Soybean also known as soya bean or Glycine max is a species of legume.
It is native to East Asia, but is now widely cultivated and consumed across the globe.
Soybeans were a crucial crop in East Asia long before written records began.
There is evidence for soybean domestication between 7000 and 6600 B.C. in China, between 5000 and 3000 B.C. in Japan and 1000 B.C. in Korea.
Soybeans were first introduced to North America from China in 1765, by Samuel Bowen, a sailor who brought them from China.
The main countries growing soybeans are the United States (32% of world total in 2016), Brazil (31%)and Argentina (18%).
In the U.S., soybeans are grown mostly in the Midwest. The top producing states are Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Missouri and Ohio.
Cultivation is successful in climates with hot summers, with optimum growing conditions in mean temperatures of 20 to 30 °C (68 to 86 °F).
Soybeans are propagated by seed; Spring is the time to plant soybeans.
As an annual crop, soybeans grow from seed, produce and die in a single growing season. It take 80–120 days from sowing to harvesting.
Size of soybean depends on the variety.
Fully mature soybean plants are generally between 51 and 127 cm (20 and 50 in) in height.
Mature trifoliolate leaves are often between 6–15 cm (2.4–5.9 in) long and 2–7 cm (0.79–2.76 in) broad.
Soybeans form inconspicuous, self-fertile flowers which are borne in the axil of the leaf and are white, pink or purple.
The fruit is a hairy pod that grows in clusters of three to five, each pod is 3–8 cm long (1–3 in) and usually contains two to four (rarely more) seeds 5–11 mm in diameter.
Soybean seeds come in a wide variety sizes and hull colors such black, brown, blue, yellow, and green. Variegated and bicolored seed coats are also common.
In 100 grams (3.5 ounces) raw soybeans supply 446 calories and are 9% water, 30% carbohydrates, 20% total fat and 36% protein (table).
Soybean is one of the few plants that provides a complete protein as it contains all eight amino acids essential for our health.
It contains 38% protein — 2x as much as pork, 3x more than eggs, and 12x more than milk.
Soybeans have a wealth of health benefits, including the ability to improve the metabolism, help people gain weight in a healthy way, protect heart health, defend against cancer, reduce the effects of menopause, improve digestive health, promotes bone health, protect against birth defects, increase circulation, decrease the risk of diabetes, and generally tones up the body.
The many health benefits of soybeans comes from the wealth of nutrients, vitamins, organic compounds, and other nutrients, including a significant amount of dietary fiber and a very large amount of protein. In terms of vitamins, soybeans contains vitamin B6 and B12, vitamin K, vitamin C, riboflavin, folate and thiamin. As for minerals, soybeans contain significant amounts of iron, manganese, phosphorous, copper, potassium, magnesium, zinc, selenium, and calcium. It is also a good source of organic compounds and antioxidants, further boosting the healthy impact of soybeans.
Soybeans actually have hundreds of uses from industrial products like engine oil or cosmetics to food products and animal feeds.
Common soybean food products include soy sauce, soy milk, tofu, soy meal, soy flour, textured vegetable protein (TVP), tempeh, soy lecithin and soybean oil.
Approximately 85% of the world’s soybean crop is processed into soybean oil and soybean meal, the remainder processed in other ways or eaten whole.
Soybean oil is the second most important vegetable oil (after palm oil).
Soybean meal is a by-product from the crushing of soybeans for oil. Approximately 97% of soybean meal production globally is used as livestock feed. It is currently the largest source of protein feed in the world.
Soybeans can be processed to produce a texture and appearance similar to many other foods. For example, soybeans are the primary ingredient in many dairy product substitutes (e.g., soy milk, margarine, soy ice cream, soy yogurt, soy cheese, and soy cream cheese) and meat alternatives (e.g. veggie burgers).
The soybean is also used to make a product called soy nut butter which is similar in texture to peanut butter.
It is believed that over 2,000 years ago, a Chinese cook accidentally discovered tofu by curdling soy milk using nigari seaweed.
As tofu freezes, it takes on a yellowish hue. But as you thaw it, the tofu returns to its original color.
Soy sauce is a lot like wine. The longer it ages, the more interesting and complex its flavor.
Soybean oil is the primary source of biodiesel in the United States, accounting for 80% of domestic biodiesel production.
Soybeans are one of the “biotech food” crops that have been genetically modified, and genetically modified soybeans are being used in an increasing number of products.
Environmental groups, such as Greenpeace and the WWF, have reported soybean cultivation and the probability of increased soybean cultivation in Brazil has destroyed huge areas of Amazon rainforest, and is encouraging further deforestation.
April is National Soyfoods Month. It is a reminder to include soyfoods as part of a well-balanced diet.