Soybean: Nutritional Powerhouse And Sustainable Alternative to Meat
Soybean, a nutritional powerhouse, is a self-pollinated plant that belongs to the family Fabaceae, and the Glycine genus is an environmentally friendly legume crop.
Soybean (Glycine max L.), a nutritional powerhouse, is a self-pollinated plant that belongs to the family Fabaceae, and the Glycine genus is an environmentally friendly legume crop. Soybean can grow in a wide range of latitudes, from 50 N to 35 S.
This adaptability is caused by natural variations in many genes controlling flowering time and maturity. Globally, it is a major source of seed protein and oil, which provide sources of starch, dietary fiber, lipids, essential minerals, and phytochemicals for human nutrition as well as for livestock feed.
Soybean the nutritional powerhouse, has become an important commodity due to its high demand not only for food and feed consumption but also because it can potentially serve as a future fuel feedstock, biodegradable plastics, industrial applications, pharmaceutical applications, as well as in the production of biodiesel.
People also know soybean as a ‘miracle bean’, ‘wonder bean’, or “golden bean,” and it is said it is a golden gift of nature to humanity for health and happiness. It is a cost-effective, rich source of protein that can replace dairy, egg, and meat proteins as consumers search for ever-increasing variations on diet staples.
The origin of soybean cultivation is China. China was the world’s largest soybean exporter and producer during the first half of the 20th century. In the 1950s, soybean production developed rapidly in the USA, and now the USA is the leading producer with 35% (119.5 million metric Tons) of the global production (340.9 million metric tons) of soybean.
Brazil and Argentina are placed in second and third place, respectively. They are not only the largest producers but also the largest exporters. During the early 1960s, soybean was introduced in Pakistan as an oilseed crop, but its cultivation remained limited until the 1970s, when adaptability and production trials conducted all over the country yielded promising results.
Based on these trials, areas of KPK, Punjab, and Sindh were found most suitable for commercial cultivation of soybean. Pakistan disburses the lion’s share of its foreign exchange to import edible oil and oilseed based feedstocks for fulfilling domestic needs.
Soybean as an oilseed crop has the potential to fill the gap between demand and domestic oilseed production in Pakistan.
Soybean cultivation improves soil health because of its ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen and its deep root system. It forms a mutual relationship with rhizobium bacteria in the root nodules.
They convert nitrogen to plant soluble form and in return get carbohydrates. Soybean fixes 50–60% of its nitrogen and 58% of its total nitrogen globally, with a near neutral balance on soil nitrogen.
Soybean can be incorporated into existing spring as well as summer cropping patterns, i.e., rice-soybean-rice, cotton-soybean-cotton, wheat-soybean-wheat, wheat-sorghum/millet-fallow-soybean-wheat, Intercropping soybean with corn, maize, sorghum, cotton, or sugarcane is proposed to be potentially successful.
In the rainfed (barani) areas, most of the lands remain fallow after wheat harvest until October or mid-November, which can be efficiently utilised for soybean production. In a mixed cropping system, we need to introduce it as a spring crop. This will not only improve the supply of feed industry products but also ameliorate the economic conditions and livelihood of farmers.
Soybean-wheat intercropping technology on a 10% cultivated area of wheat could reduce 15% of Pakistan’s soybean import bill, cultivating a 20% area of maize could reduce 30% of the import bill. A total of 45% in one year.
Soybean, a nutritional powerhouse, contains twice as much protein as pulses, groundnuts, meat, and fish; three times as much as eggs; and more than ten times that of milk.
Soybean, being rich in protein and calories, has great potential to tackle the problem of protein-calorie malnutrition from which many people are suffering in developing countries. It also contains isoflavones and anti-nutritional factors such as trypsin inhibitors, urease, and flatulence factors. Hence, it requires careful processing before utilisation.
Soybean can be processed into a wide range of products. Mainly utilised as fermented (e.g., sauce, miso, natto) and non-fermented (e.g., oil, milk, tofu, flour) products.
Derivatives of soybean is gaining importance in nutritious foods and as sources of phytochemicals and nutraceuticals to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc. Calcium rich soy foods include, tofu, tempeh, textured vegetable protein (texturized soy protein), and soy milk.
Calcium in soy foods is readily absorbed by the body. Soymilk is used for breakfast by the people of China, Japan, Taiwan, and Thailand. It is lactose- and cholesterol free, highly digestible, and an alternative to a dairy- and meat-centred diet.
“By adding 3-4% sugar and 0.05% salt, it achieves a sugar, salt, and total solid level that is roughly equivalent to 2% fat cow’s milk.”
Tofu is an inexpensive substitute for cheese or paneer. Soy nuts are an excellent source of protein, fat, and isoflavones and are an alternate to peanuts, which are expensive and pose the problem of aflatoxins. Soybean oil has a high smoke point of about 230 degrees Celsius and is used for edible applications such as cooking, salad oil, dressing, margarine, mayonnaise, and confectionery cooking.
Soybean, another nutritional powerhouse, also contains heart healthy polyunsaturated fatty acids, which improve the elasticity of artery walls. Improve cognitive function and visual memory. Omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in foetal development, brain function, type-2 diabetes, and immunity.
One tablespoon of soybean oil contains 25 mcg of vitamin K, knocking out around 20% of the recommended daily value in a single serving. Vitamin K is helpful in regulating bone metabolism, blood clotting, and maintaining bone mass such as osteocalcin. Vitamin E protects against skin damage and treats skin conditions such as acne and atopic dermatitis.
“The US Food and Drug Administration has approved a health claim stating that 25g of soy protein in a daily diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol can help reduce total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol by 3-4%.”
People are becoming more health conscious, and the demand for nutritious foods is therefore increasing. Therefore, high quality research and development in the areas of soybean processing and utilisation are required. The following measures are suggested to accelerate soybean food use in the world:
● Create awareness among the masses about the economic, nutritional, and health benefits of soybeans and their products using print and electronic media.
● Train individuals, groups, and entrepreneurs in the manufacturing and marketing of soy-based food products and machinery.
● Make technical support available to potential entrepreneurs in the form of project reports, consultancy, and services.
Link research and industry to refine the product and modify technologies over time for greater efficiency and high-quality output.