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Uses For Soya Beans

In 2853 B.C. the Chinese Emperor Shennong proclaimed five plants to be sacred with the soya bean rating along with rice, millet, barley and wheat. The soya bean or soybean is a species of legume and has been cultivated by the Chinese for around five thousand years. It is used for food and as an ingredient in medicine.

The Chinese kept their soya bean secret from the rest of the world for a long time. By the fifth century A.D. the opening of the trade routes meant that the soya bean could be spread across both land and sea. The earliest record of soya beans being used by the Japanese is 712 A.D.

Soya beans were introduced to America in 1765 by Samuel Bowen, a sailor who took the soya beans with him from China. He was the first of many soya bean growers who exported soya sauce to the England. Henry Ford was a pioneer of using soya oil in the motor industry. The manufacture of Ford cars involved products derived from soya.

Each small green pod contains two to four beans which are used as food for both animals and humans. The soya beans are harvested, cleaned, cracked and de-hulled. Then the soya bean oil is separated from the soya bean meal.

The soya bean oil is refined and used in margarine, cooking oil and emulsifiers in chocolate and cocoa butter. The soya meal is used as a high fibre ingredient for bread, crackers and textured vegetable protein. Soya meal is a cheap source of protein for animal feeds.

Soya is an essential ingredient for renewable products. Many things around the home are made from the soya bean meal or oil:

• Printing ink
• Foam insulation
• Carpet backing
• Industrial lubricants
• Engine oil
• Paint and varnish
• Textiles
• Cleaning fluids
• Crayons
• Cosmetics
• Fuel
• Biodegradable plastics

Soya beans may well have unique health benefits too. In the early 1930’s scientist discovered compounds similar to oestrogen in the plants. In the 1960s they studied the role played by isoflavones in reducing the risk of breast cancer. Japanese scientists later discovered that daily consumption of miso, a soya bean paste, was linked to lower death rates from stomach cancer.

In October 1999 the US Food and Drug Administration permitted the health claims, for the role in reducing heart disease, on food products containing soya protein. The plant is classed as ‘oilseed’ rather than ‘pulse’.

Several clinical studies have suggested that a regular intake of soya products or supplements can prevent certain diseases such as:

• Breast cancer
• Prostate cancer
• Stomach cancer
• Lowers cholesterol
• Reduces blood pressure
• Reduces heart disease

Although the results are encouraging further research is needed to learn if the soya bean could have life-saving properties.

Soya Bean Products

• Soya vegetable oil
• Textured vegetable protein (TPS)
• Soya milk
• Soya sauce – fermented beans with Aspergillus molds
• Miso paste – fermented bean paste
• Natto – fermented beans
• Tempeh – fermented bean patty
• Tofu (bean curd) and tofu skin (dried bean curd sheet)

Succulent young soya beans are delicious eaten fresh, if fresh beans are unavailable use canned or frozen. Simply put them into a bowl and squeeze some lemon juice over them, a little soya bean oil, some fresh garlic, a pinch of cumin, salt and pepper and mix the ingredients together. Serve with a salad and some toasted pita bread.

Soya beans are packed full of vitamins and minerals and a valuable source of protein for vegetarians. Always try to buy organic soya products and steer clear of Genetically Modified (GM) soya beans.

The mind's eye has a special relationship with the healing system. ~ Andrew Weil

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