Soybeans: Health Benefits, Nutrition, & Uses

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated - Medically reviewed by Zemira Barnes (MS)

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Soybeans are a rich source of fiber, antioxidants, protein, and omega 3 fatty acids. They offer a wealth of benefits such as improving metabolism, fighting obesity, protecting heart health, and reducing the effects of menopause. They also improve digestion, promote bone health, decrease the risk of diabetes, and generally tone up the body.

What are Soybeans?

Soybeans, which are also known as soya beans, are a species of legume that has become one of the most widely consumed foods in the world. They are easy to cultivate and have multiple benefits to offer. These legumes are produced in the United States and South America, but they are native to East Asia. Their scientific name is Glycine max, and they are classified as an oilseed, rather than a pulse, like most legumes.

Soybeans have become wildly important and popular in recent decades because of the rise in the popularity of its derivatives, including soy milk and textured vegetable protein. The high levels of protein make these soy products an ideal protein source for vegetarians and the variety of soy products has created a massive new market altogether.

One of the reasons soybeans are widely cultivated is because they contain more protein per acre of land than any other crop. A green, low-lying plant, they grow up to 2 meters in height. Furthermore, soybeans are packed with other essential nutrients, making them extremely valuable for people on diets, those who need to improve their overall health, and vegetarians and vegans throughout the world. Let’s take a closer look at what makes soybeans so beneficial to our health.

A closeup view of soybeans with wooden spoon and sac

Soybeans are the most popular type of legume. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Soybean Nutrition

The health benefits of soybeans come from the nutrients, vitamins, and organic compounds including a significant amount of dietary fiber and a very large amount of protein. According to the USDA FoodData Central, soybeans contain vitamin K, riboflavin, folate, vitamin B6, thiamin, and vitamin C. As for minerals, soybeans contain significant amounts of iron, manganese, phosphorus, copper, potassium, magnesium, zinc, selenium, and calcium. They are also a good source of organic compounds and antioxidants like isoflavones, which further help in boosting your health.

Nutrition Facts

Soybeans, green, raw
Serving Size :
NutrientValue
Water [g]67.5
Energy [kcal]147
Energy [kJ]614
Protein [g]12.95
Total lipid (fat) [g]6.8
Ash [g]1.7
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]11.05
Fiber, total dietary [g]4.2
Calcium, Ca [mg]197
Iron, Fe [mg]3.55
Magnesium, Mg [mg]65
Phosphorus, P [mg]194
Potassium, K [mg]620
Sodium, Na [mg]15
Zinc, Zn [mg]0.99
Copper, Cu [mg]0.13
Manganese, Mn [mg]0.55
Selenium, Se [µg]1.5
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]29
Thiamin [mg]0.44
Riboflavin [mg]0.18
Niacin [mg]1.65
Pantothenic acid [mg]0.15
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.07
Folate, total [µg]165
Folate, food [µg]165
Folate, DFE [µg]165
Vitamin A, RAE [µg]9
Vitamin A, IU [IU]180
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]0.79
14:0 [g]0.01
16:0 [g]0.57
18:0 [g]0.21
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]1.28
16:1 [g]0.01
18:1 [g]1.26
20:1 [g]0.01
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]3.2
18:2 [g]2.82
18:3 [g]0.38
Phytosterols [mg]50
Tryptophan [g]0.16
Threonine [g]0.52
Isoleucine [g]0.57
Leucine [g]0.93
Lysine [g]0.78
Methionine [g]0.16
Cystine [g]0.12
Phenylalanine [g]0.59
Tyrosine [g]0.46
Valine [g]0.58
Arginine [g]1.04
Histidine [g]0.35
Alanine [g]0.58
Aspartic acid [g]1.51
Glutamic acid [g]2.43
Glycine [g]0.54
Proline [g]0.61
Serine [g]0.72
Sources include : USDA

Health Benefits of Soybeans

The health benefits of soybeans include the following:

Improve Metabolic Activity

Soybeans are an extremely important source of protein. When you have enough proteins in your body, your metabolic functioning and the overall system will get a major boost, thus helping maintain your health better. Approximately 20 percent of the protein present in soybeans is β-conglycinin. Research has found that a single meal of β-conglycinin per day could increase specific protein levels in the blood, which in turn could result in improved metabolism. This makes it an especially good source of protein for anyone following a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Healthy Weight Management

In many ways, soybeans are one of the most nutritious additions to your diet. Soy protein helps you stay fuller and also regulates insulin, thus healthily curbing your obesity. These effects were also shown by black soybeans. A study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food reveals that black soybean seed coats have an anti-obesity effect, owing to the presence of anthocyanins.

