Soy protein is an excellent source of amino acids for vegans, vegetarians, and anyone allergic to cow's milk protein – especially if they are athletes or very active. This type of protein contains just the right amount of amino acids in proportions that can significantly promote muscle development.
Nowadays, there is a wide range of pure soy protein supplements on the market. You will have to dissolve these powder products in water, milk, or vegetable drinks before consumption. But how does soy protein differ from Whey protein? Should you opt for soy protein isolate or concentrate? We will solve any doubts you have in our new guide.
- 1 Weekly newsletter with the best personal finance tips
- 2 Summary
- 3 The best Soy Protein: Our Picks
- 4 Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About Soy Protein
- 4.1 What are soy protein supplements exactly?
- 4.2 Does soy protein have a high biological value?
- 4.3 What types of soy protein products are there?
- 4.4 Who can benefit from soy protein consumption?
- 4.5 Does soy protein offer additional health benefits?
- 4.6 What are the advantages of soy protein for athletes?
- 4.7 What is the difference between soy protein and Whey protein?
- 4.8 Is it harmful to consume too much soy protein?
- 4.9 Do soy protein supplements have contraindications?
- 5 Buyer's Guide
- 6 Summary
- Soy protein is a complete plant protein. This means that it provides all the essential and non-essential amino acids that the human body needs to build and repair muscle tissue, among other functions.
- These supplements come in the form of powder and can be either soy protein concentrate or isolate. The latter is the most recommended for its higher protein content and better solubility.
- You will have to evaluate various essential criteria before you can purchase the right soy protein product for your needs. These include the type of supplement (isolate or concentrate), the presence of potential allergens, the flavor, or the solubility, among others.
The best Soy Protein: Our Picks
The supplement industry is in constant growth, with more products available every year. It's certainly no different for soy protein. This great variety means that everyone can find the best supplement for them, but it can also be challenging to make a decision. To help you get it right, we have selected the most popular soy protein products currently available out there:
Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About Soy Protein
What are soy protein supplements exactly?
Does soy protein have a high biological value?
- Amount of protein: Soy concentrate provides approximately 70% of protein, while it represents around 85 to 90% of its composition in the isolate of this nutrient (2).
- Type of amino acids: Two types of these units make up proteins – essential (that the body cannot produce on its own) and non-essential. Soy protein provides every amino acid, although methionine is found in minimal amounts (3).
- Protein digestibility: This factor is decisive in determining the quality of a protein. Soy protein powder supplements are much more digestible than soybeans because the antinutrients (trypsin and phytate inhibitors) that affect the exploitation of soy protein have been removed during processing (3).
What types of soy protein products are there?
- Soy protein isolate: This is the most refined form of soy protein supplement. The raw material, defatted flour, is processed to remove both soluble and insoluble carbohydrates that make up the flour. It results in a fine powder that contains 90% protein and dissolves very well in liquids.
- Soy protein concentrate: It is also produced from defatted soy flour. However, the treatment of the raw material only eliminates soluble carbohydrates. Soy protein concentrate provides at least 70% protein and small amounts of carbohydrates.
|Characteristics||Soy protein concentrate||Soy protein isolate|
|Protein content||At least 70 %||Between 85 and 90%|
|Quantity of branched amino acids (mg/gram of protein)|| Leucine: 62 mg/g.
Isoleucine: 46 mg/g.
Valine: 48 mg/g.
| Leucine: 66 mg/g.
Isoleucine: 53 mg/g.
Valine: 51 mg/g.
|Solubility||It tends to form lumps in both hot and cold water.||It dissolves well in cold water. In hot water, it generally forms lumps as well. Its solubility is better overall.|
|Price||More affordable||More expensive|
|Carbohydrate content||Around 20%||Between 1 and 2%|
|Primary use||In processed foods (meat, dairy, baked goods)||Nutritional supplements for athletes, vegans, and individuals allergic to cow's milk protein|
Who can benefit from soy protein consumption?
- Athletes in general. Soy protein is rich in essential branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which are vital for muscle development and recovery after physical activity (4).
- Individuals allergic to cow's milk protein – athletes or otherwise – and who are looking to increase their protein intake.
- Older adults who cannot meet their protein requirements in their regular diet. The versatility and affordability of soy protein powder, as well as our body's generally good tolerance to it, make it an efficient product.
- Individuals with poor digestive tolerance to soybean, meat, or flour. These foods can lead to bloating and flatulence due to the presence of raffinose and stachyose. In soy protein isolate, however, these indigestible compounds have been eliminated.
- Young women. Isoflavones present in soy protein may exert a protective effect on cardiovascular health and bone loss in postmenopausal women. These benefits have been observed in women who consume soy from a young age (5).
Does soy protein offer additional health benefits?
- Reduction of oxidative damage due to antioxidant activity. High levels of oxidative damage are associated with an increased risk of developing heart conditions, atherosclerosis, and certain types of cancer.
- Relief from menopause-related hot flashes and reduction of cardiovascular risk associated with decreased estrogen production during this biological stage (7).
