Soya is an important source of protein for millions of people in East Asia, but it is not well known in many other places. We have come to think of soya as a cheap ingredient added to low-quality products, so it would not be a lie to say that this is also a cause for concern. Concerns have also been raised about soya that has been changed genetically. What is soya, and what is it used for?
Soya is an annual legume of the legume family. Of all the legumes, soya is the most economically important bean in the world, with 350 million tonnes produced annually. Almost 80% of what is produced goes to the livestock industry - for animal feed - and only a small fraction goes on our plates.
Pulses contain very valuable plant proteins. But, unfortunately, they sometimes don't have enough important ammonia, like methionine. So, if you want a meal with a full set of amino acids, you should serve dishes with legumes with bread or cereals like rice, buckwheat, or wholemeal pasta.
Soya is different because it is a plant-based meat that has all of the essential amino acids. There are 50 grams of protein in 100 grams of soy granules. On the other hand, the same amount of split peas has 19 grams. Soy products, such as tofu, tempeh, and soy milk, are also high in protein. Soya has a lot of B vitamins, potassium, magnesium, and iron. It also has a lot of protein.
Different soya products
Thanks to its excellent protein content, soya serves as the basis for several products eaten as a nutritious alternative to meat. Tofu is soya curd, a congealed soy protein product. Soya beans are fermented to make a traditional Asian dish called tempeh. Soya can also be used to make fake chicken fillets, meatballs, burgers, skewers, and sausages.
Soy milk has also become very popular as a staple food for people who can't handle lactose or have an allergy to milk proteins. Yogurt and cream can also be simulated with this legume. Soya oil is also very well known. Because soya takes on the flavor of spices well, we can make a final product that tastes like meat, fish, or cheese and meets people's ethical and financial needs (if they can't afford expensive food) (for vegetarians or vegans).
However, beware: not all soy foods are equally recommended. Soya yogurts and drinks with high sugar content can be found in shops, and soya sausages and quiches tend to contain a lot of salt. The more a product has been changed, the less likely it is to be a good choice.
Soya and women
Soya has all the same health benefits as other legumes. Because it has a lot of fiber and antioxidants, it is good for your heart health and can help keep you from getting diabetes. Studies have shown that just 25 grams of soy products per day can reduce bad cholesterol by 3%. But soy has one health benefit that is unique and special: it is good for women's reproductive health.
Soya contains isoflavones (also called phytoestrogens), which are similar in structure to the female hormone estrogen. Plant hormones and animal hormones are very different things, so while they are similar, they are not the same. To find out if soy has any effect on a woman's body, you would have to go to an Asian country where soy is a common food.
A study of the health of 300 000 women in China found that soya is a preventive measure against breast cancer. It can also lessen the effects of menopause, such as hot flashes, anxiety, irritability, tiredness, and joint pain. It should be noted, however, that the results of studies are not always conclusive. Other studies do not show the promised effects and tend to show neutral effects. The good news is that the myth that phytoestrogens are harmful should not be believed.
Soya and men
One of the myths going around the world says, "Men shouldn't eat soy because it makes their breasts grow in a female way." Several studies were done to find out if soya can make a man's body more like a woman's. The conclusion is clear: eating soy or soy products, even in large amounts, does not affect a man's hormonal background.
Is all soya genetically modified?
When you ask people what they think about soya, you often hear that it is not eaten because all soya is genetically modified. This isn't the case. When you buy soy products, you can look at the label to see if the product has been changed. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are organisms that have been changed so that they behave differently than they did before.
In Europe, for example, oil made from GM soya must say on the label, "Produced from GM soya." If the product doesn't have a list of ingredients, the label must say "Genetically modified" or "Made from genetically modified soya."
Another myth that people believe to be true is that GMOs are dangerous. Genetically modified food is neither bad nor good. It is just a product with better qualities that have been tested much more often and thoroughly than regular food. The label "Contains GMOs" doesn't mean that the food is bad for you, but it gives you the chance to make an informed choice.