For centuries, many Asian dishes have included soy foods as staple ingredients. In many parts of the world, soy products such as tofu, soy milk, tempeh and edamame are consumed regularly and in substantial quantities—they’re just not common in most western diets.
That is changing, however, as more and more health conscious consumers are recognizing the value of including soy-based foods in their diets. Research suggests that soy foods offer extensive health benefits beyond the nutrition they provide. Naturally-occurring plant chemicals called isoflavones are present in soybeans and they’ve been shown to help fight cancer and heart disease.
April is Soy month, recognizing the versatile soybean’s value as a source for food, fiber and fuel.
Soy foods supply vital nutrition including protein, carbohydrates, fiber and micronutrients. Because soy foods provide such complete nutrition, they are frequently provided to help battle malnourishment in under developed areas or regions wracked by disaster.
While they may not consciously buy them at restaurants or grocery stores, most western consumers eat more soy products than they may even realize. Soy cooking oil, salad dressings and any of the countless products containing lecithin all contain soy.
Then again, so do pork chops, steaks, chicken breasts, even your Thanksgiving turkey. And don’t forget the milk and eggs.
Soybeans are a tremendous source of protein not only for humans, but also farm animals. Livestock production consumed about 979 thousand tons of soybean meal in 2011, about 26% of Minnesota’s soybean meal production or 12% of the state’s total soybean crop. Roughly half of the state’s soybean production is processed into soybean meal and oil. Much of the oil goes into food channels or biodiesel. The meal provides protein for the state’s livestock industry.
Minnesota hogs enjoy pigging out on soybean meal, in fact they consume 42 percent of the meal fed to livestock. The state’s poultry industry gobbles up 33 percent, followed by dairy and then beef cattle.
Meat, poultry and dairy products may not come to mind first when consumers think of soy foods, but they are certainly soybean-fed. Minnesota’s soybean farmers recognize the importance of supplying healthy, high quality products to consumers of all types, including the four-legged kind.
For more information on how Minnesota’s soybean farmers are helping to feed the world, visit us at www.mnsoybean.org.