Last updated: August 16, 2021

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This time we will talk about soy, a legume known for its high protein, mineral and fibre content, which is why many vegetarians and vegans incorporate it into their diet to replace meat and dairy products.

This grain also stands out for its versatility, given that it is used to prepare all kinds of recipes, such as tofu, milk, flours, sauces, oils and many other food variants. It also helps to prevent heart disease, osteoporosis and certain types of cancer.

In this article we will tell you about the most important characteristics of this beneficial cereal, so that you know its main features and can choose the variety that best suits your tastes, preferences and needs. Don't miss it!




Summary

  • Soya is a legume that originates from the East and is characterised by its high protein, mineral and fibre content. It is also extremely versatile and can be used in many sweet and savoury culinary preparations.
  • The different types of soybeans differ mainly in colour, as there are yellow (the most common and widely used), green, black and red soybeans. These variants have different flavours, formats, properties and uses.
  • It is very important that when buying soybeans you take into account certain important factors, such as their varieties, forms of consumption, selection and preservation methods, and possible contraindications, among other aspects.

The Best Soy: Our Picks

Buying Guide: What you need to know about Soy

The main purpose of this buying guide is to provide you with information about the product you are interested in buying. Therefore, we will tell you about the most important characteristics of soy, including its advantages and those aspects that are not so beneficial.

Soy is known for its versatility, as it can be used to prepare numerous sweet and savoury dishes. (Photo: Kostic Dusan / 123rf.com)

What is soy and what are its advantages?

Soy is a legume that is characterised and stands out for being a great source of protein, amino acids and fibre, far surpassing meat and dairy products, which is why it is one of the foods most widely incorporated into vegetarian and vegan diets.

Soy also contains vitamins (especially B vitamins) and minerals (such as calcium and iron). In addition, it prevents heart disease, osteoporosis, some types of cancer (such as breast cancer), and helps women regulate menopausal disorders.

On the other hand, soy is a food with multiple consumption possibilities, since it is used to make everything from milk, to oil, sauce, flour and tofu, among many other variants. Its mild and pleasant taste makes it adaptable to different uses and palates.

Advantages
  • It is a great source of protein
  • It has vitamins and minerals
  • It helps to regulate menopausal disorders
  • It is effective against diabetes
  • It prevents coronary diseases, osteoporosis and some types of cancer
  • It has different forms of consumption
Disadvantages
  • Most of the soya we consume is transgenic
  • It is not advisable for anaemic people
  • It can prevent the absorption of iodine
  • It could affect endocrine function

Yellow, green, black or red soy - What should you look out for?

Soya can come in different varieties, which are differentiated by their colour: yellow, green, black and red soya. Below, we will detail the characteristics of each of them so that you can compare them and choose the one that best suits your preferences, uses and needs.

Yellow soybean

This is the soybean variety that contains the most protein, which is why it is widely used as a meat substitute in vegetarian and vegan diets. It is also rich in minerals, vitamins and fibre, although it has a high fat content, higher than the other types of soybeans.

Green soybeans

Also known as mung bean, this variety of soybean is also high in protein, vitamins, minerals and folic acid. Unlike yellow soybeans, it has very little fat, which is why it is recommended for weight loss diets.

Black soybean

This variety, smaller than the rest, is the one with the highest amount of phytochemicals (such as polyphenols), so it contains natural antioxidants that protect the organism from cardiovascular, neurodegenerative, cerebrovascular diseases, etc.

Due to its high fibre content and its satiating power, black soya is recommended for weight loss diets, as is the green variant. This beneficial legume, originally from Japan, is mainly used to make sweet desserts, sauces and coffee, among other culinary options.

Red soybean

Also known as Adzuki, this is one of the lesser-known soybean varieties used in the West. It is high in minerals such as iron and magnesium, low in fat, high in carbohydrates and has a sweet taste, which is why it is mainly used in desserts and teas.

Yellow Green Black Red
Format Round Rounded or oval Slightly oval Rounded
Properties Proteins, vitamins, minerals, fibre Proteins, vitamins, minerals, folic acid Proteins, fibre, polyphenols High content of iron and magnesium
Ways of consumption Varied (milk, oils, flour, salads, etc.).) Salads, mainly Desserts, soy sauce, coffees, etc. Confectionery, mainly
Most important characteristics The most versatile and widely used variety Low in fat Prevents cerebrovascular, neurodegenerative and cardiovascular diseases, etc. Its sweet taste makes it ideal for making desserts

Soy sauce is widely used in oriental cuisine, especially to accompany dishes such as sushi. (Photo: handmadepictures / 123rf.com)

Buying Criteria

In this last section we will discuss the purchasing criteria that will help you select the best soybean varieties, depending on your specific preferences and interests. Pay attention to every detail, as this information will be of great help to you at the time of purchase.

