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Is Soy Milk Better during Pregnancy than Cow’s Milk?

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The soybean might have been responsible for the beanstalk that Jack climbed. Within the soybean is a complex array of proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, along with healthy fats like monounsaturated fatty acids. Jammed pack in this little bean; it’s no wonder you can add it to your diet and feel its power.

Soy beans can be made into a number of food items like tofu, tempeh and soy milk and is highly regarded due to its quality of protein. The soybean contains all 8 essential amino acids for muscle growth. You’ll find this only in meat products and certain vegetables. For those looking to reduce dairy due to concerns with their health and the quality of milk, soy milk is often the perfect switch. But soy has had some trouble with its reputation.

Over-consumption of soy has been seen to have adverse effects in women. One of the main components of soy is an isoflavone called genistein. Isoflavones can act like antioxidants and act like estrogen, a hormone found in the body. Too much estrogen, too many hormones in the body can lead to weight gain, specifically fat in the breasts and hips, gallstones, fibroids and cancers found mainly in women like breast cancer, ovarian and uterine cancer. If increased estrogen from soybean consumption leads to side effects like this in the female body than it naturally will transfer the same positive and negative benefits to a growing fetus.

Babies’ inuteruo will react to ingested nutrients due to their sensitive systems. Research on soy consumption and pregnancy found that the offspring of mothers that had an increased amount of the isoflavone genistein may be responsible for “increasing susceptibility to carcinogen-induced mammary tumorigenesis” (1) or breast cancer in the offspring of those whom consume too much soy.

But soy is also seen to offer protection in mothers and babies during pregnancy, lactation and beyond. Soy has been seen to reduce LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol and triglycerides which can provide protection to your heart. Soy is also known to reduce body weight, control diabetes by regulating blood sugar and fortified soy milk, like fortified cow’s milk, is a reliable source of vitamin D, essential for bone growth and antioxidant protection. From The Journal of Perinatal Education the article Soy Protein talks about the benefits to moms and babies. Vegetarians and vegans who need “vitamin B12 … only found in animal products and, therefore, may be lacking in the diet of vegans. Use of soy milk is one way to obtain this essential vitamin”.

The question of whether soy, soy milk and soy products are good or harmful to health of pregnant women lies in the product. If you’re choosing to eat processed and packaged soy foods like; soy hotdogs, soy patties, soy chips etc. you’ll find soy to be more damaging to your health than if you eat tofu and fermented soy in products like miso or tempeh. Fermentation of soy cooks the beans, releases the nutrients and kills the toxins. Always choose quality nutrients and ones that are as close to nature as possible. More research needs to be done on specific products, but highly processed soy, like chips, has more negative effects that positive ones.

There is nothing wrong with drinking cow’s milk during pregnancy. Cow’s milk also contains all 8 essential amino acids, calcium and phosphorus for strong bones and is fortified with vitamins A and D for further protection. Like soy, cow’s milk should be enjoyed in a more pure state; still pasteurized but free of chemicals, hormones and additives. When the cow is allowed to eat a natural, grass-fed diet the milk produced is higher in heart healthy fats which can protect the body and is hormone and chemical free. Dairy is well known to be an important staple in the diets of pregnant and lactating women and children for the nutrients and calories it provides.

If you’re a vegetarian or vegan or a health enthusiast soy milk is probably your preference. If your New Year’s resolution for 2014 was to take charge of your health, but you’re not ready for soy milk there are still amazing options for nutrients in cow’s milk. Sticking to portion control (cow’s milk and soy milk are 8ounces for one serving) and quality nutrients is the way to go for pregnancy weight gain and helping children learn to eat healthy from day one. Choose organic cow’s milk or soy milk for your kitchen and reap the benefits.

  1. Hilakivi-Clarke L, Cho E, Onojafe I, Raygada M, Clarke R. Maternal exposure to genistein during pregnancy increases carcinogen-induced mammary tumorigenesis in female rat offspring. Oncology Reports. 1999 Sep-Oct;6(5):1089-95.
  2. Kristen S. Montgomery, PhD, RN. Soy Protein. J Perinat Educ. 2003 Summer; 12(3): 42–45.
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