Soybean is the seed (fruit) of a plant originally from the Nothern-East China. Aside from being employed for oil pressing, the beans are widely used as an important vegetable source of protein worldwide. The beans are popular in the Asian regions, where processed soybean products such as tofu, soy sauce, etc are especially cherished.
Soybean belongs to the family of Fabaceae (Leguminosae), in the genus, Glycine.
Scientific name: Glycine max. (L.) Merr.
Soybean is an annual, dicotyledonous plant. It grows well in porous, adequate moisture, and mineral-rich soil. Short-stalked green pods cover the entire soy plant about 70-80 days after plantation. Young soy pods measure about 1.5-2 inches long, swollen, straight, or slightly curved, and filled with a single row of 2-5 round, light green, smooth seeds. If left, the seeds continue to mature further and dry in the pods.
Harvesting is mostly done using mechanical appliances in the US.
At 446 calories/100 g, soybeans hold relatively more calories than some of the other Fabaceae members.
Its fats are 78% unsaturated, with no cholesterol, and contain lecithin. Soybean is beneficial for liver health and is considered a balanced yin and yang food in TCM.
The beans provide the highest; 36.49 g or 65% of recommended daily values of protein among legumes. Its protein is of excellent quality. Soybean is an ideal complement to grain foods.
They contain ample amounts of dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, and plant sterols.
They hold 9.3 g of dietary fiber/100 g. Dietary fiber works as a bulk laxative that helps to protect the colon mucosa by decreasing its exposure time to toxic substances as well as by binding to cancer-causing chemicals in the colon. It has also been shown to reduce blood cholesterol levels by decreasing the reabsorption of cholesterol-binding bile acids in the colon.
Plant sterols (phytosterols) especially β-sitosterol help lower cholesterol levels in the blood.
Soybeans are among the highest legume sources of folates. 100 grams of fresh beans carry 375 µg or 94% of the daily values of folates. Together with vitamin B12, it is one of the essential components of DNA synthesis and cell division. Consumption of a diet adequate in folates around conception and during pregnancy time would help prevent neural tube defects in newborn babies.
Soybeans are among the highest antioxidant sources in the form of isoflavones. The total value of isoflavones in them is 159.54 mg per 100 grams; daidzein, genistein and glycetein at levels 629 mg, 81.35 and 15.29 mg respectively. Isoflavones have been found to reduce post-menopausal cancers and osteoporosis.
Soybeans carry good amounts of phyto-estrogen, formononetin. Formononetin promotes angiogenesis (new blood vessel regeneration).
Soybeans are very good sources of many B-complex vitamins; more than 50% of daily values/100 g for some of the vitamins such as riboflavin-67%, thiamin-73%, pyridoxine, pantothenic acid, and niacin. Most of these vitamins work as co-enzymes in carbohydrate, protein, and fat metabolism.
Furthermore, they are one of the finest sources of minerals like iron, copper, manganese, phosphorus, zinc, and magnesium. 100 g of fresh beans hold 196% DRI (daily recommended intake) of iron, 100% of Phosphorus, 70% of magnesium, 184% of copper, and 70% of manganese. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the potent antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.
|Principle||Nutrient Value||Percent of RDA|
|Total Fat||19.94 g||99%|
|Dietary Fiber||9.3 g||24%|
|Pantothenic acid||0.793 mg||16%|
|Vitamin A||22 IU||<1%|
|Vitamin C||6 mg||10%|
|Vitamin E||0.85 mg||6%|
|Vitamin K||47 µg||39%|
Soybean pods enclose very hard seeds of variable color. In the markets, choose dried beans in packets/bins. Sprouted, toasted soybeans are also found in these shops all year round
Fresh green soy (edamame) beans can be found in the Japanese and other East-Asian markets. Inside the US, however, frozen beans in vacuum packs, or frozen shelled edamame beans (mukimame) can be available in supermarkets.
At home, store dry beans in an air-seal plastic/metallic bin in a cool, dry place away from high temperatures and high humidity.
Use young, tender edamame soon after purchase.
Soybeans require a period of soaking beforehand, which slightly reduces the cooking time, preserves vitamins and minerals, and reduces flatulence.
Dried soybeans require at least one hour of cooking time. They are cooked when they can be easily crushed with a spoon.
Soy granules are soybeans whose outer husk has been removed before being milled into granules. Soybean sprouts are ready to eat after germinating for a few days. They are being used in the same way as mung bean sprouts. Soy flour is a gluten-free product that contains 2-3 times more protein than wheat flour.
Here are some serving tips:
Boiled soybeans and soy chunks added in stews with vegetables and poultry.
Soy milk is a popular health drink.
Soy sauce is made from fermented soybeans. It is used as a condiment in recipes all over the world.
In Japan, specialty restaurants serve tofu recipes like yodofu, mabodofu, agedashidofu, etc.
In the US, Soy granules are added to soups, stews, spaghetti sauces, cookies, and bread.
Tempeh is Indonesian fermented soybean cake, served fried with seasonings.
Soybean sprouts are eaten raw or lightly cooked, added in salads, and stews
Soy flour is used in small quantities to bind sauces or to make cakes, muffins, and cookies and as an enriching ingredient.
Soy seeds and their products are one of the most common allergenic food substances around. Symptoms of Soybean allergy are a kind of hypersensitivity reaction in some people to food substances prepared with soy. Common reactions may include allergic skin problems like urticaria, hives, and eczematous dermatitis. In severe cases symptoms may include vomiting, gastritis, pain abdomen, swelling of the lips and throat leading to breathing difficulty, wheezing, chest congestion, and in rare cases may lead to death. It is, therefore, people with known soy product allergies may be advised to avoid any food preparations that contain soy food.
Fresh soybeans contain anti-nutritional elements that are neutralized by cooking and fermentation. (Medical disclaimer)
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