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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.

  • Edamame

  • Meats that have “vegetable protein” or “textureized vegetable protein”

  • Hydrolyzed vegetable protein

  • Kinnoko flour

  • Kyodofu (freeze-dried tofu)

  • Miso

  • Natto

  • Okara (soy pulp)

  • Soy beans

  • Soy concentrate

  • Soy curds

  • Soy flour

  • Granules

  • Soy grits

  • Soy nuts

  • Soy milk

  • Soy sauce

  • Shoyu cause

  • Soy sprouts

  • Soy yogurt/cheese

  • Supro

  • Tamari

  • Tempeh

  • Teriyaki sauce

  • Texture soy protein

  • Textured vegetable protein (TVP)

  • Tofu

  • Yakidofu

  • Yuba

Label ingredients which may contain soy protein.

  • Vegetable broth

  • Vegetable starch

  • Vegetable gum

  • Asian foods

Drinks You Can Eat

  • Cow’s milk

  • Coffee, tea

  • Fruit and vegetable juices

  • Carbonated drinks

Drinks to Avoid

  • Coffee substitutes, drink mixes, non-dairy creamers (check labels)

  • Soymilk

  • 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

  • Plain meats

  • All cheeses except those noted

  • Plain eggs

  • All nuts except for soy nuts 

Meat/Substitutes to Avoid

  • Textured vegetable protein, meat extenders

  • Soy nuts

  • Store bought frozen meat patties, hamburger extenders, lunch meats, sausage, meat loaf and some processed cheeses that contain soy

  • Soy beans/edamame

  • Soy cheese, soy yogurt

Potatoes/Pastas/Grains You Can Eat

  • Potatoes

  • Rice

  • 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

  • Homemade soups

  • Noodle soups made with soy-free noodles

Soups to Avoid

  • Many store bought soups

  • Canned and dry mixes

  • Noodle soups

  • Miso soup

  • Soups that have tofu

Sweets You Can Eat

  • All sugars, honey, jam, jelly and syrups

Sweets to Avoid

  • None

Vegetables You Can Eat

  • Fresh, frozen or canned vegetables prepared without soy

Vegetables to Avoid

  • Soy sprouts

  • 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.


Other Resources

  • Food Allergy Research and Education

    • http://www.foodallergy.org

    • (800) 929-4040

  • Kids with Food Allergies (a great resource for webinars, product information and updates, recipes and forums)

    • http://www.kidswithfoodallergies.org

    • 215-230-5394

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.