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Soybeans are a nutritious and versatile legume that gives back nitrogen to the soil. Just edged out of the ‘big four’ global crops by maize, rice, wheat and potatoes, they are one of the fastest expanding crops in the world. Soybeans are grown as a protein-rich staple and for oil. Soybeans are exceptional in being the only plant-protein that provides complete protein, that is they provide all the essential amino acids we need in one food. And they are rich in dietary fibre, iron, magnesium, potassium, and also contain calcium, vitamin C and some omega-3 fats (ALA).

Soybeans have a very low glycemic index (GI) of around 15. Soybeans are also rich in unique isoflavones, hormone-like phytonutrients that may help reduce menopausal symptoms. Diets rich in soybeans are associated with reduced risk of common chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and some cancers. They reach the bar to be coined a super-food, although some people are allergic to them. Concerns about any adverse hormone-like effects are not supported by the scientific evidence; In fact, regular consumption is associated with reduced cancer risk.

From a culinary viewpoint, soybeans are similarly stellar. Young, green soybeans known as edamame provide a vibrant green, munchable and more-ish traditional start to a Japanese meal. They are a popular ‘bowl’ ingredient, salad component, stir-fry vegetable and fun ‘green’ for the children’s lunchbox. Mature whole dry soybeans are available whole or in pieces as ‘grits’. Whole soybeans require soaking before cooking or are available canned for convenience and ready to add to meals such as burgers, curries, stir-fry’s, soups, stews and casseroles. Soybeans are processed to produce tofu (soybean curd), a traditional ingredient in Asian cuisine. Tofu comes in various textures from hard tofu for curries and stir-fry’s to soft tofu for soups and desserts. Tempeh is fermented soybean ‘cake’, used similarly to tofu. Miso is fermented soybean paste and is used as a base ‘stock’ for many Japanese dishes. Fermenting soybeans may offer additional health benefits. Soybeans are also used whole or flaked in cereal products such as bread (e.g., soy and linseed bread) and breakfast cereals. Soy was used to make the first plant-based milk – soy milk, and still now rates above the rest in offering more protein and nutrients than other alternatives.

Soybeans have much to offer us – nutrition, versatility and enjoyment. Although being produced in such vast quantities and attracting US farm subsidies means as an ingredient it has found its way into lots of nutrient-poor, highly processed foods as well. The darkest shadow over soybeans is environmental. Monocropping (or duo-cropping) is the practice of growing large areas of the one crop (or two) over time, which depletes the soil ecology and encourages pesticide resistance. Land clearing, such as in Amazon rainforest, is being done to grow soy for animal feed. Humans eating more plant proteins such as soybeans and ’just enough’ meat could reduce the need for this deforestation and land clearing generally.

Soy beans (Boiled from dry)  
5 Health Stars  
Glycemic index (average) 15
Serving size – 1 Cup (185 g or 6.5 oz)  
Kilojoules 1136
Calories 271
Protein (g) 25.0
Fats (g) – total 13.2
Includes: – Saturated fat (g) 2.1
– Monounsaturated fat (g) 2.2
– Polyunsaturated fat (g) 8.9
Saturated : unsaturated fat ratio 0.2
Carbohydrates (g) – Total 15.9
Available (Includes): 2.6
–Natural sugars (g) 2.6
–Natural starches (g) 0.0
–Added sugars (g) 0.0
–Added starches (g) 0.0
Unavailable (Includes): 13.3
–Dietary fibre (g) 13.3
Sodium (mg) 17
Potassium (mg) 777
Glycemic load (g) 0.4
Diabetes exchanges 0
Ingredients: Soybeans  

Source: Australian Food Composition Database and

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Nicole Senior is an Accredited Practising Dietitian, author, consultant, cook and food enthusiast who strives to make sense of nutrition science and delights in making healthy food delicious. Contact: You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram or check out her website