Soybeans: Not just for vegetarians

It’s not uncommon for beans to be cultivated for multiple uses.  But, the bean that trumps all others is the soybean.

Soybeans, a member of the pea family, are native to East Asia and have been cultivated in China for over 3,000 years.  The Chinese have capitalized on the benefits soybeans have to offer for centuries, and it’s a good thing Americans are now realizing the advantage of incorporating soybeans into their diets.


It’s not uncommon for beans to be cultivated for multiple uses.  But, the bean that trumps all others is the soybean.

Soybeans, a member of the pea family, are native to East Asia and have been cultivated in China for over 3,000 years.  The Chinese have capitalized on the benefits soybeans have to offer for centuries, and it’s a good thing Americans are now realizing the advantage of incorporating soybeans into their diets.

But, what can this little bean offer to a body in terms of nutrients?  The National Soybean Research Laboratory in Illinois suggests that soybeans are not only the only plant known to contain complete protein, but they also provide carbohydrates and fats as well as multiple minerals such as calcium, folic acid and iron.

Vegetarians, especially, incorporate soybeans into their diets because of the high protein concentration in each of the beans.  The Illinois NSRL explains that the quality of the amino acids found in the soy protein of these beans is almost equivalent to that of meats, milk, and eggs.  Even America’s livestock benefit from soybeans as a protein source, consuming processed soybeans more than any other source of protein in recent years, says the USDA.

However, it is important to remember that a varied diet as a vegetarian is the most useful in terms of protein intake.  Any kind of dry bean has protein.  Eat a variety, says Stacey Punnett, RD, CSR, LD of Georgetown University Hospital.  More people are looking to become vegetarian and turn to soy for protein – what they don’t realize is that chick peas, almonds, walnuts… even buckwheat has protein in it. 

Soy beans remain beneficial to more than just vegetarians.  Soy, in its various forms, provides as much nutrients as its counterparts.  That means that lactose-intolerant people can drink soy milk without worrying about how much calcium they are getting.  One glass of soy milk, in particular, provides as much calcium as a glass of regular dairy milk. 

These beans can be prepared as a meal on their own in their original state, but have been altered into various other forms to provide people with their benefits in all types of foods.  Soy is now available as soy milk, soybean oil and soy nuts.  The Asian population incorporates soy into their diets through soy products such as tofu, miso, tempeh, soy noodles and soy sauce. 

In order to get the most out of soybeans, the Food and Drug Administration guidelines suggest consuming 25 grams of soy protein every day.  The FDA says that a diet high in soy protein may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease because it is low in saturated fat and cholesterol. 

Soy as a standard source of protein and nutrients is becoming more and more popular.  Its value is only becoming greater, as it was worth a farm value of $29.6 billion, trailing only behind that of corn in 2008/09 according to the Economic Research Service of the USDA.  And, the production of soy is still on the rise.