Soy Allergy

Learn about soy allergy, how to read food labels and how to avoid eating soy.

Soybean allergy is one of the more common food allergies, especially in babies and children.

Soybeans are a member of the legume family. Beans, peas, lentils and peanuts are also legumes. Being allergic to soy does not mean you have a greater chance of being allergic to another legume, including peanut.

Keep a wallet sized reference card with you of all the technical and scientific terms wherever you go with a How to Read a Soy Label card

Allergic Reactions to Soy

Allergic reactions to soy are typically mild, but all reactions can be unpredictable. Although rare, severe and potentially life-threatening reactions can also occur (read more about anaphylaxis).

If you have a soy allergy, keep an epinephrine auto-injector (such as an EpiPen®, Auvi-Q™ or Adrenaclick®) with you at all times. Epinephrine is the first-line treatment for anaphylaxis.

Avoiding Soy

To prevent a reaction, it is very important that you avoid soy and soy products. Always read food labels and ask questions about ingredients before eating a food that you have not prepared yourself.

Soybeans alone are not a common food in American diets. Instead, they are widely used in processed food products. Eliminating all those foods can result in an unbalanced diet. A dietitian can help you plan for proper nutrition.

Soy is one of the eight major allergens that must be listed on packaged foods sold in the U.S., as required by federal law. Download our resource on how to identify soy ingredients on food labels.

Avoid foods that contain soy or any of these ingredients:

  • Cold-pressed, expelled or extruded soy oil*
  • Edamame
  • Miso
  • Natto
  • Shoyu
  • Soy (soy albumin, soy cheese, soy fiber, soy flour, soy grits, soy ice cream, soy milk, soy nuts, soy sprouts, soy yogurt)
  • Soya
  • Soybean (curd, granules)
  • Soy protein (concentrate, hydrolyzed, isolate)
  • Soy sauce
  • Tamari
  • Tempeh
  • Textured vegetable protein (TVP)
  • Tofu

*Highly refined soy oil is not required to be labeled as an allergen. Studies show that most people with soy allergy can safely eat highly refined soy oil as well as soy lecithin. If you are allergic to soy, ask your doctor whether you need to avoid soy oil or soy lecithin.

But avoid cold-pressed, expelled or extruded soy oil—sometimes called gourmet oils. These ingredients are different and are not safe to eat if you have a soy allergy.

Soy is sometimes found in the following:

  • Asian cuisine (including Chinese, Indian, Indonesian, Thai and Vietnamese)—even if you order a soy-free item, there is high risk of cross-contact
  • Vegetable gum
  • Vegetable starch
  • Vegetable broth

Some Unexpected Sources of Soybeans and Soy Products

  • Baked goods
  • Canned broths and soups
  • Canned tuna and meat
  • Cereals
  • Cookies
  • Crackers
  • High-protein energy bars and snacks
  • Infant formulas
  • Low-fat peanut butter
  • Pet food
  • Processed meats
  • Sauces
  • Soaps and moisturizers

Allergens are not always present in these foods and products, but soy can appear in surprising places. Again, read food labels and ask questions if you’re ever unsure about an item’s ingredients.

Will My Child Outgrow a Soy Allergy?

About 0.4 percent of children are allergic to soy. Studies show an allergy to soy usually occurs early in childhood and often is outgrown by age three. The majority of children with soy allergy will outgrow the allergy by age 10.1

[1] Savage JH, Kaeding AJ, Matsui EC, Wood RA. The natural history of soy allergy. J Allergy Clin Immunol, 2010;125:683-86.

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