SoybeansSoybeans are also known as Edamame is countries such as China and Japan. In these countries soybeans are more commonly consumed than in the Western world. However, you will be able to find soybeans in many Western countries since they are used to make many different types of soy products. If you want to find out where soybeans actually come from and how to store them, keep reading to find out more.


Soybeans are not the type of beans which are most widely cultivated. However, for many years they have been part of the traditional dietary prescription of communities living in China, Japan and Korea. Soybeans are currently cultivated and consumed in many other countries in the world as well. Countries which cultivate soybeans on a large scale include India, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, Paraguay and the United States. The country which currently produces the most soybeans in the world is the United States. It is estimated that within the US, more than 80 million tons of soybeans are produced. However, only a small portion of the soybeans produced in the United States are consumed as whole. More than 95 percent of the soybeans cultivated in the United States are processed for the production of different types of soy. For example, it is used to make soil meal, which is used to make animal feed, or for the preparation of soy oil. However, in many countries soybeans are consumed in whole form. In the countries where soybeans are not used for oil or soil meals, soybeans serve as an important source of protein. Moreover, soybeans are also relatively cheap. Thus, they make a good and affordable alternative for meat for people who do not eat meat.

Plant seeds

Like other vegetables which belong to the same family as soybeans, soybeans are considered to be seeds of a plant. The plant to which soybeans belong is called Glycine max. The soybeans which are commonly sold in supermarkets are those which have been removed from their pod. These type of soybeans are also the ones which are already dried. Since most people are familiar with these type of soybeans in the supermarket, most people think their natural color is pale yellow or light tan. However, soybeans which have been dried can be found in a wide variety of different colors. For example, you will be able to find soybeans which are blue, brown and black. Fresh soybeans, on the other hand, always have a green color. Once these soybeans have been cooked, they get a rich and bright green color. This bright green color appears either when the soybeans are being cooked in a pod or after you have removed them form the pod. Many websites state that the bright green soybeans are considered to be immature. However, this term is not always accurate. While it is possible for soybeans to be harvested when they are still immature, the soybeans which you can purchase in the supermarket are mature when harvested. This type of soybeans in not dried. You will also see that soybeans will be referred to as “Edamame”. The literal translation of this term is “branch beans” or “stalk beans”. This Japanese term is used to refer to fresh green soybeans. When purchasing Edamame in the supermarket, you will see that they are sold either individually or still in the pod. There are also stored which sell Edamame already steamed or boiled. The main difference between Edamame and regular soybeans is that Edamame have not been dried. Other types of food which include soy include products such as tofy, miso and natto. Full fat soy milk is also an example of a product which contains soy. Soy can also be processed to make soy protein, soy flour or soybean oil. However, when consuming soy, it is best to consume it as a whole food.


For thousands of years, soybeans have been cultivated in China. About a thousand years ago, this was also the time when soybeans became more popular in other Asian countries. Some of these countries include Japan and Korea. Due to the origins of this food, we still commonly use Japanese terms to refer to these types of food. For example, we use the term “edamame” to refer to soybeans. The term tofu originally comes from the Chinese word “doufu”. The term “natto” is also a Japanese term which is still commonly used today. Today, there are many countries which depend on soybeans and other vegetables as the main source of protein. Soybeans are especially high is protein when they are consumed in their whole form. You are able to steam or cook them lightly to ensure the high protein content. However, the soybeans which are currently produced are seldom produced with the purpose of being consumed in their whole form. This is especially the case for soybeans which are produced in the United States. Today, a multi-billion industry has grown around the production of soybeans. It is now commonly cultivated as an “oilseed” crop. This crop is often traded together with other types of oil such as cottonseed, rapeseed and sunflower-seed oil. Furthermore, the majority of soybeans which are currently produced in the United States are genetically engineers. This implies that soybeans are now among the top foods which are genetically modified. The genetic modification of soybeans started around 1998. Soybeans started to be genetically engineered to make them resistant against the commercial herbicide which is known as glufosinate ammonium. Since this time, the genetic modification has only become more popular. Since the end of the 1990s, more parents have been granted for the genetic modification of soybeans. Most of the patents which have been granted want to make soybeans more resistant against herbicides and pesticides. If you want to be sure that the soybeans you are buying are not genetically modified, it is recommended to buy organic products. Only in this way will you be ensured that soybeans have not been genetically engineered.

