I have always been conscious about not creating a website that puts too much emphasis on the foods that you shouldn’t be eating during pregnancy – as I think you’ll agree that once pregnant we get hit with a barrage of advice and are constantly reminded about all the foods we shouldn’t be eating, many of which are sadly misguided.

However many are standard practice and pregnancy certainly isn’t the time to be taking risks. 

Unless you’ve been living under rock for the past five years; you’ll no doubt have heard of the positive health impacts of soy products as well as some not so positive.

The problem with internet searches these days is that there is an unbelievable amount of information out there that it’s hard to sort through the fact from the fiction.

It can be pretty scary when we discover that we’re pregnant and all of a sudden we’re hit with this overwhelming barrage of advice.  Stay away from alcohol, avoid soft cheese, reduce your caffeine intake and don’t frequent sushi bars! Sounds familiar right? But when it comes to soy products – the conflicting information and advice out there is relentless.

For instance the below information shows two very conflicting accounts of soy products. You’ll have to keep reading to find out which one is true and which is false though.

Positive Information

Thought to give protection against prostate cancer and offers protection against heart disease and helps to reduce cholesterol levels. Studies show it can reduce the risk of breast cancer as well as preventing bone loss in older women and promoting male fertility.

Negative Information

Disrupts sex hormones and disrupts thyroid gland, contains compounds that prevent nutrients being absorbed. Soy allergy can be common in children and can lead to anaphylactic shock as well as some studies showing an increased rate of breast cancer when consumption of soy products is high

Now that you’re pregnant, you might be wondering if including soy in your diet is safe for you and your growing baby and scrolling through countless search engines trying to find an answer that isn’t shrouded in conflicting information is hard to do.. am i right?

The good news that you’ve been waiting for is that YES soy products can be enjoyed throughout pregnancy (All my vegan ladies – lets rejoice in that info ) HOWEVER – and its a BIG HOWEVER – like most things in life, we need to enjoy it in moderation. There is much controversy surrounding soy products during pregnancy and I talk more about these a little later on.

One of the biggest issues with the consumption of soy

Often arises when those delicious whole food soybeans end up in so many processed foods, such as soy butter and soy burgers. Whilst I do enjoy the odd tofu curry and consume soy milk in moderation, I’m also a huge advocate for a whole-food diet. I’ve also said it before and I’ll say it again, just because there is a shed load of evidence to back up the health benefits of a plant based diet; sometimes it is not automatically healthy.

Chowing down on soy burgers and fries washed down with a soy milkshake four times a week does not make for a healthy diet. Please just be mindful that despite being touted for their health benefits – many of these claims are unproven and if you are adding soy to your diet, be mindful about the whole foods you may be missing out on. It’s also worth pointing out that fermented varieties of soy such as tempeh and miso may be more easily digested.

Are Soy Products Safe during Pregnancy?

What exactly is soy?

Soy products are produced by using soybean plants and include a range of products – more now than ever due to the increase and interest in plant based lifestyles. Below are the most popular forms of soy products that you’ll find on the market.

  • Edamame – Are baby soybeans that can be either steamed or boiled, they’re perfect for adding to a stir-fry or if you’re like me you’ll just break them out direct from their pods and eat fresh with a little chilli. They’re a great source of protein with one cup containing almost 19g of protein.
  • Soy Milk – Soya milk is made by soaking soya beans that are then ground into a liquid paste and then boiled to make milk. Soya protein provides all the essential amino acids that our body needs and has even been linked to lowering blood pressure and the bad cholesterols.  
  • Tofu – love it or hate it tofu has been around for over a thousand years and is high in protein, containing all the essential amino acids. that we need. I don’t use it in cooking as much as I’d like as my children would point blank refuse it and my husband has firmly placed it on the no go list ( along with chia seed pudding – or frogs spawn pudding as he so eloquently puts it.
  • Tempeh – Tempeh is made using fermented soybeans and its versatility means it is one of the most popular soy products used by vegans and vegetarians and is also a great source of protein.
  • You’ll also find it in soy sauce ( its in the name) miso paste, and fake meat products.
Are Soy Products Safe during Pregnancy?

