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Soy allergy

Soybeans have become a major part of processed food products in New Zealand, so avoiding products made with soybeans can be difficult. While soybeans alone are not a major food in the diet, they're in so many products that eliminating all those foods can result in an unbalanced diet. It’s, therefore, important that you consult with a dietitian to help you plan for a well-balanced diet.

Soy is more often a trigger for mild allergy symptoms, such is eczema, but can cause severe reactions and anaphylaxis.

If you are worried that you or your child has a soy allergy, seek your GP’s advice and see an allergy specialist if necessary. Your GP or specialist will make a diagnosis based on history of previous reactions, and soy allergy may be confirmed by blood tests and/or skin prick tests to measure the allergy antibody. Anyone with a soy allergy needs to avoid all soy and soy products.

Soy beans are a legume, and are in the same family as peanut, beans, peas and lentils. Some people can be allergic to other legumes, such as peanut. However they are just as likely to be allergic to other foods, for example some infants with cow’s milk allergy are also allergic to soy.

Soy is commonly used in processed foods. It’s often used as a vegetarian protein substitute and is usually the base for “vegetarian meats” e.g. vegetarian mince, bacon, sausages, slices, rolls, luncheons and canned vegetarian casseroles.

Soy lecithin and refined soy oil (not cold-pressed or expeller-pressed oil) are common ingredients in many foods. The good news is that some soy-allergic patients are advised by their specialists that these ingredients are generally considered safe for them to consume, as the protein content should be very low. Be guided by your doctor.

What is soy lecithin?

Soy lecithin is a common ingredient in many foods because of its emulsifying properties. It’s often used for promoting solidity in margarine, as coating for chocolates and other food, and to give consistent textures to creams and dressing.

Avoid foods that contain soy or any of these ingredients:

• beancurd
• black bean sauce
• edamame
• hydrolysed soy protein
• lecithin (be guided by your doctor)
• miso
• okara
• soy-albumin, fibre, flour, grits, milk, nuts, sprouts, soy sauce (shoyu/tamari)
• soya
• soya beans
• soya flavouring
• soya protein (isolate, concentrate),
• soya oil
• tempeh
• tofu
• textured vegetable protein (TVP)

Some examples of where soy protein may be present:

• Bread
• breadcrumbs,
• cereals
• creaming agents
• dairy whitener
• flavouring
• hoi sin sauce,
• hydrolysed vegetable protein (HVP)
• margarine
• mock cream
• plant (fat, oil, protein)
• textured vegetable protein (TVP)
• vegetable (oil, gum, starch, broth, extract)
• many processed foods.

Remember that all of us are different and individual cases require individual medical attention. Please be guided by your GP or specialist.