Soy Benefits + Side Effects

By Adriane Marie •  Updated: 07/03/22 •  12 min read
soy benefits and side effects

What are soy benefits and side effects every ethical consumer must know? Here are soy pros and cons and how buying them will impact your health, the environment, animals and laborers. 

Food is something we consume every day and if you’re like me, you do all the research you can to make sure you don’t hurt yourself, the planet, animals or others when shopping. As an ethical consumer myself, I am giving you all the info I’ve found on soy benefits and side effects.

You are going to learn all about soy benefits and side effects. This will include soy benefits for your health and potential risks, soy water footprint and soy carbon footprint, soy sustainability, if soy is vegan or impact animals in other ways, and much more. 

After learning if soy is good or bad for you, the environment, animals and human rights, you will be able to make the best choices you can the next time you buy food.

This post is all about soy benefits and side effects that every ethical consumer should know.

Must-Know Soy Benefits And Side Effects

Health

Soybean health benefits may include:

Soybean side effects may include:

Soybeans are…

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Environment

Water footprint: low, it takes 2,145 liters of water to produce 1 kilogram of soybeans / 257 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of soybeans

Carbon footprint: low, 2.0 kg CO2e to produce 1 kilogram or 2.2 pounds of soybeans, a car driving equivalent of 5 miles or 8 kilometers

Destruction: low, soybean production is moderately sustainable, the two top producing soya producing countries are the US and Brazil, together they produce about 64% of the world’s supply, soya is Brazil’s biggest export by value, there are serious concerns about how much of it is behind deforestation in the Amazon and surrounding regions, however most of the world’s soya is fed to livestock, only 6% of it is eaten directly by humans, eating soy is much better for the environment than eating animal products, soya may also be planted on Amazon land previously deforested for cattle, soy production is associated with monocropping, which causes the soil structure and quality to be so poor that farmers must use chemical fertilizers to encourage plant growth and fruit production, pesticides and fertilizers contaminate ground water and become airborne, creating pollution, monocropping is not an issue if the product is organic

Soybeans are…

Animals

Kills: none, soybean production does not require any animals to be killed

Harms: none, soybean production does not require any animals to be used

Indirectly kills or harms: none, no animals are indirectly killed or harmed from soybean production as long as toxic chemicals have not been used, be sure to buy Non-GMO/organic, as pesticides harm and kill wildlife and ecosystems by contaminating soil, water, air and plants that animals eat

Soybeans are…

Laborers

Health and safety: varies, overall, agriculture continues to be one of the most dangerous industries, farmworkers may be subject to dehydration, heat stroke, unprotected exposure to harmful, toxic chemicals and pesticides, unsafe machinery and clean drinking water may not always accessible

Living conditions: varies, laborers are often exploited, they may face tough working conditions including long hours in the sun and heat performing physically exhausting tasks, labor laws and rights may or may not be in place, even if worker protection exists, employer violations may go unreported, refugees and migrant workers are especially vulnerable to abuse and mistreatment, fearing consequences of job loss or deportation

Wages: varies, generally farmworkers earn meager wages, there are many cases of underpaid agricultural workers, wage theft and no overtime payment or benefits

Soybeans…

Where do most soybeans come from? 📍

The world’s top soybean exporting country is USA, followed by Brazil, Canada, Ukraine, Argentina, China, Russia, Serbia, Austria and France.

The world’s top soybean producing country is Brazil, followed by USA and Argentina.

In the United States, Iowa reported the largest number of acres planted to certified organic soybeans followed by Minnesota and Michigan.

98% percent of soybean meal is used for animal feed (poultry, hogs and cattle mostly) and only 1% is used to produce food for people. 

Around 70% of soybeans grown in the United States are used for animal feed, poultry being the number one livestock sector consuming soybeans, followed by hogs, dairy, beef and aquaculture.

Are soybeans nutritious? 🥗

Yes! Soybeans are an excellent source of protein (the only complete non-animal protein) and dietary fiber and a good source of vitamins and minerals, like Vitamin K1, folate, copper, manganese, phosphorus and thiamin.

Other names for soybeans are soy, soya and soyabeans.

soy is alkaline. soy benefits include fitting into an alkaline diet.

benefits include fitting into an alkaline diet.

Are soybeans alkaline or acidic?

Soybeans are alkaline once digested.

What is the pH level of soybeans?

Soybeans have a 7.5 pH level when cooked once dried and a 9.0 pH level when dried once digested.

When you eat food, it breaks down to an ash residue that can be neutral, acidic or alkaline. Minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, zinc, silver, copper and iron produce an alkaline ash; whereas sulfur, phosphorus, chlorine and iodine, which are in meat, coffee, dairy and alcohol, leave an acid ash.

Going alkaline easier than ever with this: Acidic and Alkaline Foods List

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soy is gluten free. soy benefits include fitting into a gluten free diet.

benefits include fitting into a gluten free diet.

Are soybeans gluten free?

Yes, soybeans are gluten free. Soybeans do not contain gluten. Soybeans are a type of legume, therefore making it a naturally gluten free food. 

While celiac disease may not be as rampant as many marketing trends lead us to believe, you may have a gluten sensitivity…

Celiac and gluten sensitivity symptoms are similar and may include:

There are hundreds of potential symptoms, many of which are also symptoms of other conditions.

Going gluten-free easier than ever with this: Gluten and Gluten Free Foods List

soybeans are a common food allergen: soy.

side effects of common food allergens like milk, wheat, soy, fish, tree nuts, peanuts, eggs and crustaceans

Are soybeans a common food allergen?

