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URMC / Encyclopedia / Content

Soy Allergy Diet

General guidelines for soy allergy

A soy allergy is the body's abnormal response to the proteins found in soy. The key to a soy-free diet is to stay away from all foods or products containing soy. Soybeans are classified as a legume. Other foods in the legume family are navy, kidney, string, black, and pinto beans. Also chickpeas (garbanzo beans), lentils, peas, carob, licorice, and peanuts. Sensitivity to one legume can sometimes be linked to sensitivity to another legume. Ask your healthcare provider if you should stay away from other legumes.

The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) is a law that requires U.S. packaged foods to state clearly on the label if they contain soy or a soy-based ingredient.

How to read a label for a soy-free diet

For any FDA-regulated food, the word "soy" must appear somewhere on the label. This can be in the ingredient list. Or there may be a special allergen label such as "contains soy." Stay away from foods with any of these ingredients:

  • Hydrolyzed soy protein

  • Miso

  • Edamame

  • Natto

  • Soy albumin

  • Soy cheese

  • Soy fiber

  • Soy yogurt

  • Soy ice cream

  • Soy bean (curd, granules)

  • Shoyu

  • Soy flour

  • Soy grits

  • Soy nuts

  • Soy milk

  • Soy sprouts

  • Soy protein concentrate

  • Soy protein isolate

  • Soy protein hydrolyzed

  • Soy sauce

  • Tamari

  • Tempeh

  • Textured vegetable protein (TVP)

  • Tofu

Other possible sources of soy or soy products

  • Asian foods

  • Flavorings

  • Hydrolyzed plant protein

  • Hydrolyzed vegetable protein

  • Natural flavoring

  • Vegetable broth

  • Vegetable gum

  • Vegetable starch 

  • Flavorings may be soy-based

  • Vitamin E contains soybean oil

  • Hydrolyzed plant and hydrolyzed vegetable protein are likely to be soy

Always read the entire ingredient label to look for soy. Soy ingredients may be in the ingredient list. Or soy could be listed in a “contains soy” statement after the ingredient list.

Foods that don't contain soy could be contaminated during manufacturing. Advisory statements are not regulated by the FDA. They are voluntary. These include labels such as "processed in a facility that also processes soy." Or "made on shared equipment." Ask your healthcare provider if you may eat foods with these labels. Or if you should stay away from them.

Important points

The risk for an allergic reaction to soy lecithin and soy oils is low. But a reaction can occur. Studies show that most people who have a soy allergy may eat products that contain soy lecithin and soy oils. This is because these substances are fat-based, and people with allergies react to the protein part of the food. Talk to your healthcare provider to find out if you should stay away from soy lecithin or soy oils.

There are some foods and products that are not covered by the FALCPA law. These include:

  • Foods that are not regulated by the FDA

  • Cosmetics and personal care items

  • Prescription and over-the-counter medicines and supplements

  • Toys, crafts, pet foods

When you're eating out

  • Always carry 2 epinephrine auto-injectors. Make sure you and those close to you know how to use it.

  • Wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace with your allergy information.

  • If you don't have epinephrine auto-injectors, talk with your healthcare provider. Ask if you should carry them.

  • In a restaurant, food may be cross-contaminated with soy. Tell your server that you have a soy allergy.

  • Always read food labels. And always ask about ingredients at restaurants. Do this even if these are foods that you have eaten in the past.

  • Don't eat at buffets with soy. This reduces your risk of cross-contaminated foods from shared utensils.

Medical Reviewers:

  • Deborah Pedersen MD
  • Jessica Gotwals BSN MPH
  • Rita Sather RN