What are soyfoods?

Soyfoods are the broad category of soybean products that are consumed by humans. They range from traditional soy-based foods like tempeh, tofu, edamame and miso to modern soyfoods like soymilk, soy nutrition bars and soy-based meat alternatives to soybean oil, which is used as both an ingredient and in food preparation.

Why are soyfoods important?

Because of their versatility and nutritional profile, soyfoods are uniquely positioned to meet demand for plant-based protein. Both of these categories are experiencing rising demand around the globe, and the soy checkoff continues to support soybean farmers to help them maintain supply.

Among plant-based sources of protein, soyfoods offer an excellent nutritional package. Soy protein is similar to animal protein among several plant-based options. In addition to delivering all nine amino acids essential for protein synthesis in humans, soy is also a source of folate, potassium and fiber.

Soybeans are a uniquely rich source of isoflavones, which have been studied for more than three decades for their association with the prevention of chronic disease.

Another factor making soy protein and soybean oil worth talking about for human consumption is its heart-health benefits. Because soybean oil has 2 grams of saturated fats per serving and is predominantly unsaturated fats, it earned an FDA Heart Health qualified claim in 2018.

This collection of features has made soybean oil, commonly labeled as vegetable oil, the most widely consumed edible oil in the United States, a popular choice for use in fryers in high-volume restaurants.

The combination of versatility, mix of protein and oil uses, and benefits to healthy diets for humans places U.S. soybean farmers in the right position to capitalize in the coming years.

What is happening now?

A key recent development in the soy world has been the arrival of high oleic soybean oil, which accounts for a growing subsection of soybeans grown in the U.S.

Among the most important characteristics of high oleic soybean oil are its fatty acid composition, functionality, extended fry life and flavor profile. It provides improved resistance to oxidation and reduced buildup of polymers on food service equipment in high-heat applications. It also performs longer than standard vegetable oils in extended use situations. In addition, its neutral flavor allows it to complement the foods cooked in it, allowing their natural flavors to shine.

Key messages

  • In cooking applications, high oleic soybean oil features a higher smoke point than some other oils. It also provides exceptional emulsion stability for mayonnaise and salad dressing uses.
  • Soy protein offers an excellent nutrient package featuring an amino acid profile that meets the protein needs of humans across the lifespan.
  • Soyfoods have been consumed for centuries and are well-suited for current plant-based food trends and consumer interest in incorporating more plant protein into the diet.
  • Traditional soyfoods include tofu, tempeh, miso and edamame. Soy protein is also an ingredient in many shelf-stable foods like nutrition bars, cereals and beverages.
  • Soybean oil lowers blood cholesterol levels when replacing saturated fat, an attribute formally recognized by the US Food and Drug Administration in the form of a qualified health claim.
  • Soybean oil is predominantly alpha-linolenic acid omega-3s.
  • The omega-6 polyunsaturated fats in soybean oil may reduce risk of heart disease and lower bad cholesterol when replacing saturated fats, according to the American Heart Association. (source)
  • Just 1 tablespoon of soybean oil packs 25 micrograms of vitamin K, knocking out 21% of the recommended Daily Value in a single serving. (source)
  • Soybean oil is a source of vitamin E. (source)
  • Soy is a high-quality, complete source of plant protein. It is the only plant protein that carries FDA’s heart health claim confirming it may be able to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. It’s also a source of folate, potassium and fiber, and the quality of soy protein is similar to animal protein and higher than the quality of several other plant proteins.
  • Soy protein directly lowers blood cholesterol levels.
  • Soy protein supplementation has been shown to lead to similar gains in strength and muscle mass among individuals engaged in resistance exercise training as supplementation with whey protein, the latter of which is typically viewed as the gold standard protein for building muscle.
  • Soybeans are uniquely rich sources of isoflavones, a group of naturally occurring chemicals that have been widely studied for their health benefits.
  • Estimates are that 3 adults per 1,000 are allergic to soy protein with most surveys pointing toward the lower range. In addition, estimates are that 70% of children will outgrow their soy allergy by age 10.