The only treatment for someone with food allergies is to avoid all of the food that causes an allergic reaction. Soy allergy is one of the top 8 food allergies in the United States.
The treatment for soy allergy is to remove all soy protein from the diet. You must read food labels with care, as soybeans are used in a large number of store-bought foods.
Products that contain soy are becoming more widespread. Soybeans are used in making flours, milks, nuts, and oils. The soybeans may be powdered, granulated, textured, and coarsely or finely ground.
US food companies are required to list ingredients by their common names for the top 8 allergenic foods. The top 8 allergenic foods in the United States are eggs, milk, soy, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish.
Read the labels of all store-bought food to avoid forms of soy protein.
Most people who are allergic to soy may safely eat soybean oil (not cold pressed, expeller processed or extruded oil) and soy lecithin. Ask your doctor or dietitian if you need to avoid these.
Label ingredients which may show the presence of soy protein.
Meats that have “vegetable protein” or “textureized vegetable protein”
Hydrolyzed vegetable protein
Kyodofu (freeze-dried tofu)
Okara (soy pulp)
Texture soy protein
Textured vegetable protein (TVP)
Label ingredients which may contain soy protein.
Drinks You Can Eat
Fruit and vegetable juices
Drinks to Avoid
Coffee substitutes, drink mixes, non-dairy creamers (check labels)
Milk substitutes that have soy
Breads You Can Eat
Breads, crackers, rolls, waffles, and pancakes that do not contain soy flour or soy products
Breads to Avoid
Store bought baked goods that contain soybean flour or soy nuts (check labels on breads, breadings, crackers, rolls, stuffings, pancakes, waffles, etc)
Cereals You Can Eat
Single grain hot cereals such as oatmeal or cream of wheat, cereals that do not contain soy
Cereals to Avoid
Processed breakfast cereals that contain soy (read labels carefully as many high protein cereals contain soy)
Desserts You Can Eat
Homemade desserts: ice cream, pastries, puddings, pies, cakes, doughnuts, frostings, sauces, toppings and cookies all made without soy products
Desserts to Avoid
Many store bought desserts: cakes, dumplings, ice cream, ice cream cones, pies, puddings, pastries, frostings, doughnuts, sauces, cookies, creamy gelatin desserts and whipped toppings that contain soy
Fats and Oils You Can Eat
Butter, margarine, all vegetable oils, most vegetable sprays
Fats and Oils to Avoid
Fats that contain soy protein (lecithin and oil are okay)
Fruits You Can Eat
Fresh, cooked, canned, or dried fruits
Fruits to Avoid
Fruits in fritter, cobblers, and dumplings that contain soy
Fruits in sauces with soy
Meat/Substitutes You Can Eat
All cheeses except those noted
All nuts except for soy nuts
Meat/Substitutes to Avoid
Textured vegetable protein, meat extenders
Store bought frozen meat patties, hamburger extenders, lunch meats, sausage, meat loaf and some processed cheeses that contain soy
Soy cheese, soy yogurt
Potatoes/Pastas/Grains You Can Eat
Soy-free noodles and pastas
Potatoes/Pastas/Grains to Avoid
Macaroni, noodles, spaghetti, or other pasta that contains sauce
Store bought pasta in sauces
Salads and Dressings You Can Eat
Fresh fruit and vegetables
Soy free salad dressings
Salad and Dressings to Avoid
Store bought salad dressings that contain soy
Seasonings You Can Eat
Pure spices and herbs
Seasonings to Avoid
Mixed spices that contain soy, soy sauce
Soups You Can Eat
Noodle soups made with soy-free noodles
Soups to Avoid
Many store bought soups
Canned and dry mixes
Soups that have tofu
Sweets You Can Eat
All sugars, honey, jam, jelly and syrups
Sweets to Avoid
Vegetables You Can Eat
Fresh, frozen or canned vegetables prepared without soy
Vegetables to Avoid
Store bought vegetables that are breaded or contain soy sauce
Canned or frozen Asian style vegetables
Canned and frozen vegetables in any kind of sauce that contains soy
Examples of Soy Used in Foods
Asian cuisine: Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Lao, and Korean often contains soy.
Hamburgers and veggie burgers served at some restaurants, fast food chains, and school lunch programs often contain soy protein.
Veggie burgers and meat substitutes, such as Boca®, Garden®, and Morningstar Farms® products contain soy protein.
Premade meatloaves and meats with stuffing may contain soy.
Pre-fried products, purchased in the store or served at a restaurant, are often fried in vegetable oils that have been used to fry foods that contain soybean flour or soybean protein.
Soybean flour is often mixed with other flours in store bought products.
Fortified texturized soybeans are often used in vegetarian dishes.
Tofu is made from soybean curd.
The Japanese product “miso” is a paste made from crushed soy, rice, barley, or plum, mixed with salt and water, and then fermented.
“Natto” is barley miso with ginger added.
Substitutions and Tips
Lecithin, a type of fat, is mostly made from either soybeans or eggs. If the lecithin is fairly pure, there is little chance it will contain any soy protein. Lecithin is sold as a liquid or spray for oiling cooking pans. Food makers are not required to list the source of the lecithin on the label of their products. Often, they change the source of the lecithin from egg yolk to soy. It is unlikely that soy oil will cause you to react.
Soy Substitutes for Cooking
Soy flour – use wheat, rice, oat, barley, or potato flour.
Soybean milk – use cow’s milk, rice or potato milk or any formula that does not contain soy.
Soy miso – use barley, plum or rice miso.
Soy sauce – use pure concentrated beef or chicken broth or flavored salts.
Tips to Prevent an Allergic Reaction
Avoid foods that cause a reaction. Sometimes just touching foods can cause a severe reaction.
Read the ingredients lists on food labels to make sure the food doesn’t contain soy. Read the list even if you have had the product before. Ingredients may change.
When you travel bring along some of your own foods.
When you eat out, always ask restaurant staff about ingredients in food and how it was prepared. Ask about oils and the foods fried in them to avoid cross contamination.
Contact food companies if you are unsure of any ingredient on the label.
For infants, elemental formulas or formulas with altered protein should prevent food reactions. Discuss the formula options with your doctor or dietitian. Do not assume products labeled “hypoallergenic” will not cause a reaction.
Food Allergy Research and Education
Kids with Food Allergies (a great resource for webinars, product information and updates, recipes and forums)
Who to Call
If you are a UW Health patient and have more questions, please contact UW Health at one of the phone numbers listed below. You can also visit our website at www.uwhealth.org/nutrition
Nutrition clinics for UW Hospital and Clinics (UWHC) and American Family Children’s Hospital (AFCH) can be reached at: (608) 890-5500.
Nutrition clinics for UW Medical Foundation (UWMF) can be reached at: (608) 287-2770.