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Should you fortify your Soy Milk?

October 20th, 2009 . by Tony Gill

You have given up drinking dairy milk and have switched to drinking soy milk. You have been persuaded that the benefits of drinking soy milk such as low saturated fat content and no cholesterol are important to you. While the protein content in dairy and soy milk are about the same, dairy milk does contain more calcium than soy milk – about 113 mg calcium in dairy milk and 25 mg in soy milk per 100 g. You also notice that many of the brands of soya milk sold in supermarkets are fortified with calcium and vitamins.

The economic arguments as well as convenience also convinced you to buy a soy milk maker so that you can make soya milk at home when and as you need to. But you are concerned that if commercial producers of soya milk fortify their milk with calcium and vitamins then perhaps you should do the same. This may present a dilemma. Well let us look at the “science” for fortifying your soya milk. The main additives are: calcium, vitamins and minerals plus sugar and salt. There are others but these are usually brand specific. Let us immediately eliminate sugar and salt – for health reasons both should not be added. If you need to sweeten your soya milk use natural longer chain carbohydrates such as honey or maple syrup.

Now let us consider calcium. Food safe calcium additives usually take the form of tri-calcium phosphate or preferably calcium carbonate. Then there is the water that you use to make soya milk. Pure water has a pH of 7 but water from your faucet or tap will tend to be slightly higher or lower making the water either slightly alkaline or acidic. If the water is slightly acidic there could be a minor reaction with the calcium until the pH reaches 7. The other issue is the temperature of the water. The higher the temperature generally the higher levels of calcium that will be dissolved. Calcium does not easily stay in solution. You will often find that there are particles of the calcium compound held in suspension in the liquid. The fact that soy milk is white(ish) means that you do not see the particles. But that is also the reason why there is the instruction on the carton to shake well before use – so that you will get some of the calcium with your soya milk. Have you noticed that when you drink a cup of tea with soya milk, there is usually a whitish powdery deposit at the bottom of the cup? I suspect that a chemical analysis of the residue will reveal that this is a calcium compound.

So! Should you fortify your soy milk? If you feel you must by all means do so. Speak to a knowledgeable person at your health food store as to what calcium and vitamins you could add to your soy milk. Personally, I think this is a waste of time. If you feel that your diet is deficient in calcium or vitamins then do take a daily supplement in tablet form. Better still plan to get the calcium and vitamins you need by eating more fruit and vegetables. Even resort to juicing them if you have to. If you are concerned about the source and farming methods then buy certified organically grown fruit and vegetables. Good sources of calcium include: spinach, broccolli, cabbage, kale, sweet potatoes, figs, strawberries etc. You will find that most foods and probably your drinking water contain calcium and vitamins. And the calcium in fruit and vegetables is more bio-available to your body than the calcium from dairy milk. In this regard, life is not that simple, all foods contain minerals and vitamins of varying proportion. So continue to make soya milk and get your minerals including calcium by eating some eight types of fruit and vegetable a day. The more varied the better. And remember, commercial producers of fortified soy milk are trying to compete with dairy milk – so they want to claim that you will enjoy at least the same benefits as you get from dairy milk.

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