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Help, I have a soy allergy! What can I still eat?

  1. Being allergic to soy is more difficult than most people think. Soy is not only found in foods, but also in skin care creams and even in the analgesic agent Advil. It is impossible to list foods that can contain soy because it is in so many products. Moreover, each producer decides for themselves whether to add soy to their product. Still, there are foods that usually contain soy and foods that are often soy free.

Table of Contents

  1. What is soy? Function in foods Allergic reaction to soy Soy is listed on labels in various ways Products that typically contain soy include Which products are soy free?

What is soy?

  1. Soy is a legume containing 35% protein and 19% fat. Soy is loved in the food industry because it is a cheap source of protein. Soy is mainly used as an emulsifier, but it also improves the structure of the product and increases the protein content. Soybean oil is the most consumed vegetable oil worldwide.

Function in foods

  1. Soy mainly acts as lecithin. Lecithin is a residue from seeds or beans of oil plants, such as soy, sunflower, corn and rapeseed. It is obtained by squeezing the seeds or beans under high pressure. The oil that remains is freed of impurities, filtered and dried, leaving a brown paste. This paste is called lecithin. Originally, soybeans were the source of lecithin. For a number of years, lecithin has also been obtained from other sources, mainly sunflower seeds.

Allergic reaction to soy

  1. In case of an allergic reaction, the immune system reacts to soy, because the body considers it a dangerous substance. The allergy leads to physical complaints and can manifest itself in the following ways:

Soy is mentioned in various ways on labels

  1. Since November 2005, it has been mandatory to write soy in the form of lecithin in full (either bold, capital or small letters) on the packaging. In practice, it appears that this rule is not always applied. A large number of manufacturers list soy as one of the following E numbers:

Products that usually contain soy include…

  1. Cereal products Cereal products and therefore also pasta made from grains often contain soy. Some examples where you have to pay extra attention are bread, rusk, crispbread, cereals, pizza, biscuits and pastries. Breadcrumbs are also made from grains, so be careful if you want to eat a potato croquette or a cheese soufflé.

Sauces and oil-containing products

  1. The term sauces encompasses an endless list, most of which contain soy. Almost all ready-to-use sauces (such as dipping sauce, salad dressing, pasta sauce, satay sauce, etc.) and oil-containing products (including frying fat, butter, mayonnaise and peanut butter) are likely to contain soy. Also be careful when purchasing ready meals, as they may contain a sauce made from soy.


  1. Some examples of treats are: ice cream, candy, chips, pretzels, chocolate (bars, bonbons, chocolate spread, sprinkles) and desserts.

Oriental products

  1. Soy is widely used in Eastern cuisine. In some sauces, soy is even the main ingredient, such as soy sauce. So read the ingredients list carefully before you buy products of Asian origin.

Meat substitutes and meat products

  1. Meat substitutes such as tofu are mainly made on the basis of soy. Most consumers will not expect soy to be processed in meat products. It is often forgotten that soybeans are not only used for human consumption, but also animals eat soy. 90% of the soybeans that the Netherlands imports are processed into cattle feed, pig feed and poultry feed. The Netherlands is even the largest importer of soy in the world after China (in 2016).

Other products

  1. Soy can also be found in spice mixes, powdered drinks or sauces, and soup. Soy milk is completely out of the question for people with a soy allergy. This drink is made from soybeans placed in water and ground once they have softened.

Which products are soy free?

  1. Products you can eat Vegetables, fruit, potatoes and rice are soy free. All other processed products usually contain soy. There are very few products that can be eaten without problems. For that reason, most people with a soy allergy order special foods (such as pancake mix made from corn flour) online. Some online web stores specialize in allergen-free products and have a wider range of soy-free products than the local supermarkets, such as Gluten-Free Webshop and the Gluten-Free Market.

Soy-free products in the supermarket

  1. A number of products in supermarkets are also soy free. Keep in mind that if you come across a soy-free product, the manufacturer will not make all of its products without soy. The list below is a brief summary of products that you as a consumer really have to look for in order to find a soy-free variant. *

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