Soybean is a species of legume grown and consumed extensively all over the world. Botanically, its name is Glycine max and it belongs to the botanical order of Fabales and the botanical family of Fabaceae.

It is widely cultivated in the United States of America ad regions of Argentina and Brazil.

Soybean is extremely rich in protein and forms an important source of the same and is also substituted for meat in certain regions.

Chemically soybean is comprised majorly of soybean oil and proteins while the remainder is made up of carbohydrate and water.

It also contains the enzyme supporting compound molybdenum, manganese which is extremely god for growth of bones along with stores of iron, phosphorus, omega 3 fatty acids, potassium, and magnesium and also copper that is an extremely good anti oxidant.

Biochemically, soybean is composed of a wide variety of proteins, phytonutrients and peptides.

It also contains flavinoids, phenolic acids, phytosterols and peptides among other compounds.


Over recent years, soybean has been used for a number and a variety of purposes; we shall now study the same in detail.

Amongst its most major use, soybean is highly valued for the protein content it possesses as the same is roughly about 40% and thus constitutes a large proportion of the protein requirement in diet.

It is classified and consumed as both a vegetable as well as as an oil type and both are used for varied purposes.

The vegetable type is cooked in a variety of dishes owing to its slightly nut like flavor and texture that makes it presentable and usable for cooking purposes.

Soybean oil is extracted from the seed which comprises roughly 20% of the same. The oils put through a variety of procedures which include blending, refining and adding certain other components before the same can be used for consumption. It is extremely similar to a vegetable oil and is sold in the market as the same.

Soybean oil is used in many cuisines all around the world to prepare a variety of dishes.

Soybean meal

The physical material that remains in the soybean after the oil has been extracted is referred to as soy meal or soybean meal. This meal is usually ground or toasted and put to use in many parts of the world as food for livestock.

Livestock fed on soybean meal give better yield and also produce better quality of meat as per research and studies that have been carried out.

Soybean meal is also an essential component used in dog food.

With the advances in technology and the invention of various cooking procedures, a variety of soybean products are now available for human consumption. These include soybean tofu, soybean milk, soy flour, soy sauce and vegetable protein to name a few.

Soybean can also be consumed with minimum ingredients as seen in the case of the Japanese dish edamame where immature soybean seeds and pods are simply cooked in boiling water and consumed with salt added to the same.

Tofu is another preparation that is widely eaten in China, Japan and other parts of South East Asia and is also a soybean preparation.

Soybean paste is also used in many preparations especially in Vietnam and Korea where certain local dishes such as ganjang, doenjang and cheonggukjang use the same as the main ingredient.

Dried soybean is put into extremely fine grinders to obtain soy flour. In some cases, the soy flour maybe refined where in the coating of the seed is removed and it is then ground to obtain soy flour

Traditionally, soybean flour is low fat but a high fat variant is prepared by adding extra amounts of soybean oil to the flour. The same is widely used in various preparations and is available easily all over the world.

The emulsifying and dispersibility properties of the soy flour are also enhanced by adding certain amounts of lecithin to it, this is thus known as soy lecithin.

Soy flour is used for baking purposes and provides extra nourishment owing to its increased protein and fiber content. It also contains higher levels of components such as thiamine, phosphorus, calcium and iron as compared to those found in wheat, thus being extremely beneficial.

Soy flour also does not contain gluten and can thus be safely consumed by those having allergy to gluten.

Breads made using soy flour respond better to yeast and are more dense and firm in their content and their texture and the same also uses a lesser quantity of oil when used for frying purposes.

Soya seeds are also roasted and the same is crushed and used in the form of soy grits.

The Japanese produce a variety of soy flour known as Kinako.

Soy as infant food

Those infants who are not breast fed or are unable to digest breast milk or suffer lactose intolerance right from birth are given soy based infant formula or soy food or soy milk.

This is available in the form of milk, or a powder or a ready to eat product which is usually sweetened using artificial sweetening agents and is widely available and fed to babies all over the world.

Although no precise clinical studies have been carried out to suggest the role of soy milk enhancing and improving the health of babies, it also does not suggest that the same harms the health of children nor affects their growth in any manner and has thus been deemed safe for consumption.

