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Soy Allergies: Spotting Problems on Food Labels

Medically Reviewed by Christine Mikstas, RD, LD on October 27, 2020

Soy can show up in lots of foods, so if you're allergic to it, look at the package carefully. All packaged foods have to show on the label that they contain milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, or soybeans.

If the label says "Contains: Soy," it's a no-brainer: don't add it to your shopping cart! But also look at the ingredients list. There are lots of different ways to say "soy."

Words to Watch For

Here are some ingredients that are soy products:

  • Edamame
  • Kinako flour
  • Kyodofu (freeze-dried tofu)
  • Lecithin (sometimes in cooking sprays)
  • Miso
  • Monoglycerides
  • Diglycerides
  • Natto
  • Okara (soy pulp)
  • Shoyu
  • Soybean
  • Soy sauce
  • Soya
  • Supro
  • Tamari
  • Tempeh
  • Teriyaki sauce
  • Textured soy flour (TSF)
  • Textured soy protein (TSP)
  • Textured vegetable protein
  • Textured vegetable protein (TVP)
  • Tofu
  • Yakidofu
  • Yuba

The FDA does not consider highly refined soybean oil (found in many processed foods) to be an allergen. Some products containing trace soy lecithin may be exempt from allergen labeling. Check with your doctor about whether or not you should avoid it.

 

Where Soy Hides

You'll find it in a lot of foods. Be on the lookout for these:

  • Baked goods, which may use soybean flour
  • Vegetable oil
  • Vitamin E
  • Meat products, such as sausages and hamburgers
  • Meat substitutes
  • Protein bars
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Tamari sauce
  • Imitation bacon bits
  • Baby foods and cereals
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Frozen dinners
  • Ice cream
  • Canned broth and soups
  • Canned tuna
  • Low-fat peanut butter
  • Salad dressings, mayonnaise, gravy, and sauces
  • Some snack foods

 

How to Choose Safe Foods

Stick with packaged and labeled foods. Foods from salad bars, deli counters, and bakeries are more likely to have something made from soy.

Read food labels every time you buy a product. Food manufacturers often change ingredients. Something that's one of your favorites could suddenly have soy in it. So be on your guard.

Be careful about ingredients that you're not familiar with. Follow a simple rule: When in doubt, look it up. You can email the maker of the product if you're still not sure about something.

Watch out for different types of a product. Low-fat or reduced-calorie versions of familiar foods may have different ingredients. Sizing (like snack-sized packs) or packaging (a can vs. a carton) can also affect what's inside. Some products may have different ingredients in different parts of the country.

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Check labels on medications and toiletries.Allergy triggers can show up in drugs, cosmetics, shampoos, soaps, and lotions.

Talk to the restaurant staff. Let servers, managers, cooks, or the chef know about your food allergy. They'll leave out soy products if you ask them. Don't be afraid to ask how a dish is prepared. Sometimes, it can be hard to tell everything that's in a dish based on how it is listed on the menu.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network: "Soy"  and "How to Read a Label for a Soy-Free Diet."

Kids with Food Allergies: "Grocery Shopping for a Child with Food Allergies" and "How to Read a Label for Soy Allergy."

Foodallergy.org.

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