Soy milk is one of the first nondairy alternatives to cow milk. Made from soaking soy beans and grinding them with water, soy milk can bring you a variety of nutrition including proteins, fiber, essential vitamins and minerals. It also contains isoflavones and other antioxidants that are highly beneficial to your health. The most notable of which is helping you lower your blood cholesterol and protect you from heart diseases. These qualities of soy milk make it a healthy substitute for people who are lactose intolerant or have a milk allergy. However, drinking soy milk may not be a good idea for everyone. There are some controversial qualities of soy milk:
Generally speaking, you should not feed your kids soy milk if they can drink cows milk. Soy milk is concentrated with fiber that makes it difficult to process and digest for young children. Soy milk also contains phytic acid that hinders the absorption of essential nutrients like calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc. This inhibitory property does not pose as much of a problem for you as they do for your kids. Infants and young children need sufficient doses of these minerals to support their fast growing body. Drinking soy milk instead of milk can make young children deficient of these nutrients, and cause stunted growth and poor cognitive development. If your kids cannot tolerate cows milk, you need to consult with your pediatrician to find the most suitable alternative.
Just like not everybody can have milk, shellfish or nuts, your body may not tolerate soy. A soy allergy can be quite common and is more prevalent in young children than in adults. If you are allergic to soy, drinking soy milk can cause symptoms like hives, swelling, vomiting and diarrhea. In more severe cases, you can even go into anaphylactic shock.
It has been proven that the phytoestrogen in soy can effectively prevent prostate cancer in men by lowering the testosterone level. For the same reason, it is suspected to have negative effects on male libido and deter sperm production. A study in 2008 has linked soy intake with a decrease in sperm count. This finding is argumentative because the population studied was only limited to overweight Caucasian men. The effect of soy on male reproduction is still unknown, but if you are trying to have a child, watching your soy intake seems to be a good idea.
Just like the effect of soy on male reproduction, whether drinking soy milk can increase cancer risks is inconclusive. Some studies have shown that regular intake of soy products can increase breast cancer risks in women, but other studies have found the exact opposite. It is true however, that raw soy is carcinogenic. Whether soy milk can promote or deter breast cancer onset is still confounding, so if you are a current or past cancer patient, you should be extra cautious when drinking this product.