Though it’s hard to picture after seeing its familiar form in a paper carton so often at the supermarket, soymilk originally comes from China. As early as 1365, soymilk was made by soaking soybeans in cold water. Those soybeans were ground between stones and the slurry filtered to become what we know as soymilk. Soymilk can then be used to make tofu. Soybeans are still soaked to make soymilk now, but blenders have replaced grinding stones and dehulling eliminates the need for filtering. Modern, commercial soymilk is pasteurized and typically contains additives like vitamins and minerals.
The History of Soymilk – A Few Interesting Facts
- In China, soymilk was traditionally enjoyed hot and sweetened for breakfast (though it is served cold or savory, too) and used as a base for a soup
- The word soymilk first appeared in English in 1704
- The first soy dairy was founded in Paris in 1910
- The first calcium-fortified soymilk in the United States was created in 1931
- By the 1950’s soymilk was being sold in bottles like soda
- In 1996 Silk soymilk was the first US soymilk offered in a milk carton in the dairy aisle
Globally, many people lack the lactase enzyme to digest dairy milk. Fortunately, the nutrition of fortified soymilk compares well with dairy milk. Below are some of the nutrition facts on soymilk.
- Many fortified soymilks are nutritionally similar to dairy milk while offering the added benefit of having no saturated fat or cholesterol
- Soymilk naturally contains all of the essential amino acids and a total of 7 grams of protein, which is comparable to the protein content of dairy milk. For reference, other plant based milks like those from almond or rice contain 0 to 1 g of protein
- Fortified soymilks are good sources of calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12
- One serving of soymilk contains 25 mg of antioxidant isoflavones which have been linked in some studies to cardiovascular and anticancer benefits
- Soymilk is a good source of potassium
- Numerous studies have found links between the consumption of soy and reduced risks of breast cancer, heart disease, and prostate cancer
- From an environmental perspective, a glass of soymilk produces about one-third the greenhouse gases that a glass of dairy milk does
How to Enjoy Soymilk
Whether you’re interested in just trying soymilk or replacing dairy milk completely, its similarity to dairy milk should make the change relatively easy. Some people prefer to start with a vanilla flavored soymilk as they adjust to the flavor, but I encourage you to transition to an unsweetened soymilk as soon as you’re able. You’ll enjoy all the nutritional benefits of soymilk mentioned here and no added sugars! You can drink soymilk like you would milk or use it in smoothies, coffee, tea, and in cooking and baking.
There’s more to learn about soy on my blog – check out an earlier post, Is Soy Good or Bad: 5 Facts You Should Know.