I use organic soy milk in my coffee, cereal, and smoothies and a lot of my clients do the same. It may be because they’re allergic or sensitive to dairy or because they're moving toward a plant-based diet and soy is the best milk to drink for them.
In any case, one of the questions I'm often asked is, “Is vanilla OK or should I be buying unsweetened?” Here’s the deal:
Most soy milks are sweetened with added sugar to match the natural sweetness of milk. One cup of cow’s milk naturally contains about 12 grams of sugar. Unsweetened soy milk contains just 1 gram of sugar per cup and sweetened or flavored versions (like vanilla) have about 7 grams, so roughly 2 level teaspoons of sugar added per serving – but it does vary from brand to brand so it’s important to read the label (see the difference between the two examples). In case you can't read them here are the highlights:
The unsweetened (top or 1st) contains 80 calories and 1 g of sugar per cup.
The sweetened (bottom or 2nd) contains 110 calories as 12 g of sugar per cup.
Everything else (fat, protein, etc.) is pretty much the same.
If you're looking to avoid added sugar altogether, unsweetened is the way to go. But if you don’t like the taste keep in mind that when you use vanilla, plain sweetened or another flavor in a meal or recipe you are adding sugar. In other words, if you pour sweetened soy milk into a smoothie, you shouldn’t need to add any extra sweetener.
One advantage of unsweetened is that you can add your own flavors or sweeteners, like maple syrup, pure vanilla extract or fruit and control the amount you use.
Here’s what I recommend doing when you're at the market:
Read the ingredient list so you really know what you’re buying.
Look for brands with calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B 12 added. Ideally one serving should provide at 25 to 30 percent of the Daily Value.
Go organic. Organic non-dairy milks can't be made from genetically modified seeds and they’re not grown with chemical pesticides.