Soy Protein's Increasing Popularity in Western Diet and Culture

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Soy Protein Gets the Green Light From the FDA

Soy protein has long been a part of Eastern diet and culture, however it wasn’t until 1999 that the FDA agreed to allow soy protein’s health benefits to be displayed on products in the United States. This came after the petition of Protein Technologies International, Inc, a major soy producer. The petition cited 27 clinical research studies that demonstrated the health benefits of soy protein.

One study showed soy protein’s positive effect on bad cholesterol without negatively affecting good cholesterol. Another clinical research study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that not only did soy improve cholesterol, but it also improved triglyceride levels.

Soy protein can lower bad cholesterol by up to 10%. For every 1% reduction in bad cholesterol, there can be a 2% reduction in the risk for heart disease. This was highly significance because heart disease was and still is the number one cause of death in the United States. Soy protein’s affects on cancer and osteoporosis are still being studied.

In order for soy’s health claim to appear on a product label, that food must contain at least 6.25 grams of soy protein per serving and be:

  1. low in fat
  2. low in saturated fat
  3. low in cholesterol
  4. low in sodium

The Soy Foods Association of North America, makers of Silk and the Boca burger, sites the following reasons for soy’s increasing popularity:

  • Baby Boomers are more interested in soy protein because of their desire to improve their quality of life as well as length of life.
  • More young people are getting more interested in animal product alternatives.
  • More Asian Americans are coming to the United States looking for the foods familiar to their culture.
  • More Americans are eating Asian foods.

Soy Goes Mainstream in Western Culture

It used to be that soy products were only available in specialty stores or in the specialty food aisle of the grocery store. Today, you can find soy protein products right next to their traditional counterparts like cow’s milk and frozen meat products. In 1999, 15% of people in the United States ate a soy product once a week. In 2007, that number jumped to 25%. Most (90%) of those soy protein products are consumed in the form of soy milk.

Why Don’t More People Consume Soy Protein Products?

According to research by the makers of soy protein products, many people are turned off by soy because of its taste or how they think it will taste. Major food makers like Kellogg’s are paying attention and they’re starting to make products that meet the FDA product label standards but that are primarily made to taste good.

It’s too soon to count soy protein out though, because of changing consumer attitudes toward eating for health. Check out these statistics reported in the 2007 edition of Consumer Attitudes About Nutrition, an annual study conducted by the United Soybean Board.

  • 90% of American consumers are “at least somewhat concerned about nutritional content and rate nutrition important in selecting groceries.”
  • Over 75% have changed the way they eat in the last three years.
  • 60% were willing to pay more for healthier alternatives to traditional foods and the same number of people thought soy protein aids in weight loss.


Soy: Health Claims for Soy Protein, Questions About Other Components -FDA publication May, June 2000

Consumer Attitudes About Nutrition - United Soybean Board

Soy Foods Association of North America

This post is part of the series: All About Soy Protein

This article series will introduce you to soy and allow you to learn about it’s history and it’s current trends. You’ll learn about it’s health benefits, what forms it comes in, and delicious ways to include it in your diet. You’ll also learn about some of the controversy that surrounds soy protein.

  1. Soy Protein’s Increasing Popularity in Western Diet and Culture
  2. The Many Ways to Eat Soy Protein: Soy Milk and Miso
  3. The Many Ways to Eat Soy Protein: Tofu and Tempeh
  4. The Many Ways to Eat Soy Protein: Soy Protein Isolate