Prevention of cancer

Besides the fact that soybeans are a source of protein, they also have many health benefits. For example, various studies have indicated that soy can help to prevent different types of cancer. Cancer is considered to be one of the leading causes of death in the world. A study which was conducted on the effects of soy on breast cancer found that consuming soy products was linked to increased tissue in the breast. While hypothetically this would imply that this would increase the risk of breast cancer, the opposite was true. The majority of observational studies which have been conducted on this topic found that consuming soy products on a regular basis can reduce the risk  of breast cancer. Other studies which have been conducted on the consumption of soybeans and its ability to prevent cancer also found that it could have a positive effect in men. These studies concluded that soybeans could provide protection against prostate cancer among men. There are a few specific components within soybeans which are said to be responsible for this effect. These potential cancer-preventive components include lectine, lunasin and isoflavones. Isoflaves might be a component which people might be familiar with since it can also be found in other types of food. Isoflavones are also said to play a role in the prevention of breast cancer among women. Moreover, the earlier one might be exposed to isoflavones, the more protection can be offered against cancer which could occur later in life. It is important to note that the majority of these studies are so-called observational studies. This implies that there could be a link between the consumption of soybeans and cancer. However, since there is a link this does not automatically prove causation. Thus, further research is required on this topic.

Alleviation of Menopausal Symptoms

Another potential health benefit of soybeans is that they can help to alleviate symptoms of menopause. Menopause refers to the period in a woman’s life when she stops menstruating. Menopause is often linked to a wide range of unpleasant symptoms. Such symptoms include hot flashes, mood swings and sweating. These symptoms are caused by a reduction in the estrogen levels in a woman’s body. Traditionally, hormone therapies would be used as a treatment for these symptoms. An interesting fact is that Asian women are less common to experience such symptoms compared to women living in the Western world. Especially Japanese women are said to be less likely to experience symptoms related to menopause. A potential explanation for this phenomenon could the higher consumption of soy foods in Asia, especially in Japan. Various studies have found a link between the presence of isoflavones in soybeans and their influence to alleviate the symptoms associated with menopause. However, soy does not have this same effect on all women. For example, studies found that the symptoms of menopause can only be alleviated when women possess a specific type of gut bacteria. This bacteria has the ability to convert the isoflavones in equol. It is suggested that equol has the potential to alleviate the symptoms which are related to menopause. Equol is also said to be responsible for many other health benefits which have been linked to the consumption of soybeans on a regular basis. Another type of treatment which is used to help alleviate the symptoms of menopause are isoflavone supplements. These supplements are said to have similar effects as when soybeans are eaten weekly.

How to select and store

As mentioned, generally soybeans can be found in their fresh and whole form or in their dried form. Most supermarkets sell dried soybeans prepackaged. You will most likely also be able to find them in bulk bins, since that it how they are usually prepackaged. When you decide to buy soybeans in bulk, make sure that the store has a high turnover to ensure that the product you are buying it fresh. Before purchasing the soybeans, check that there is no evidence of insect damage or moisture. Also, the beans should be whole and they should not be cracked. It is not a problem if a few of them are cracked, but it should not be the majority. Many soybeans are also sold as canned vegetables. If you prefer eating fresh soybeans, it could be that your local supermarket does not sell them. In this case, it is recommended to visit your local vegetable shop. They often have a range of vegetables which you are not able to purchase in the supermarket. When buying fresh soybeans, make sure that they have a deep green color. They should also be firm and unbruised. If the store does not sell fresh soybeans, frozen soybeans should be available. You will be able to keep frozen soybeans for a couple of months. Fresh soybeans, on the other hand, should be consumed within two days. Fresh soy beans can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container.


Article written by: SarahAjaoud
Times read: 2482x
Added: 14-02-2017 20:29
Last modified: 11-05-2017 22:14

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