What are soybeans?
Soybeans belong to the legume family and are native to East Asia. They have been an important protein source in the Orient for over five thousand years. Soybeans have only been introduced to the Western world since the 20th century. Soybeans grow on a variety of soils and a wide range of climates, ranging form tropical Brazil to the snowy island Hokkaido in the north of Japan. As soybeans mature in the pod, they ripen into hard, dry beans. Although most soybeans are yellow,
there are also rare varieties which are black, brown or green coloured. A given area of land planted with soybeans can produce much more protein than land planted with other crops, or if the land were used to raise cattle.
Fresh soybeans, or edamame, should be refrigerated and used within two days. Frozen edamame can be stored in the freezer for several months. Dried soybeans can be kept in an airtight container for a very long period.
Soybeans are most often transformed in other foods such as tempeh, tofu, miso, shoyu, soy milk or other food ingredients. However, cooked soybeans can also be used as an ingredient in soups, sauces and stews. To prepare two cups of soybeans for cooking, soak them in about six cups of water for about eight hours. This soaking shortens the cooking time, improves the texture and appearance of the beans and removes some of the indigestible sugars. Drain, rinse and cook the soaked soybeans in about six cups of fresh water. Do not add salt at this point or it will delay the softening of the soybeans. Pressure-cook the soaked soybeans for about 40 min. When you cook soybeans, make it worth your while by cooking two or three times what you need and freezing the rest for later use.
Whole soybeans are an excellent source of protein
and dietary fibre. Soy protein is the only vegetable with a complete protein. Soy protein has recently attracted a lot of attention because of its ability to lower LDL (bad cholesterol) levels. Results from research have prompted health professionals to request the government to officially give a stamp of approval for soy's cholesterol-lowering effects. The Food and Drug Administration approved the cholesterol-lowering health claim for soy, indicating that daily consumption of 25 grams of soy protein (6.5 grams of soy protein per serving) may lower LDL cholesterol.