How Much Soy Is A Problem?

Hello! Welcome to Beyond Soy!

When we first began to investigate if Ashley had a food intolerance, we didn’t know how much of a particular food would be a problem. During our elimination diet, we made sure to have some of the “allergen of the day” at each meal (for example, when we had a day of gluten we ate toast for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, and pasta for dinner), so we ate more than the normal amount of each allergen over the course of the day. Ashley had a reaction when we had a full day of eating soy, so we knew soy was an issue. What we didn’t know was how much soy would be a problem. What if she only had a bite of something with soy in it? Did it make a difference if she ate edamame (straight soy) or a soy product like soybean oil?

After some trial and error, we figured out that eating any amount of soy causes Ashley to have a reaction. Even one small bite of something that contains soy causes her to exhibit symptoms of her soy intolerance. She’ll start feeling bad after eating something as small as a chocolate chip that contains soy lecithin. As a result, we need to be very careful that soy isn’t listed as an ingredient in any of the foods that she eats. 



While Ashley shouldn’t eat foods that include soy on the ingredient list, we have determined that it is safe for her to eat foods that are made in a facility that processes soy. These foods often have warnings that they “may contain traces of soy” or are “made in a facility that also processes soy” to identify the possibly for cross contamination. While the food itself doesn’t contain soy, some small amount of soy may have been introduced to the food during its manufacture. Ashley hasn’t had any problems with these foods, but she still could in the future. It is possible, albeit highly unlikely, for a food labeled like this to accidentally contain a large enough quantity of soy to cause a reaction.

In the US, soybean oil isn’t required to be listed on the allergen list. This means a food can contain soybean oil (and therefore soy proteins), but not list soy as an allergen on the packaging. Because the soy proteins in soybean oil are present at a lower level than other soy-containing products, this odd situation is allowed by food allergy regulations. Some people with a soy allergy or intolerance do not react to soybean oil because of the lower protein levels. This means, depending on the sensitivity of your intolerance or allergy, soybean oil might be okay to eat. For us, even soybean oil is off the table since Ashley shows symptoms when eating it, so we use canola oil instead.

We’ve found the level of soy that Ashley can eat safely (nothing that contains soy, but products that “may contain traces soy” are okay), which enables us to eat confidently. Knowing how much soy will cause a reaction helps us continue to be strategic about the foods we choose to eat, and takes the guess work out of picking a meal.