Wendyl Wants To Know
Each week, Wendyl Nissen takes a packaged food item and decodes what the label tells you about its contents.

Wendyl Wants To Know: Good for dodgy tums - but still processed

'It really should be called soy imitation milk or soy joice,' writes Wendyl Nissen. Photo / Supplied
'It really should be called soy imitation milk or soy joice,' writes Wendyl Nissen. Photo / Supplied

So Good Regular
$3.69 for 1 litre

It really should be called soy imitation milk or soy juice.

I have received lots of requests to look at soy milk, mainly because of concerns that it has added sugar. The thing about soy milk is that it's not technically a milk, because by definition milk is the substance produced by cows. So it really should be called soy imitation milk or soy juice.

And, rather ironically for a substance consumed and loved by healthy eaters, it is the epitome of a processed food, something which transforms a food item into another form. To make a milk out of soybeans, you need to soak dry soybeans, then grind them with water. It is then heated to improve the flavour and sterilise it. Products like this also have ingredients added. Let's see what they are:

Filtered water
This is simply water which has had any impurities filtered out of it.

Soy protein (3.5 per cent)
This is from the beans and delivers about the same protein content as cows' milk. A 250ml serving of soy milk will give you 7.8g, compared to 7.75g for the same serving of full milk.

Corn maltodextrin
This is basically a sugar from corn. This ingredient, along with cane sugar, will be in here for flavour, yet soy milk is not as sweet as cows' milk. A 250ml serving will give you 5g of sugar, compared with 11.75g in a similar serving of full milk.

Vegetable oils (sunflower, canola)
These will be in here to improve flavour and texture. Because these are oils, the soy milk is low in saturated fat, whereas cows' milk is high in saturated fat. One 250ml serve of full cows' milk will give you 5.25g of saturated fat, whereas the same amount of soy milk will give you 1g. Total fat content for soy milk is 8g per 250ml serve.

Cane sugar
Another sugar added for flavour. The good thing about cane sugar and corn maltodextrin is that they are not lactose. Lactose is the sugar produced by the cow which is in milk. Some people are lactose-intolerant, which means they don't have the lactase enzyme needed to break down the milk sugar, causing bloating and diarrhoea. Many switch to soy milk for this reason.

Minerals (phosphates of calcium potassium and magnesium)
Soy milk contains little digestible calcium, as it is bound to the bean's pulp, which is insoluble in humans. So it is added, along with potassium and magnesium which are also found in cows' milk.

Acidity regulator (332)
This is potassium citrate, which is a potassium salt of citric acid. It will be here to regulate the acidity of the soy milk.

Antioxidant (ascorbic acid)
Ascorbic acid is a form of Vitamin C and is a common preservative.

Vitamins (A, B12, B2, B1)
These vitamins are all found in cows' milk and will be in here to match some of its nutritional value.

Natural flavour
This will be a naturally derived flavour, possibly added to help the soy milk taste more like cows' milk.

All ingredients are of non-animal origin
This is reassuring for vegans, who avoid all animal products. Sometimes soy milk can contain vitamins or additives which have animal origins.

Made from non-GM soy
This is an important fact, as many people who seek out soy milk do not want to participate in genetic modification, which basically means the genes of soybeans can be altered to make them easier to grow commercially. In the case of America, half the crops planted in 1999 carried a gene which made it resistant to the herbicide Roundup, which is used to control weeds. Many people oppose GM foods because of the risk to biodiversity and the unknown effects on humans. This producer uses "Identity Preserved" soybeans, which means there is no risk that the beans are mixed with GM soybeans.

SoGood should not replace breast milk or infant formula for infants under 12 months of age
This is on the label because soybeans are rich in phytoestrogens, which are estrogen-like substances found in some plants. Some health advocates fear that these substances could interfere with a child's development and even cause early puberty, thyroid problems, breast development in male children, or other difficulties. New Zealand's Ministry of Health does not recommend soy-based formula for general use in infant feeding, because the long-term effects of phytoestrogens in soy-based formula as an infant's main food source are not known.

My recommendations
I know many people prefer not to consume dairy products because of lactose intolerance, or they prefer not to eat animal products full stop.

This product does its best to imitate milk, but still carries a risk of being high in phytoestrogens - and no one is quite sure what that means for us while we wait for further research. For real food eaters, cows' milk is a food which comes to you pretty much as it came from the cow, apart from pasteurisation.

Soy milk is a processed food and a milk substitute, but it can bring relief to many people.

Safe for vegans, as no animal products used.

* Sugar is added for flavour, but cows' milk has more sugar.

* Uses non-GM soy beans.

Do you have a food product you would like featured in Wendyl Wants to Know?
Email wendylwantstoknow@gmail.com with suggestions. Unfortunately Wendyl cannot correspond with readers.

- NZ Herald

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