Surprising Sources of Soy

14 Foods and Ingredients Containing Soy

Tofu contains soy. Other foods may not be as well-known. ©iStockphoto/FotografiaBasica, licensed to

If you are living with a soy allergy, you know all too well that soy lurks in many places. From Chinese food to candy bars, soy can be in some unlikely foods.

As you know, reading food ingredient labels is your best bet for avoiding foods containing soy. As one of the most common food allergens, soy is included on the Food Allergy Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) of 2006 as an ingredient that must be called out on labels as “containing soy” or “may contain soy.”

Still, this isn’t always fail-proof. When dining out, for instance, food labels may not be available, so knowing the ingredients a meal is made with, like Chinese or Japanese meals, will protect you from accidental consumption.

When you start to look for soy ingredients, they seem to be everywhere and in all kinds of food! It is difficult to avoid soy because of this fact. Soy is used as a protein boost, as a flour addition to baked goods and cereals, and as an emulsifier in higher fat foods like mayonnaise or margarine. While many code words exist to highlight the presence of soy, obvious sources, like edamame and tofu, aren’t always easy for everyone to recognize.

Here are 14 surprising foods with soy included. Some foods you may already know have soy in them, but you may not be sure why it is there or how it is included.  

Miso soup: A common Japanese staple found in American Asian restaurants, miso soup is made with miso paste and additions of tofu and vegetables such as carrot or daikon radish.

Miso paste is typically made from fermented soybeans and other ingredients. Other ingredients such as barley, buckwheat, millet, and rye may be used to make miso soup.

Tamari: Tamari is also made from fermented soybeans with the addition of wheat like soy sauce, but tamari contains more soybeans and less wheat in its production.

This makes tamari thicker and less salty than soy sauce.

Shoyu sauce: Shoyu sauce is a natural soy sauce made from soybeans, roasted hard red wheat, sea salt, and water. It is less salty and thicker than commercially-prepared soy sauce. The time allowed for fermentation varies the flavor quite a bit.

Vegetable broth, gum, or starch: In the production process, broths may be flavored with soy sauce, and gum or starches may contain soy flour. Check with the manufacturer.

Tempeh: Tempeh is made from cooked and fermented soybeans which are shaped into a patty, like a firm veggie burger. Tempeh has a nutty flavor. 

Teriyaki sauce: Teriyaki sauce usually contains soy sauce as one of the ingredients, which indicates the presence of soy allergen. Teriyaki sauce has garlic, ginger, and sugar, as well.

Low-fat peanut butter: Soy protein is added to boost the protein content and help with emulsification (emulsifiers keep the ingredients mixed together, like oil and water, and the fat from rising to the top of the peanut butter jar).

Natto: A Japanese health food made with fermented soybeans and beneficial bacteria.

Natural flavors: These flavor additions to products may contain soy ingredients. You should always check with the manufacturer about what constitutes "natural flavors" if you are unsure.

Energy bars: Soy protein isolate may be included as a way to boost the overall protein content (and it’s inexpensive) in energy bars. Soy lecithin may be added as an emulsifier.

Protein powder: This is an umbrella term for many different sources of protein. You may find milk (whey and casein protein), rice and many other foods providing the source of protein. Soy protein powder is a popular protein powder source found in grocery and health food stores, and it comes from soybeans. Be sure to read ingredient labels so you know the type of protein powder.

Hamburger meat and buns: Some fast food restaurants include soy flour in their buns and soy protein as an extender in the beef they use to make hamburgers.

Make sure you understand the requirements for fast food and chain restaurants regarding food allergen labeling.

Meat Alternatives: “Chicken” nuggets, veggie burgers, and hot dogs may be made with soy protein or tofu.

Deli Meats: Hydrolyzed soy protein may be present to enhance the flavor of deli meats.

What other foods surprise you when you find out they contain soy?


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