The soybean is one of the most versatile beans in the world. While this humble legume has been used for centuries to make miso, tofu, and soy sauce and is a source of protein for livestock, its usage today is quite different.
Today soy finds its way into almost every processed food product. You can find it in everything from crackers and juices to soups and frozen dinners—and that’s just the tip of the iceberg regarding how often soy is used today.
While many consider soy a healthy addition to their diet, not everyone agrees with that assumption. There are some common misconceptions about soy that might surprise you. But don’t worry-we’ve got you covered with these five unknown facts about soy that you should know.
1. It’s the most widely consumed legume in the world
Soybeans grow on a legume related to peas and beans. It is the most widely consumed legume in the world, and it is one of the few crops that can be grown in both tropical and temperate climates.
Soy has been a staple in Asian diets for centuries, but the introduction of industrial food production and the rise of the processed foods industry has brought soy to the forefront of the Western diet. global soy use is expected to rise exponentially in the near future, considering the discovery of the numerous health benefits of soy and soy products.
Soybeans are primarily grown in Argentina, China, the United States, and Brazil, with smaller crops in other countries, including Australia, France, India, and Thailand. The United States is the leading soy producer, and it is used for many different products, such as plant-based foods, oils, soy foods, and even livestock feed. Soy accounts for 35 percent of all US crop production, making it the leading US crop in land use.
These four countries account for over 90 percent of the world’s production. Soybeans are grown on over 80 million acres in the US, with most of the crops grown in the Midwest: Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Ohio, Missouri, and Wisconsin.
2. Soybeans create some of their fertilizer
One of the most common misconceptions about soy is that it needs lots of fertilizer. But the truth is that soybeans create some of their fertilizer. In fact, soybeans are one of only a few crops that can do this.
When soybeans are planted, they have a symbiotic relationship with rhizobium bacteria in the soil. The bacteria use the plant’s root system to produce compounds similar to plant hormones. These nutrients help the plant grow, produce more leaves and roots, and leave more nutrients in the soil for other plants.
This is particularly helpful in areas that don’t have a lot of natural nutrients in the soil. Soybeans’ ability to make their fertilizer is one of the reasons they are sustainable and environmentally friendly.
3. Soy has numerous health benefits
Many health experts encourage people to eat soy. The soybean plant contains many different nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. And it’s been linked to many different health benefits.
Soy is great for people trying to lose weight because it’s low in calories and protein. It’s also a great source of fiber, iron, and magnesium, all essential for the body’s well-being.
Soybeans are also a good source of isoflavones, which are believed to promote healthy hormone levels and reduce the risk of certain types of cancer. Additionally, soy has been linked to lowering cholesterol and improving heart health. While soy can be a healthy addition to your diet, you should check with your doctor before adding it.
4. Environmental benefits of soy
While most people know the health benefits of soy, it is equally important to know that soybeans positively impact the environment. Soybeans are leguminous plants, meaning they are capable of growing in poor soil conditions. But how do they survive in poor soil conditions?
Legumes such as soybean help improve soil conditions by fixing essential nutrients in the soil through a process known as biological nitrogen fixation (BNF). This means farmers don’t have to add fertilizer to the soil, which can lead to nutrient imbalances and other problems in the soil. As a result, soybeans help to protect against soil degradation, making them a great plant choice for crop rotation.
Soybean also requires less land compared to animal products for protein sources. This helps reduce the pressure on the amount of space required for animal production and the number of greenhouse gases produced by animals.
5. Every part of the soybean plant is used in a way
The soybean plant is a multipurpose plant that can be used in many different ways. Once the beans are harvested, they are pressed to create soy milk. This milk is then fermented to produce soy sauce.
The husk of the soybean can be pressed to make soybean oil. The roots of the plant can be used as a natural fertilizer, and the stems can be used as livestock feed.
Many other soybean products, including soy flour, soybean oil, soy lecithin, soy protein isolate, and miso, are much more recent inventions. Soybeans are also used in many processed foods. They’re used in baked goods and desserts as a source of protein and lecithin.
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Regular consumption of soy is known to have several benefits. It is also known as a ”hidden” source of protein in many traditional diets, especially for vegetarians. The presence of soy in the diet has been associated with various health benefits, such as lowering cholesterol levels and preventing several chronic diseases, including heart disease, osteoporosis, and even cancer.
It is also known to reduce the risk of menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and the incidence of postmenopausal osteoporosis. However, some facts about soy are lesser-known but essential to know.