Soy as a substitute to meat

Owing to the variability of its texture and its ability to be molded easily, soy is often used as a substitute to meat as it resembles the same especially in regards its texture.

Soy is also added to larger amounts of meat to improve their quantity without compromising on their nutritional value especially in regards protein content.

Soy nut butter which is similar in its form and texture to peanut butter is also produced and is used as a healthier substitute to the same.

Soybean is boiled and sweetened and is consumed in parts of Japan and Korea as Daizu no Nimame and Kongjorim respectively.

Sweet buns filled with sweet boiled beans are known as Mame Pan and commonly eaten in those areas.

The roasted and the ground soybeans are also used as a substitute for coffee which is free and devoid of caffeine and proven to be a healthier option for those who consume the same.

Medicinal benefits and uses

Soy is used in cases of hyperlipidaemia, hypertension and cardiac diseases.

It is also known to help in cases of diabetes and relieve those that suffer from constipation and irregular bowel habits,

Soy intake is also believed to help improve the memory and also protect the kidney in case of diseases.

In women, soy is known to help control symptoms of menopause. It also helps control hot flushes and decreases the risk of osteoporosis where in the calcium density of the bones reduces especially after attaining menopause.

Studies have shown that the intake of soy is known to improve the bone marrow density and also slow down the calcium depletion in the same, thus being extremely helpful to women especially of the menopausal age group as the same effect is not seen in the case of younger women.

Soy is also associated with reducing the risk of occurrence of breast cancer as studies have shown that those females who have regularly consumed soy in their diet have a lesser chance of developing such malignancies.

Even though soy is extremely rich in iron, the protein and the phytate content prevents the absorption of the same by the body and hence the same is passed through unabsorbed.

Soy is a rich source of omega 3 fatty acids which acts on blood thereby enhancing its clotting mechanism and also lowering the blood cholesterol levels.

Thus soy acts as a good substitute to meat as it does not contain the high levels of cholesterol that would otherwise have been harmful to the body if meat was ingested.

Phytic acid found in soy acts as an anti oxidant and is also known to help build the immunity of the body

It is also known to reduce the risk of diabetes and cancer as it prevents the growth and spread of the cancerous cells.

Zinc and iron found in soy help with keeping ones strong and healthy and also specifically help lower risk of colon, prostate and breast cancer.

It is also believed to help prevent deafness in the elderly.

Soy is a good substitute for those suffering from type 2 diabetes

Precautions and side effects from soy

As a side effect, it may cause an allergy in those who maybe hypersensitive.

This may vary from a simple rash to a severe respiratory failure in extreme cases.

In certain cases it may also lead to gastric disturbances such as bloating, nausea and abdominal pain.

The long term use of soy has also been found to trigger abnormal growths in the uterus especially fibroids and thus the same has to be consumed in moderate quantities.

Extremely high intake of soy especially during pregnancy has been prohibited as the same may lead to developmental defects in the baby.

In babies, the consumption of soy milk has to be monitored as excessive intake of the same can lead to an excess of certain nutrients and a deficiency of some.

Those children who suffer from cystic fibrosis are advised against consuming soy milk as the same interferes with the disease process leading to complications.

The isoflaone component in soy is known to trigger precancerous and cancerous changes in the endometrium and thus the intake of the same has not been advised in those females who have endometrial linked diseases.

Oxalates found in soy are responsible for formation of kidney stones when taken in excess, hence the intake needs to be monitored in those suffering from kidney related disorders.

Those suffering from bladder cancer have been advised not to consume soy as it may lead to a worsening of the same.

Soy is also prohibited in the diet of those who suffer thyroid disorders as it may trigger or worsen the same.

People suffering from respiratory issues such as asthma and hay fever or allergic rhinitis are advised not to consume soy as the hulls of the plant may trigger an allergic reaction and thus worsen their symptoms.

Thus we are able to study and understand the various benefits that soy has to offer and how the same is useful to the human body even though its consumption has to be monitored so as to avoid complications that it may cause if taken in excess.