Regular soy milk generally tastes a little sweeter than cows milk. So exactly how much added sugar is there in a typical soy milk, and how concerned should you be about it?
Soy milk is formulated to mimic the taste and texture of dairy milk. There is a good reason for this. People already enjoy and are used to the taste of cow’s milk. Mirroring this taste makes it easier and more comfortable for people to make the transition to soy milk. So, yes, sugar is added to regular soy milk to help maintain that taste consistency.
Soy milk is marketed as, and truly is, a healthier alternative to cow’s milk. Indeed, as a plant-based milk, it has no cholesterol, lactose, and only .5 g of saturated fat per cup — much less than the 4.6 g in cow’s milk.
But how about the sugar content? How much sugar is in soy milk, and how does it compare to regular milk?
Sugar content of soy milk vs. dairy milk
A cup of cows milk (all kinds: whole, 1%, skim) has 12 g of sugar. 1 cup of regular soy milk (including vanilla flavored) contains 9.7 g of sugar. So even regular soy milk contains 2 g less sugar than traditional dairy milk. Even so, added sugar often makes up to 7% of the content of regular soy milk. In my opinion, too much to be included in a truly healthy diet.
So if you are concerned about your sugar intake, unsweetened soy milk is the way to go. Organic, unsweetened soy milk contains only 1 g of sugar (90% less sugar than regular soy milk). Obviously, much better option.
I’m an avid unsweetened soy milk drinker — I love the taste and health benefits. I haven’t had cow’s milk in over a decade, and now I’m one of those people who now believes that cows milk should only be consumed by baby cows.
Personally, I drink soy milk just about every day. I heat it up for my oatmeal, put it on breakfast cereal, use it as a creamer for coffee, and enjoy it as a standalone drink. I always opt for unsweetened when available because of it’s low sugar content. Unsweetened soy milk is great for diabetics, because it doesn’t raise blood sugar as much as regular milk.
Fair warning: if you are used to regular milk, the taste of unsweetened soy milk may take a while to adjust to. But after you do, you won’t even miss the sugar — I promise. I definitely don’t, and also don’t miss the jittery feeling I sometimes get from too much sugar after drinking regular soy milk.
Soy milk nutrition (beyond the sugar content)
Now that we’ve tackled the sugar issue, there are many reasons it makes sense to include soy milk in a healthy diet. Do you know that soy is one of the only plant-based sources of complete protein? It has about as much protein as cow’s milk, too. This makes soy milk a great protein source for diabetics, vegetarians, and vegans.
Because it is high in protein, soy milk promotes weight loss and definitely won’t make you fat. Additionally, soy milk is usually fortified with vitamins and minerals, just like regular milk. This makes it a great source of vitamin D, riboflavin, vitamin B12, calcium, and phosphorus, among others.
Soy milk also has a very long shelf life. Unopened containers don’t expire for year or more. Once opened, soy milk lasts about two weeks. This convenience factor gives soy milk a few points in its favor.
Soy milk contains no lactose, which is a component of dairy. Soy milk is a great choice for those of us who are lactose intolerant. On the other hand, a small percentage of people have soy sensitivity or soy allergy.
Soy milk actually has less sugar than regular milk, so the sugar content shouldn’t be a concern for most people. Diabetics and others concerned about sugar intake should opt for unsweetened soy milk, which only has 1 g of sugar per serving.
The added sugar in regular soy milk should be enough to sweeten whatever food it is added to, including cereal, coffee, smoothies, etc. If you use unsweetened soy milk, this affords you the option of using your own natural sweeteners such as honey or maple syrup, if desired.