Soybeans: The Worldwide Super Food

Biz Fairchild Reynolds explains the power of soybeans the worldwide super food, includes information on growing and harvesting soybeans, versatility of soybeans as food and the health benefits of soybeans.

| June/July 2000

Learn the benefits of soybeans, the worldwide super food. Planting, harvesting and harnessing soybeans.

To much of America, the word "soy" in front of anything food-related does not imply cool. It conjures health-nut enthusiasts who are also eating seaweed, smashed-up chickpeas and all manner of raw stuff that people normally cook. Add the words economical, nutritious and practical and most are left wondering: Could soy possibly be any fun at all?

At first glimpse, it appears to be such a boring little lean, hard and flat and round. Even the short, nondescript name "soy" belies the incredibly amazing properties hidden within this unassuming yet extremely versatile legume. In fact, the Chinese, who historically were the first to use the soybean for food, have for centuries called it "Yellow Jewel," "Great Treasure" and "Brings Happiness."

Soybeans, the worldwide super food, have always been a lucrative crop in the U.S. (third in importance, after corn and wheat). We are the world's leading producer of soybean oil and meal, and the leading exporter as well. Almost 40% of our soybean crop is exported.

Here in farm country, most folks think of soybeans as either an easy-to-grow market crop, or as an animal feed. But with a protein content of 40%, soy can also be an important part of a vegetarian diet if eaten along with grains and nuts.

Historians think soybeans may have been domesticated as early as the 11th century B.C. in Northwestern China. Introduced in Europe in the 18th century and to America in the early 19th century, the first soybeans to be grown in the U.S. were grown in Pennsylvania — as a garden ornamental. Soon the bean became a common forage crop, used for hay, silage and pasture. But it was not until oil was first commercially extracted from the seed in the early 1900s that the soybean became invaluable — almost overnight. By 1929, a significant part of the soybean crop was being crushed for oil, and processing plants were quickly established. From a staple food crop in Asia to a multiple-use crop grown worldwide, the soybean's future continues to expand as a remarkable range of new and improved products are formulated with the humble soybean as the main ingredient.

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