Soybeans are a species of the legume family. It is very famous and one of the highly consumed foods in the world. They are native to East Asia and also extensively grown in India. Soybeans are the key source of plant-based dietary protein and are consumed in a number of traditional fermented and unfermented products including tempeh, miso, soy sauce, soy milk, soy paneer (tofu), soy nuts, soy chunks, sprouts and soy flour.
However, soybeans are also shrouded with controversies as many people consider them healthy while many others consider them unhealthy for thyroid and gut health and avoid eating them. It is also believed that consuming raw or partially cooked soybeans could be unsafe causing long term health illnesses due to chemicals used while cropping. Any method of cooking such as steaming, boiling, roasting, or frying of soybeans is necessary. Heat during cooking destroys the chemicals and make them safe for human consumption. Soaking for 3-5 hours and boiling is also a good method before using them for any specific recipe.
Edamame are referred to as vegetable type soybeans and very famous in East Asia. They are also known as immature soybeans, which are green in color and often sold with or without pods. The nutritional and health benefits of edamame and mature yellow soybean are almost the same.
Nutritional Facts of Soybeans
Soybeans contain high biological value protein which means they have all the essential amino acids. A vegetarian person hardly consumes all these amino acids from any plant food. Soybeans are an ideal choice for those who follow a vegetarian or a vegan diet. Non-vegetarians easily get these essential acids from eggs, chicken, mutton, fish sea-foods, etc.
Soybeans also contain a healthy amount of dietary fiber, antioxidants, and phytoestrogens along with several vitamins and minerals including vitamins A, B, C, E, K, potassium, iron, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, copper, magnesium, and calcium.
Health Benefits of soybeans
Heart - Soybeans contain a high amount of dietary fiber, isoflavones and polyunsaturated fatty acids including a partial amount of omega 3 and healthy high amount of omega 6, which support heart health and lessen the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Soy contains very less amount of saturated fat and cholesterol which also helps to reduce LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol level. Few other sources of good fat are seeds, nuts, fish, and vegetable oil.
Skin & Hair - Soybeans provide vitamin E, fatty acids, isoflavones, and lecithin and also have collagen-boosting properties which help to reduce acne, redness, roughness of skin, and minimize the damage or hyperpigmentation of skin due to sun exposure.
Soybeans are often used for healthy hair due to its high protein content with zinc, iron, potassium, and folic acid. They all are essential nutrients for strong and shiny hair. However, excessive amounts of soybeans and their products can lead to acne/ pimples and hairs on the skin due to hormonal imbalance.
Digestion - Fiber is essential for the digestive system and soybeans are highly rich in soluble and insoluble fiber which support gut health while reducing the risk of indigestion, constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome. High fiber content, antioxidants and other essential nutrients in soybeans also prevent the onset of numerous types of cancer such as breast, colorectal, and prostate cancer.
Infertility - Soybeans have protective antioxidants which are type of Polyphenol known as Isoflavones. They mimic the effects of estrogen in women’s body and reduce the pre- and post-menopausal as well as PCOS symptoms such as infertility, irregular periods, weight gain, abdominal cramps, mood swings, and depression. Soy nuts and soy flour are one of the richest sources of isoflavones and are highly recommended for women health when taken in appropriate quantity.
Bones - All nine essential amino acids, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, magnesium and isoflavone present in soybeans maintain bones’ and muscles’ health. Regular consumption of soybean milk can increase bone mineral density that reduces the risk of osteoporosis. Soybeans also have anti-inflammatory properties which help to treat arthritis.
Brain - Soy peptide and other nutrients help to regulate neurotransmitter while boosting the brain functions, maintaining the dopamine levels and enhancing the immune system. They also aid to minimize mental disability and the risk of Alzheimer.
Sleep - High amount of magnesium content in soybeans promotes good quality sleep and is highly useful for body cells and organ of the body. Soybean’s magnesium and isoflavones support neurotransmitters which help to reduce stress and the risk of sleep disorders such as insomnia and hypersomnia.
Weight management - Soybeans helps in weight loss as well as weight gain. They are known to suppress the appetite that can avoid overeating and manage body weight. Similarly, soybeans provide a considerable amount of protein that helps to build muscles along with gaining weight, if taken in the right quantity.
Blood pressure - Soybean offers antihypertensive potential which helps to treat or prevent high blood pressure. Consuming soy protein/isoflavones reduces systolic and diastolic blood pressure in a healthy way. Isoflavones boost enzyme production that creates nitric oxide and helps to relax blood vessels and low blood pressure levels.
Diabetes - Soybeans provide a very low amount of carbohydrate and is also low in glycemic index which ensures that they don’t spike the blood glucose level after a meal. They work as anti-diabetic food and are very effective in managing or preventing diabetes.
Daily Recommended amounts of soybeans
In several studies, the recommended amount of soybean is indicated as 25 grams of soy protein per day for average adult with normal health condition.
Side-effects of Soyabeans
Side effects of soybean cannot be generalized and different people react differently to this food.
- Consuming soybeans and its products in limited amounts are likely safe for all age groups.
- Side effects are not same for all but certain people observed some interruption in hormonal activity or hormonal imbalance in the body.
- Soybean contains certain anti-thyroid elements that can disturb the normal activity of the thyroid gland and can lead to goiter.
- Soybeans can also cause gastrointestinal side effects such as diarrhea, constipation, bloating, nausea, and vomiting.
- β-conglycinin and glycinin are the two major soy proteins which can trigger few allergic reactions in some people.
Uses of soybeans for health benefits
- Soy milk is the best food to get all the nutritional and health benefits of soybeans. This beverage ensures smooth functioning of the body. Soymilk is prepared by soaking the seeds and grinding in water after a few hours. The it should be filtered and cooked for a few minutes before consumption. Soymilk can also be transformed into curd, whey soy, and soy paneer (tofu).
- Can also be taken in form of soy manchurian, soy curry, or boiled soy chunks with little salt and black pepper.
- Homemade soy sticks, soy kofta, soy cutlet, and soy homemade noodles.
- Soy flour chapati/ bhakri/ paratha.
- Soybean oil is one of the highly consumed vegetable oils. It can be used for deep frying, dressing and sauté. Soybean oil is low in saturated fat and better for overall heart health.
Note: Soybeans and related products taken in a limited quantity is safe and harmless, but if taken in high quantity, it may cause some side effects which can vary from person to person. It is always advised to consume soybean and its products in a limited amount. Please consult your dietician/nutritionist before regular consumption of soybean, especially if you are facing any chronic condition such as kidney disorder, cancer, liver disease, skin problems, or any digestive issue.