Side Effects of Soy and Rice Milk
While both soy and rice milk are good choices if you're trying to limit your intake of animal products or have an allergy or intolerance to cow's milk, they're not necessarily healthy for everyone. Side effects may include allergic reaction, impaired fertility or difficulty maintaining a healthy weight. Further, an additive found in these drinks may be carcinogenic. Consult your doctor to discuss milk options that fit your health and nutritional needs.
An allergic reaction is a potential side effect you may experience from soy or rice milk. If you're drinking soy milk due to an allergy to the protein in cow's milk, there is a chance you may also be allergic to the protein in soy, according to KidsHealth. In general, rice is less allergenic, but allergies are more common in communities that eat a lot of rice, says the Institute of Food Research. Allergy symptoms might include rash, difficulty breathing, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain or swelling.
- An allergic reaction is a potential side effect you may experience from soy or rice milk.
- If you're drinking soy milk due to an allergy to the protein in cow's milk, there is a chance you may also be allergic to the protein in soy, according to KidsHealth.
Concerns of Phytoestrogens in Soy
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Soy milk is a rich source of phytoestrogen, which is the plant form of the estrogen hormone. Phytoestrogens may promote health by reducing menopausal symptoms or preventing osteoporosis. However, getting too much soy in the diet may affect female fertility. Drinking soy milk as a child may also affect brain and reproductive development.
- Soy milk is a rich source of phytoestrogen, which is the plant form of the estrogen hormone.
- Drinking soy milk as a child may also affect brain and reproductive development.
Certain types of soy milk contain added sugar for sweetness. Added sugars, even those promoted as healthy such as cane sugar, provide calories without any nutritional value. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggests limiting your intake of foods with added sugar to help limit calorie intake for weight control. Look for unsweetened soy milk.
Rice milk is naturally sweet and does not usually contain added sugar. However, it's a high-glycemic food, which means it digests quickly and may cause fluctuations in your blood sugar. As a high-GI food, rice milk is not good for hunger control, which may make it harder to manage weight.
- Certain types of soy milk contain added sugar for sweetness.
- As a high-GI food, rice milk is not good for hunger control, which may make it harder to manage weight.
Exposure to Carrageenan
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Carrageenan is a food additive used to thicken liquids and is found in a number of plant-alternative milks, including brands of soy and rice milk. While food-grade carrageenan is considered safe, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a unit of the World Health Organization, says degraded carrageenan may be a possible carcinogen in people. Small amounts of degraded carrageenan are found in foods that contain carrageenan, and more is made when the additive hits your stomach, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest. While the health risk may be small, you may consider choosing brands of soy and rice milk made without the thickener to limit exposure.
- Carrageenan is a food additive used to thicken liquids and is found in a number of plant-alternative milks, including brands of soy and rice milk.
- Small amounts of degraded carrageenan are found in foods that contain carrageenan, and more is made when the additive hits your stomach, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
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- Institute of Food Research: Food Allergy -- General Facts
- Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology: The Pros and Cons of Phytoestrogens
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- U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010
- Silk: Vanilla Soymilk
- Center for Science in the Public Interest: Food Additives: Carrageenan
- The University of Sydney: Glycemic Index: Rice Milk
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- Statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., on modernizing standards of identity and the use of dairy names for plant-based substitutes. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. September 27, 2018
- Singhal S, Baker RD, Baker SS. A Comparison of the Nutritional Value of Cow's Milk and Nondairy Beverages. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2017 May;64(5):799-805. doi: 10.1097/MPG.0000000000001380. PMID: 27540708.
- What foods are in the Dairy Group? Ask USDA. July 17, 2019
- Rice Milk. USDA Food Keeper App. Updated April 26, 2019
Jill Corleone is a registered dietitian and health coach who has been writing and lecturing on diet and health for more than 15 years. Her work has been featured on the Huffington Post, Diabetes Self-Management and in the book "Noninvasive Mechanical Ventilation," edited by John R. Bach, M.D. Corleone holds a Bachelor of Science in nutrition.