Soybeans have long been a traditional part of the diet in Asia. Whole beans are sometimes used, but the most popular products, like tofu and soymilk, are usually only a part of the bean. Various products differ widely in nutrient value. I prefer the whole sum of foods when possible, as that is usually the most wholesome.
Soybeans contain the highest amount of protein of any grain or legume, and substantial amounts of fat, carbohydrates, dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals and a variety of the phytochemicals useful for the prevention and treatment of many chronic diseases.
The protein in the soybean is very digestible and contains all of the essential amino acids necessary for humans, and can sustain health at all stages of human development.
Approximately 50 percent of the fat in soybeans is linoleic acid, a polyunsaturated fat and an essential nutrient. In addition, soybean oil can contain as much as 8 percent alpha-linolenic acid, which is an Omega-3 fatty acid, the type of fat found in fish which is believed to be beneficial in lowering the risk of heart disease.
Soluble and insoluble carbohydrates, including dietary fiber, make up about 30 percent of the soybean. The oligosaccharides raffinose and stachyose are significant because they are not digested or used as nutrients directly by the human body, but instead are used as nutrients by the bifido bacteria in the lower intestine to sustain and promote their growth. These types of intestinal flora are considered important for human health, as it is believed that their presence can reduce the incidence of many diseases of the lower tract, including colon cancer.
The major mineral components of soybeans are potassium, sodium, calcium, magnesium, sulfur and phosphorus.
The water-soluble vitamins in soybeans are thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, folic acid, inositol and choline. Fat-soluble vitamins present in the soybean are vitamins A and E.
“Soy Curls” are one of the newer whole-soy foods. Like tofu, they are a convenience food and a nutritious addition to many dishes. But because they are the whole bean, they have plenty of fiber and all the other nutrients found in soybeans. No seasoning or other ingredients have been added, which makes them very versatile. Alone, or with other foods, they can be seasoned according to your preference.