- Decreased levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol. This, in turn, reduces the risk of atherosclerosis, non-alcoholic fatty liver, and cardiovascular diseases (8).
- Prevention of the risk of osteoporosis in postmenopausal women. Isoflavones mitigate the loss of bone density resulting from estrogen deficiency (9).
What are the advantages of soy protein for athletes?
Soy protein is an excellent plant source of leucine, isoleucine, and valine (6). While animal proteins are naturally richer in BCAAs, soy protein isolate and concentrate are highly recommended for vegan athletes, people allergic to cow's milk protein, or anyone experiencing digestive discomfort from the consumption of Whey protein.
|Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs)||Standard protein||Soy protein isolate||Whey protein isolate||Pea protein|
|Amino acid content in mg/g of protein||Amino acid content in mg/g of protein||Amino acid content in mg/g of protein||Amino acid content in mg/g of protein|
What is the difference between soy protein and Whey protein?
|Characteristics||Whey protein||Soy protein|
|Origin||Cow's milk whey||Defatted soy flour|
|Is it suitable for vegans?||No||Yes|
|Is it suitable for people allergic to cow's milk protein?||No||Yes|
|Does it contain lactose?||Yes, although you can find lactose-free Whey protein.||No|
|Does it provide isoflavones?||No||Yes|
|Solubility||High. It dissolves well in liquids and acquires a pleasant, soft, foamy texture.||Its solubility is lower than that of Whey protein, but soy protein isolate tends to dissolve well in cold liquids.|
|Flavor||Available in a wide range of flavors (neutral, strawberry, vanilla, banana, chocolate)||Available in various flavors (neutral, natural, strawberry, vanilla, chocolate)|
Is it harmful to consume too much soy protein?
Regarding potential side effects, soy protein won't affect your kidneys as much as Whey protein, nor does it increase urinary calcium excretion too much (10). However, soy protein concentrate contains phytates (antinutrients), and these compounds can reduce the absorption of calcium and iron.
Do soy protein supplements have contraindications?
- Individuals allergic to soybeans.
- Women who have/had breast cancer.
- Children, pregnant and breastfeeding women. We lack evidence to guarantee that soy protein supplements are safe at these stages of life.
- People with hypothyroidism or a history of this thyroid disease. Isoflavones can affect the production of thyroid hormones (11).
- Individuals with kidney diseases.
Even if soy protein offers an excellent amino acid profile and its consumption is complemented by physical activity, the results you will notice depend largely on the type of supplement taken. Besides, you should take your personal preferences into account before making your purchase. In the section below, we have detailed the main shopping criteria to help you find the soy protein product that best suits you:
Type of Supplement
You should now be familiar with the differences between soy protein isolate and concentrate. We recommend opting for the former for its higher protein content. In addition, the amounts of carbohydrates, fiber, and fat have been reduced to a minimum during processing. Although it is slightly more expensive, it offers greater digestibility and solubility (3).
Soy protein may contain traces of various allergens. This is due to the fact that these supplements are often processed and packaged in facilities where other allergens are also handled. This can potentially lead to contamination. The allergens that are generally found in soy protein include milk, peanuts, and eggs.
You can find soy protein in various flavors: neutral, natural, strawberry, vanilla, chocolate, or caramel. Neutral-flavored protein can be added to smoothies and milkshakes, but you can also mix it with flours to make pancakes, waffles, and cakes. If you opt for artificially flavored soy protein, all you have to do is dissolve it in water or milk.
Presence of GMOs
The vast majority of soy protein supplements will feature a seal or logo on their packaging that specifies that the product is free of GMOs (genetically modified organisms). What this means is that the soybeans used to make the supplement are not genetically modified.
While many of us may not be interested in whether or not the soy protein is GMO-free, others see this as a decisive criterion as they do not include genetically modified foods in their diet. The primary reason for this is the ecological destruction (deforestation and contamination) associated with GMO cultivation.
Solubility is the ability of soy protein powder to dissolve in water or any other liquid without forming lumps. As we mentioned earlier, isolate has a higher solubility than soy protein concentrate. Protein powder generally dissolves better in cold water than hot. The size of the particles, which will vary depending on the brand, also influences solubility.
Artificial additives, such as colorants and preservatives, increase the risk of digestive discomfort or skin rashes after consuming soy protein. This is why you are advised to purchase natural products. For example, you can find supplements that include beet pulp or beta-carotene to give them a pink or yellow color, respectively.
Soy protein is an amazing plant source of essential and non-essential amino acids. Soy protein isolates and concentrates are much more digestible than soybeans and flour as the antinutrients are removed during processing. Besides, the isolate can provide up to 90% protein.
In addition to promoting the development of muscle mass in athletes, this product reduces the risk of cardiovascular conditions, decreases bad cholesterol levels in the blood, and prevents osteoporosis. These wonderful benefits are due to isoflavones, a type of flavonoid that is naturally found in soy.
We hope that you enjoyed our shopping guide. If that's the case, help us reach more people by sharing it on your social media. We'd love to hear your opinion too, so feel free to leave us a comment in the section below!
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