I gave up soda as a kid. As an adult, I upgraded from soy and drink almond and rice milks now (oh, I’m fancy, huh!). I thought I was doing even better drinking tea instead of coffee, but apparently I need to think again. To my COMPLETE surprise, I found out some of my favorite tea blends and brands contain an unlikely ingredient: SOY.
I don’t know what made me read the back of the packaging on my Stash Lemon Ginger tea. I guess I read it because I read everything. Just as I’m about to drop the tea bag into my mug, I read the last line in the list of ingredients – “Contains: Soy”. I threw the tea bag away and commenced a frantic Google search of “soy in tea.”
Blatant Soy Vs. Covert Soy
I have a serious issue with drinking tea that contains soy, primarily because I don’t expect soy to be there. When I eat tofu, a veggie burger or pretty much any product that has been remixed into a vegetarian/vegan friendly version, I expect soy. I know what I’m getting myself into when I chose to eat those things. Soy in tea, on the other hand, is sneaky to me. When I choose to drink tea, I believe I’m choosing to drink herbs and flowers and fruity berries, not soy. I’m glad that there is full disclosure in the ingredients list, but I still can’t help but wonder why soy is an ingredient in the first place.
Soy Lecithin: What is it and why is it used?
The soy used in many teas is soy lecithin, a byproduct of the soy plant. Soy lecithin is one of the top 10 most used ingredients in processed foods. According to Stash’s FAQS on their website, “Soy lecithin is used in foods and beverages as an emulsifier, a stabilizer, a dispersing aid or other similar uses.” Essentially, soy lecithin is used to hold foods together, keeping the flavors from separating (like with a chocolate bar). Hain Celestial, the makers of Celestial Seasonings(R) tea states that, “The soy lecithin in our tea keeps the ingredients smoothly blended together and prevents clumping.” Isn’t the tea loose inside the bag? Won’t the flavors blend when the bag is immersed in hot water? I’m still very much confused about why soy lecithin is a key ingredient in tea, but the fact remains that it’s there.
Why I Limit My Soy Intake
In an effort to phase out dairy products, I turned to soy alternatives. I’d been drinking soy milk for years, but I recently decided to phase out soy as well. After discovering I have an ovarian cyst and doing my own research because the doctor I went to had no real answers for me on how to heal myself, I came across a lot of literature suggesting that soy could aggravate my condition. I read The Beauty Detox Solution by Kimberly Snyder, a celebrity nutritionist, and she made some very convincing arguments for avoiding soy. In addition to citing that a majority of soy is genetically engineered and heavily contaminated with pesticides, Snyder also writes in her book that soy is filled with phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are substances that mimic estrogen in the body and may cause hormonal imbalances. Unfortunately with covert soy in products like tea, cough drops and even some medications, it’s difficult to be completely soy-free.
You Don’t Have to Give Up Tea
If you don’t have a particular beef with soy or a known soy allergy, learning that tea contains soy is probably no big deal. Drink your tea and carry on. However, if you have an allergy or want to avoid soy for other reasons (like your reproductive health or disdain for GMOs), soy-free teas DO exist. Good Earth is a brand that a friend introduced me to recently and it was love at first drink. Not only is their Original Sweet & Spicy blend insanely AMAZING, it’s also free of MSG and soy. I’ll drink to that!
Sometimes it sucks learning new things because when you know better you really ought to do better. Now that I know many teas contain soy, I can’t look at a cup of tea the same way. Now, I have to make a conscious choice. It’s empowering, but it’s also makes drinking a little more challenging. And here I thought tea was supposed to be all about relaxation…