The soy free diet is a way of eating that does not include soy or soy derivatives, such as tofu, tempeh, and miso. Usually, an individual will adopt a soy free diet to test for, or after discovering that they have, a soy allergy. Soy contains estrogen-like isoflavones, called phytoestrogens. The exact mechanism of these constituents is not clear. Soy may be beneficial in individuals with low estrogen levels, particularly post-menopausal women.
Soy has been a dietary staple to many Eastern cultures for thousands of years. Recently adopted into Western culture, soy offers many documented benefits including cholesterol reduction, improving thyroid function and weight control.
However, the World Health Organization includes soy in a list of the eight most significant food allergens. The incidence of allergy to soy is estimated to be 6%, but this is thought to be an underestimate due to difficulty in recognizing the symptoms of allergy. Soy allergy typically manifests in asthma-like breathing problems and skin rashes. In older adults, soy intolerant symptoms may include bloating, nausea, constipation, migraine headache, acne or eczema-like skin conditions, fatigue, and weakness.
At least 16 potential soy protein allergens have been identified, but the clinical relevance is unknown. Those most commonly affected are infants and young children with serious allergies to peanuts. Soymilk is often used as an alternative to cow's milk in lactose intolerant or allergic infants, however some potential exists for allergic cross reactivity.
Little research has been conducted to identify and evaluate the benefits, if any, of a soy free diet. Because of the low allergenic potential of soy, many people may be suffering from soy intolerance but cannot attribute their symptoms to any allergen or disease. People with atopic conditions, hormone dependant conditions such as some types of cancer and endometriosis, and those with food allergies or intolerances to soy products may benefit from implementing a soy free diet.
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In the soy free diet, individuals do not consume any soy products. Individuals who adhere to a soy free diet should read food labels and become familiar with the many words for soy that may appear on food labels. Some example of terms for soy and common soy foods include doenjang, douche, edamame, G. max, ganjang, glycine max, miso, natto, shoyu (Japanese), soy sauce, soya (British English), soya bean (British English), tamari, tempeh, tofu. tofu, Worcestershire sauce.
Adherents may have to cook for themselves. Restaurants may use soy-based products in cooking or preparing food; at social gatherings, adherents may want to examine ingredient packages, or bring a food product that they know is soy free.
Identifying and avoiding ingredients that contain soy may appear challenging. A qualified healthcare professional and nutritionist should be consulted before making decisions about diets and/or health conditions.