The benefits of soy during pregnancy

Its’ a great source of protein during pregnancy. The Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI) of protein for adults is 0.75g per kg of bodyweight per day, plus an additional 6g per day for pregnant women.

So, for a woman weighing 60 kg, they will need: 60 x 0.75g/d = 45g of protein a day and 51g during pregnancy.

Try to include a portion of protein at every meal so that you’re getting 2-3 portions per day. A portion is generally equivalent to the size of your palm.

The building blocks for our body’s cells and that of our baby is Protein and thankfully many vegans and vegetarians are already getting plenty of protein from their diet. However, the key is to get a varied amount and a good range of the essential amino acids. here are around 22 building blocks ( or amino acids) that our body needs to function properly. There are around 22 building blocks ( or amino acids) that our body needs to function properly. Eight of which are classed as essential as the body cannot make them and needs to obtain them from diet alone. ⁠

Proper Planning is KEY

One of the best products that contain a range of essential amino acids is soya with other excellent non meat protein sources including:

📌Beans and pulses,

📌chickpeas, kidney beans, soy beans and lentils

📌Nuts and nut butters, peanut butter, almond butter and cashew butter, look for the ones that contain no palm oil and sugars

📌Tofu

The Negative Effects of Soy During Pregnancy

Soy contains a compound called isoflavones which are plant estrogens and this compound is similar to the hormone estrogen which is associated with female reproduction and because soy can have estrogenic properties, its effects can vary depending on the existing level of hormones in the body. 

The problem is that even the experts aren’t entirely sure whether the isoflavones in soy work in the body in the same way that estrogen does. The jury’s still out. There is also the suggestion that certain soy products may affect the absorption of nutrients due its phytic acid content. This may reduce the body’s ability to absorb certain vitamins and minerals such as iron and calcium.

Will too much soy cause my baby problems?

There is some research which surrounds soy and a urological condition called hypospadias presenting at birth.

This condition is marked by the opening of the urethra being located on the underside of the penis instead of at the tip. It’s generally not considered dangerous and can be corrected with surgery. While hypospadias can be caused by hormones or exposure to chemicals during pregnancy, most cases don’t have a clear cause or may be genetic. More study is needed on soy and its potential role in this condition.

However, please note that most of the evidence has been observed in studies on animals and not humans.

Recommended amount of soy during pregnancy

Examples of moderate amounts of soy are:

  • 1 cup of soy milk
  • 1/2 cup of tofu
  • 1/2 cup of tempeh
  • 1/2 cup of soy meat substitute
  • 1/2 cup of soybeans

Bottom line

Ensuring you get most of your protein sources from whole food plant based sources of protein and combining that with your daily intake of calories through starchy food, nuts, grains, fruit and vegetables, a small amount in moderation of soy. can be enjoyed as part of the mx. However relying on soy products to improve your health is not advisable. That said, every person is different, and your doctor may have a specific recommendation for you. If you regularly consume foods containing soy, please speak with your doctor or midwife or dietician about how much is safe for you to eat during pregnancy.

The Food and Drug Administration’s take

The FDA wants to pull its support of the health claim that eating soy protein may help reduce the risk of heart disease. The agency proposed the change last fall, citing evidence that questions whether there’s any real benefit to heart health. If the FDA goes through with the move, then food makers will no longer be allowed to market soy products with the claim that they can help your heart. But soy won’t hurt your heart, and soy does have other benefits. “It’s high in polyunsaturated fats, fibre, vitamins, and minerals, and low in saturated fat. Natural soy products — like tofu or edamame — could replace red meat and other animal sources of protein higher in saturated fat,” says dietitian Kathy McManus, director of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital. One caveat: some soy products contain estrogen-like chemicals that could have adverse effects. So stay away from soy isoflavone supplements and foods made with textured vegetable protein and soy protein isolate, found in many protein powders and nutrition bars. Still, McManus says it’s okay to eat whole soy foods — like soy milk, edamame, and tofu — in moderation, several times per week. Source

Leave a Reply