allergic to soy, which can be triggered by drinking soy milk. Some symptoms to this allergy include:
- Tingling in the mouth
- Hives; itching; or itchy, scaly skin (eczema)
- Swelling of the lips, face, tongue, and throat, or other body parts
- Wheezing, a runny nose or breathing difficulty
- Abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting
- Skin redness
While soy allergy is rarely life-threatening, persons with asthma are encouraged to be doubly cautious when drinking soy milk or consuming soy products (8).
Drinking this plant-based milk could lead to constipation, bloating, and nausea (7).
What are the dangers of soy milk?
Increased risk of breast cancer
As stated above, consuming large amounts of soy has been seen to decrease breast cancer risk by a significant amount. However, not all women react well to this. Postmenopausal women generally respond well to the estrogen effect from soy milk; however, women with an active menstrual cycle may be at a higher risk of break cancer (16). More research is needed to explore this potential threat.
As mentioned above, soy milk has antinutrients that reduces the body’s capacity to absorb some minerals such as iodine, zinc, iron, magnesium, copper, and chromium.
Risk of uterine cancer
This milk’s long-time consumption leads to isoflavone supplementation which thickens the endometrial lining, causing uterine cancer (3).
Can Soy Milk Make You Gain Weight?
If you are worried about ‘can soy milk make you gain weight,’ you should be at peace. As seen above, this plant-based milk energy content is average . On the other hand, it has been theorized that when consumed, soy milk acts similarly to the metabolic hormone, leptin, which controls satiety and signals to the brain that you’re full and should stop eating. The only possible way to gain weight when drinking soy milk is if it increases your overall daily energy intake (15).
The Bottom Line
Instead of worrying about ‘can soy milk make you gain weight,’ it is better to consider other more serious allegations about cancer and nutrient deficiencies. Soy milk is low in calories, and thus the risk of weight gain is relatively low.
That being said, the product seems to have other significant risks and benefits. In light of this, please speak to your doctor before introducing it into your diet.
Diets are great, but your body will thank you if you supplement your healthy nutrition plan with a good workout.