Textured soybeans

Textured soy, also known as textured soy meat or textured vegetable protein, is obtained through a process of dehydration and texturisation of soy flour, which gives it a more compact appearance. Below, we will tell you about the different types and sizes:

  • Fine textured soybeans: This variety is usually sold in small pieces of about 5 mm thick, and can be eaten as is or included in the cooking of other foods (with sauce, for example) to make it more hydrated. Its texture is crunchy, but not hard.
  • Thick textured soybeans: They are between 2.5 and 3 cm thick (without hydration) and can come in the form of chunks or balls with a spongy texture. Its size increases when hydrated and its consistency becomes more tender, so it is usually cooked in stews, broths, grilled or fried.
  • Textured dark "meat-type" soybeans: This variant is very similar to traditional soy milanesas, but small in size, dark brown in colour, and with the flavour and aroma of soy sauce and spices. It needs to be hydrated beforehand, and then grilled, fried, sautéed, etc.

The varieties mentioned in the previous paragraphs are the most common and consumed; however, you can find other types of texturised soy, in irregular formats or strips, or of different thicknesses. The important thing is that all variants have a high protein value.

As for hydration, you can moisten the soybeans while cooking them, together with sauces or broths, or leave them to soak for 10 minutes (for fine textured ones) and 30 minutes (thick ones) in hot water so that they hydrate faster and double in size. You can also boil them directly.

Ways of consumption

If there is one thing that characterises soya, apart from its nutritional properties, it is its versatility, as it can be used in many culinary variations that are totally different from one another. Here are the most common uses of this natural superfood.

Soy milk

Soy milk is one of the most widely consumed vegetable milk variants (especially by vegans), as it contains no lactose, is very rich in calcium, has no cholesterol, and has more protein than cow's milk (and fewer carbohydrates and fats).

Soy flour

Soy flour is gluten-free, low in saturated fat and has a high nutritional content, which is why it is used to make various foods, such as hamburgers, burgers, buns, meatballs, pasta and breads, among others.

Soy sauce

Soy sauce is a ferment that serves as a condiment for a variety of foods. In the East, it is widely used to accompany different types of dishes, especially raw fish such as sushi, and has also become known in the West.

It is one of the few foods or condiments that is not made from yellow soybeans, but from its red or black variants, due to the slightly sweet taste of these types of soybeans. It is really very pleasant to the palate and enhances the flavour of preparations, although it is not for all tastes.

Tofu

Tofu is a cheese variant made from the pulp of soybeans, which is cholesterol-free and fat-free, unlike animal cheeses that are characteristically very fatty. Due to its mild and delicate taste, it is used to accompany all kinds of food.

Soya milk is one of the most popular choices for vegans, due to its high calcium and protein content. (Photo: Sorrapong Apidech / 123rf.com)

Supplements

Another variant of soy consumption is through dietary supplements of soy lecithin, a derivative of this legume, generally used by athletes to replenish nutrients and obtain more energy. Below, we will detail the characteristics of some of its variants:

Capsules

This is one of the most common variants of soy lecithin, and can come alone or combined with other components. They are mainly consumed to reduce triglycerides and cholesterol, to supplement weight loss diets, to replenish proteins and minerals, etc.

These supplements, which are also recommended to improve memory and cognitive functions, generally come in boxes of 30 or 60 softgels or pearls, which are recommended to be taken twice a day (once before lunch and once before dinner).

Powder

Powder is another variant of consumption of soy lecithin supplements, which differs from capsules in its presentation and consistency but not in its characteristics, as it fulfils the same nutritional functions. It is advisable to consume two tablespoons daily.

Ideally, it should be consumed before meals, either dissolved in water or milk, or sprinkled on cereals, rice, sauces, pulses, etc. As its flavour is mild and very non-invasive, you can mix it with any food without the risk of it altering its taste.

Selection and preservation

It is important that you take into account certain factors related to the selection and preservation of soya, so that you can make the most of its many benefits for longer. Here are some tips on how to do this:

  • Format and texture: When you go to the market, it is advisable to choose soybeans that are round (although some are more oval) and soft to the touch. The uniform format and silky texture give you the guarantee that the product is fresh and of good quality.
  • Expiry date: If you buy packaged soybeans (whether in beans, prepared foods, tofu, etc.), check the expiry date and make sure there is plenty of time to use before the product expires. On the other hand, make sure that plastic bags are transparent so that you can see the contents inside.
  • Cool and dark place: For soy to last longer and not lose its natural properties, it is advisable to store it in a dark, cool and dry place if it is in grains, and in the refrigerator if they are prepared foods (they can also be kept in the freezer for several months), milk, tofu, etc.

(Featured image photo: Tharakorn Arunothai / 123rf.com)

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