Is It Safe to Eat Soy During Pregnancy?

It's safe to eat soy during pregnancy as long as this food is included in the context of a varied and balanced diet. Learn more.
Is It Safe to Eat Soy During Pregnancy?

Last update: 28 August, 2022

Soy is a highly recommended food to promote women’s health. It contains a series of compounds known as isoflavones, which can optimize hormone production and reduce the symptoms associated with menopause. Now, we’re going to tell you if it’s safe to eat soy during pregnancy or if it should be restricted at this stage.

The first thing to keep in mind is that, at present, many products are made from soy. Especially, those with high protein content and made for the vegan public. This is due to the concentration of nutrients in this vegetable, although the protein quality isn’t as high as in animal-based foods. Soy is even deficient in several essential amino acids.

Soy is a food with some “anti-nutrients” inside

One of the reasons against the consumption of soy during pregnancy has to do with the presence of “anti-nutrients” in the food. That is, a series of elements that reduce the bioavailability of certain essential minerals, such as calcium, iron, or zinc. A deficit of these nutrients could negatively affect the fetus, as stated in a study published in Nutrients.

Moreover, many soybean crops are grown extensively and use pesticides to reduce the risk of pests. These substances are very fat-soluble (they adhere to fats) and can reach the fetus through the placenta. Therefore, when the origin of soybeans is unknown, it’s best to avoid them. But when it comes from organic plantations, it will be free of these toxins.

Soup with mung beans.
Soy is a food rich in nutrients, but it shouldn’t be consumed in excess at any stage of life because it could lead to other deficiencies.

So, is it safe to consume soy during pregnancy?

Despite the above, there’s no solid evidence to indicate that soy intake can be harmful to the health of pregnant women and the fetus. This is as long as it’s included in the diet in a reasonable way, without altering the variety or balance at the energy level.

Some old trials can be found that suggest the possibility of developing reproductive problems from an extremely high intake of soy in the diet, but their evidence isn’t very solid.

It should be noted that there were and are many myths about soy throughout history. For example, that it could cause a reduction in the production of testosterone in men, but this hypothesis hasn’t been proven conclusively.

And what about processed soy products?

With processed soy products one must be careful, as many of them are of poor quality and contain additives, simple sugars, and trans fats. It’s not that they’ll have a direct harmful effect on the fetus or on women’s health, but the less they appear in the diet, the better.

In the long run, they can have a negative impact on the functioning of the metabolism and on inflammatory markers in the body, which translates into an increased risk of disease. Therefore, this type of food should be reduced in the diet of pregnant women as well as in the general population.

A diet should always be based on fresh and nutrient-dense foods. Otherwise, deficits and inefficiencies in the functioning of the body could be produced over the years.

Soy in different forms, including milk, sauce, dry beans, and tofu.
Fresh soy isn’t equivalent to products derived from it. In general, processed soy-based products contain additives and trans fats that should be avoided.

Soy can be consumed during pregnancy

As we’ve said, it’s possible to consume soy during pregnancy, although it’s best not to abuse this food. The key to a good diet is variety and energy balance, so including products that concentrate a large amount of anti-nutrients could have the opposite effect. During pregnancy, avoiding deficits is key to maintaining the good health of the mother and the future baby.

Finally, keep in mind that if you have doubts about the foods that can be included or not in the diets of pregnant women, the best option is always to go to a specialist. The professional will be able to solve all your doubts and, in addition, will be able to establish an optimal food plan to achieve a good maternal body composition and a healthy development of the fetus.

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  • Means RT. Iron Deficiency and Iron Deficiency Anemia: Implications and Impact in Pregnancy, Fetal Development, and Early Childhood Parameters. Nutrients. 2020;12(2):447. Published 2020 Feb 11. doi:10.3390/nu12020447
  • Cederroth CR, Zimmermann C, Nef S. Soy, phytoestrogens and their impact on reproductive health. Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2012;355(2):192-200. doi:10.1016/j.mce.2011.05.049