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The soybean (Glycine max), or soya bean, is a species of legume native to East Asia, widely grown for its edible bean, which has numerous uses.
Fat-free (defatted) soybean meal is a significant and cheap source of protein for animal feeds and many packaged meals. For example, soybean products, such as textured vegetable protein (TVP), are ingredients in many meat and dairy substitutes. The beans contain significant amounts of phytic acid, dietary minerals and B vitamins. Soy vegetable oil, used in food and industrial applications, is another product of processing the soybean crop. Traditional unfermented food uses of soybeans include soy milk, from which tofu and tofu skin are made. Fermented soy foods include soy sauce, fermented bean paste, natto, and tempeh.
100 grams of raw soybeans supply 446 calories and are 9% water, 30% carbohydrates, 20% total fat and 36% protein (table).
Soybeans are an exceptional source of essential nutrients, providing in a 100 gram serving (raw, for reference) high contents of the Daily Value (DV) especially for protein (36% DV), dietary fiber (37%), iron (121%), manganese (120%), phosphorus (101%) and several B vitamins, including folate (94%) (table). High contents also exist for vitamin K, magnesium, zinc and potassium (table).
For human consumption, soybeans must be cooked with "wet" heat to destroy the trypsin inhibitors (serine protease inhibitors). Raw soybeans, including the immature green form, are toxic to all monogastric animals.
Soybeans are a globally important crop, providing oil and protein. In the United States, the bulk of the harvest is solvent-extracted with hexane, and the "toasted" defatted soymeal (50% protein) then makes possible the raising of farm animals (e.g. chicken, hog, turkey) on a large industrial scale. Soybean products are used in a large variety of processed foods.
During World War II, soybeans became important in both North America and Europe chiefly as substitutes for other protein foods and as a source of edible oil. During the war, the soybean was discovered as fertilizer by the United States Department of Agriculture.
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