Anticancer Potential

Soybeans have high levels of antioxidants present in them, says a study by researchers at Purdue University. Antioxidants could help delay the onset of various cancers. They seek out and neutralize free radicals, which are the dangerous byproducts of cellular metabolism. These free radicals can cause healthy cells to mutate into deadly cancerous cells.

Apart from this, soybeans and soyfoods could also reduce the side effects of cancer treatment. According to the American Institute of Cancer Research, a 2018 study found that edamame and soy derivatives consumption resulted in fewer menopausal symptoms and reduced fatigue amongst women with breast cancer who were receiving treatment. Another research also showed how high intake of soy during childhood reduced the risk of breast cancer among Asian American children. However, further research is still required for this.

Soybeans are also rich in isoflavones, which have shown to be effective against prostate cancer among men.

Health benefits of soybeans infographic

Soybeans, known as soya beans, are a species of legume that has become one of the most widely consumed foods in the world.

Improve Heart Health

Soybeans are a source of healthy, unsaturated fat, which helps you lower your total cholesterol, specifically LDL cholesterol levels. This allows you to prevent conditions like atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease, which can easily lead to heart attack and stroke. This is confirmed by a study conducted by Dr. James Anderson, et al., University of Kentucky. Furthermore, some specific fatty acids that are necessary for a healthy system. Two of those fatty acids are linolenic acid, known as omega 6 and alpha-linolenic acid, known as omega 3. Omega 3 fatty acids are known to help with heart diseases and reduce the risk of stroke. The fiber in soybeans also reduces the cholesterol levels in the body by scraping excess cholesterol off the walls of blood vessels and arteries.

Relieve Menopausal Symptoms

Soybeans are a very good source of isoflavones, which are essential components of the female reproductive system. During menopause, estrogen levels drop significantly. Isoflavones can bind to estrogen receptor cells, so the body doesn’t feel as though it is going through such a dramatic change. This can ease many of the symptoms of menopause such as mood swings, hot flashes, and hunger pains.

Boost Digestion

One of the most common elements lacking in many people’s diets is dietary fiber, which is present in high quantities in soybeans. Fiber is an essential part of a healthy body, particularly in terms of the digestive system. Fiber bulks up your stool, making it move through your digestive system smoothly. Furthermore, it stimulates peristaltic motion, which is the contraction of the muscles that push food through your system. It is vital also because constipation can be a very serious condition that can lead to other conditions, including colorectal cancer. Soybeans also contain the carbohydrate known as oligosaccharides known to stimulate the production of healthy bacteria in the intestines, thus serving as a great source of prebiotics.

Improve Bone Health

As per research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, isoflavones in soybeans help protect against spinal bone loss. Another study showed how soy isoflavones also help in preventing postmenopausal osteoporosis and improving overall bone strength, thereby reducing the risk of fracture. However, further research on this is still required. Soybeans are also a rich source of calcium, which helps in bone growth.

Reduce Blood Pressure

Research data suggests that soybeans are hypotensive, which is to say they help in reducing blood pressure. This may further reduce the risk of stroke and other coronary heart diseases. However, additional research is needed on this.

Manages Diabetes

Soybeans are an effective method of prevention and management of diabetes, primarily because they have shown an ability to increase insulin receptors in the body, thereby helping manage the disease effectively. Additionally, soybeans have a lower carbohydrate content which makes it a great addition to anti-diabetes meals.

Relieve Sleep Disorders

Soybeans help in reducing sleep disorders and the occurrence of insomnia. They also have a high content of magnesium, as highlighted by researchers from the University of Kentucky in their study published in the journal Plant Physiology. Magnesium is directly linked to increasing the quality, duration, and restfulness of your sleep.

Soybean Uses

Soybeans are used in various applications and there are many different ways you can add them to your diet. Let us take a look at them below.

Side Effects of Soybeans

Although there are many beneficial aspects of consuming soybean and soy products, there are also some potentially negative health effects of consuming soybeans as a part of your diet:

  • Estrogen levels: Since there are estrogen-mimicking compounds in soybeans, men can occasionally develop a hormone imbalance if they consume high amounts of soybeans or soy milk. In men, this can lead to infertility, sexual dysfunction, lower sperm count, and even an increase in the chances of certain cancers.
  • Goiter: There are certain anti-thyroid compounds in soy that can disrupt the activity of the thyroid gland and result in goiter, as well as an interruption of normal hormonal activity in the body.

One should also be careful in case of soy allergies, which is triggered by the presence of soy proteins. If you are wondering whether soy protein is good or bad for you, click to read more. Soybeans can also cause diarrhea or flatulence when consumed in excess.

Besides these effects, soy is a healthy and beneficial choice for millions of people around the world. Give it a try!

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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