Yes, soybeans are a common food allergen. Many people may experience allergic reactions to soybeans.

A group of the eight major allergenic foods, AKA the Big-8, include:

Severe food allergies can be life threatening. Following ingestion of a food allergen, a person with food allergies can experience a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. 

Persons may still be allergic to and have serious reactions to foods other than the eight foods identified by the law.

Be aware of common dietary restrictions and food allergens with this: The Big 8 Most Common Food Allergens List

soy has a low water footprint. soy benefits include not requiring too much water.

benefits include not requiring too much water.

Do soybeans have a high or low water footprint?

Soybeans have a relatively low water footprint compared to other foods.

What is the water footprint of soybeans?

It takes 2,145 liters of water to produce 1 kilogram of soybeans / 257 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of soybeans.

Did you know that water is a finite, non-renewable resource?

How much water does it take to produce an apple? A serving of rice? A steak dinner?

We need to be aware of something referred to as a “water footprint”. That is, the amount of fresh water utilized in the production or supply of goods we consume. As it turns out it takes significantly more water to yield foods that come from animals than foods that come from plants. Imagine how much water a cow needs to consume to generate a piece of beef. Not only how much water a single cow drinks, rather all the water that went into producing the crops that the cow ate.

Find out how much water your food consumes with this: Water Footprints of Foods and Ingredients List

soy has a low carbon footprint. soy benefits include not requiring too much energy or emitting pollution.

benefits include not requiring too much energy or emitting pollution.

Do soybeans have a high or low carbon footprint?

Soybeans have a relatively low carbon footprint compared to other foods.

What is the carbon footprint of soy?

It takes around 2.0 kg CO2e to produce 1 kilogram or 2.2 pounds of soybeans, a car driving equivalent of 5 miles or 8 kilometers.

Food not only has a water footprint but also a carbon footprint, known as CO2e, which stands for carbon dioxide equivalent. Since carbon measurements are a bit more difficult to comprehend, it is common to equate CO2e to the distance which a car drives in miles or kilometers.

When calculating carbon emissions, some factors may include…

But that’s not all!

It’s best to keep the following in mind when grocery shopping:

Find out how much carbon your food emits with this: Carbon Footprints of Foods and Ingredients List

soybeans are sustainable (unless soy is from Brazil).

benefits include being relatively sustainable overall.

Overall, are soybeans eco friendly? Is soybeans sustainable?

Soybeans are sustainable unless soy is from Brazil.

A 2018 Oxford University study – which is the most comprehensive analysis to date of the damage farming does to the planet – found that ‘avoiding meat and dairy is the single biggest way to reduce your impact on Earth’ as animal farming provides just 18% of calories but takes up 83% of our farmland.

Consuming animal products and byproducts is not environmentally friendly and is one of the worst things for the Earth. Not only is meat production wasteful, it causes enormous amounts of pollution. The industry is one of the biggest causes of climate change.

soybeans are vegan. soy benefits include not killing, harming or using animals.

benefits include not killing, harming or using animals.

Are soybeans vegan?

Yes, soybeans are vegan. Soybeans are a legume and not an animal product or byproduct, therefore making it a vegan food. 

Animals of factory farming are suffering. They live in horrific conditions that often include confinement, physical abuse and unnatural environments…so much so that they need to receive antibiotics to keep from getting ill or spreading disease. Growth hormones allow all kinds of animals to become fatter faster and live short lives.

Because we cannot see for ourselves how these animals live and what they endure does not mean it isn’t happening. The meat, poultry and dairy industries do everything they can to distance us from knowing how our food comes to be in order to keep us in the dark about what we support each time we buy animal derived products and byproducts.

Go vegan for animals!

It’s the best way to help animals and it’s not as difficult as you may think. Speak for animals with your actions, for they cannot speak at all.

Going vegan is easier than ever, at a glance with this: Vegan and Non Vegan Foods List

soybeans are a product that may or may not have labor issues.

benefits of buying fair trade, labor rights, human rights and workers rights issues

Are soybeans a product with labor concerns?

At this time there are no major concerns with soybeans production but that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening!

It’s important to stay aware of human rights concerns and worker exploitation that may be associated with specific brands.

Did you know the single largest employer in the world is agriculture? The labor involved behind each and every product cannot go unrecognized. 

Some known problems include workplace health and safety, child labor, gender inequality, inadequate pay, wage theft and exploitation. Workers can even experience harassment, humiliation and violence and unfair employers often fail to provide laborers with access to shade, drinking water, restrooms and breaks. Consequently, laborers can face nausea, dizziness, heat exhaustion, dehydration and heat stroke -the leading cause of farmworker death! 

Such mistreatment is like modern day slavery. Workers are often afraid to report issues because they fear it will result in losing their jobs or deportation. 

Fair trade organizations fight to ensure better social, environmental and economic standards. 

We can improve people’s lives with foods we eat every day simply by buying products that are certified fair trade.

This post was all about soy benefits and side effects.

Sources:

Soybeans & Oil Crops – USDA ERS

Harvard school of public health: straight talk about soy

Soybeans | USDA Foreign Agricultural Service

Adriane Marie

Self-proclaimed Grocery Guru, Material Maven and all around Conscious Consumer Connoisseur. I organize ethical info for us to comprehensively see how purchases impact people, animals and the planet. I hope you find HEALabel helpful and use it for personal and global improvement and empowerment.

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