Some people with lactose intolerance don’t want to rely on lactase pills, and prefer to avoid milk and dairy products altogether. Others wish to have an alternative to milk for other personal reasons such as veganism. Whatever the reason, people want to know if they can replace soy milk (also known as “Soya Milk”) with cow’s milk in their diets. The answer isn’t a definitive one – soy milk has advantages – and disadvantages.
What is in Soy Milk and How is it Made?
Soy milk is made from soybeans and water. The dry beans are soaked in water for several hours (usually a full night). The beans are then dehydrated, and are then grinded with water yet again. The result gets boiled in order to sterilize the product, and then kept heated near the boiling point for 20 more minutes.
This process produces the basic, unflavored soy milk. At this point, most manufacturers enrich the product with flavors, calcium and vitamins.
The Benefits of Soy Milk
Although soy milk doesn’t naturally have the calcium content of cow’s milk, there are many brands that are fortified with calcium plus additional nutrients. And of course, soy milk is lactose-free, so it is a good option for those who are lactose intolerant.
Not every brand is fortified, so you need to pay attention to the packaging. It is recommended that you should get 1000-1300 mg of calcium every day. The brands that are fortified, however, tend to provide the same nutritional benefits as cow milk, plus more because of the added nutrients. So in this way you will not be missing the calcium and protein content that is in cow’s milk.
Generally, soy milk is a healthy alternative to cow’s milk. It is a good source of protein and it contains all essential amino acids plus essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, choline and phytonutrients. It doesn’t contain cholesterol and only has a small amount of saturated fat. Soy milk may also lower your cholesterol levels and therefor reduce your risk of coronary artery disease (though only modestly, according to a recent Stanford study).
The Dangers of Soy Milk
There have been reports of some of the dangers of soy milk, as well. Since it contains isofavone phytoestrogens, it can have an effect on the balance of sex hormones in men and women, and it can lower fertility in men, the effect being greater in obese and overweight men.
It has also been reported that much of the soybean supply in the United States is from crops that have been genetically engineered, raising your risk of side effects or disease. Studies that have been done on rats have shown that this soy can change the structure of the uterus and ovaries, adversely affecting reproductive health.
Since soy milk contains phytoestrogens which are weaker versions of estrogen, they can prevent the effects of the natural estrogen in a woman’s body from being too low or too high. If you consume a lot of soy products your body can think you are producing too much estrogen and therefore slow down your production of estrogen and increase breakdown.
Although soy milk can be a good alternative to cow’s milk, especially the fortified types, you should watch how much you consume and be aware of any new reports that are made on soy itself. There are a lot of varying opinions on the health factor of consuming soy, so do the research yourself so you can make your own decision.