Trending – Soy Protein
Veggie burgers and meat alternatives continue to hit the market. In this post, we look at another ingredient commonly found in these products, soy protein
What is soy protein?
Most people are familiar with the concept of soy and soy-based products such as soy milk, veggie burgers like the Impossible Burger™, tofu, etc.
Manufacturers make soy proteins by hulling and defatting soybeans. Then, the defatted soy flakes are processed into flours and grits, concentrates, and isolates (1, 2).
What kinds of soy protein are there?
Flours and grits
Flours and grits are the least refined soy flakes and typically contain less protein than concentrates or isolates, ranging from 40%-54% protein content.
They have varying fat content, particle sizes, and textures so that manufacturers can use them in a wide variety of products (1, 2).
Additionally, they retain more flavor than other soy protein types.
Concentrates are more refined than the flour and grits and contain more protein at 70%+.
There are three different ways to process soy flakes to create soy concentrates (1, 2). Each preparation will produce a protein with a different physical property. The physical properties and flavors will determine how manufacturers use the concentrate.
Concentrates are typically less flavorful than flours and grits.
Soy isolates are the most refined soy products and are more than 90% protein.
Soy isolates are created via a highly technical process that produces an end result that has high nutritional content with a low flavor profile, lower sugar, and reduced flatulence factors (1, 2).
Is soy protein healthy?
Soy protein contains all nine essential amino acids and is an excellent protein source. Additionally, most humans can easily digest soy proteins, and they can serve as an alternative nutritional replacement for dairy or meat products (1,2,3).
Researchers have linked soy protein consumption as part of an overall healthy, balanced diet with reducing harmful cholesterol; lower instances of cancer, diabetes, and obesity; and protecting against bowel and kidney diseases (1).
Where can I find it?
You will find this ingredient in many protein-rich products such as protein shakes, protein bars, vegan “dairy” products, meat substitutes and blends, cereals, baked goods, infant formula, and more.
It’s also a common protein added to pet foods and livestock feeds.
Is it safe?
If you do not have a soy allergy or other soy sensitivity, soy proteins are safe to consume in normal quantities.
While soy proteins contain phytoestrogens which are naturally occurring endocrine-acting chemicals found in plants, including soybeans, they are safe to consume in moderation without any known harmful side effects for the average person (1).
What else should I know?
You should be mindful of soy proteins sold as dietary supplements. Many supplements such as protein powder sold online or from indie brands are not regulated or tested for purity standards, meaning you may not receive the advertised product (1).
The U.S. FDA cannot recall an adulterated product if they are not informed about the issue, so if you are purchasing soy protein powders, make sure it is from a reputable company or seller (1).
The good news.
Soy products can be safe, nutritious, and delicious alternatives to many animal-based products. We will continue to see this popular ingredient pop up in more innovative foods, especially meat alternative food products.