Hello! Welcome to Beyond Soy!
As we have gotten to know more about foods that contain soy, we have noticed something I’ll call the “soy curve.” Generally, more processed foods are more likely to contain soy, while fresher foods are less likely to contain soy. There are, however, a few important exceptions to this rule: “health food” and “junk food.”
This results in a bimodal “soy curve,” as shown below. While this is not an official curve and is purely one of our own creation, it can be a handy tool for explaining where soy is most often found.
Fresh food (think fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as unmarinated and unseasoned meats) is largely soy-free, with the exception of raw soybeans or edamame. As foods experience more preparation and processing (“moderately processed foods”), they are generally more likely to contain soy because more ingredients and substitutions are likely. For example, a salad with dressing and/or croutons is more likely to contain soy than a plain salad. Similarly, a fruit tart is more likely to contain soy than a plate of fresh fruit. This is why restaurants and prepackaged foods can be tricky to navigate—the more preparation and processing, the more likely the food is to contain soy.
“Health foods” prompt a spike upwards in the soy curve, as foods branded in this category often add edamame or soy protein to their ingredient lists. Consider an edamame trail mix, soy nuts, soy milk, or tofu—these all are often characterized as “health foods” but each are made primarily of soy. This is why some respond with an apologetic tone when they find out that Ashley cannot eat soy; they think that many health foods are off the table. In reality, there are still many soy-free health foods that are available and are extremely good for you: fruits, vegetables, unmarinated lean meats, etc.
Based on what we know about prepared and processed food, “junk food” should be highly likely to contain soy. Many of these foods, however, are actually soy-free. This is because “junk foods” are not made out of many “real” ingredients and do not need to use soy as a substitution or filler. Cheese puffs, Doritos, Fritos, and an array of other “junk foods” are great examples of foods that are overly processed but do not contain soy.
Consider using the soy curve next time you need to explain or think about where soy is found! It is a convenient way to explain the general trends when navigating the world of food (remember that ingredient labels are always the best way to tell for sure whether something contains soy).