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Written by Blair Berson   
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Thursday, 17 November 2011

Soy Uses

Soy is a plant native to Southeast Asia and, perhaps surprisingly, is a member of the pea family, Fabaceae. The soy plant can grow from one to five-feet tall and grows in clusters of pods. Through fermentation techniques, soy can be made into other forms that you may encounter in restaurants more often, such as tempeh, miso, tofu, and of course, soy sauce!1

What are Soy’s Health Benefits?
The soybean is a great source of protein and contains essential amino acids. Soy protein may also provide major health benefits such as reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, improving arthritis, improving brain functioning and helping to decrease the risk of breast and prostate cancer.2 In addition, research has shown that soy contains isoflavones, a class of organic compounds that proves to be similar to the female hormone estrogen. Consequently, research shows that daily intake of soy protein may in fact reduce levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDLs), which is commonly referred to as the “bad” kind of cholesterol.3

What is Soy Used For?
Food: The soybean can be used for many different food and beverage products. First of all, soybean oil has become a popular product for baking and making salad dressings and mayonnaise due to its neutral flavoring, absence of transfats, and healthy balance of fatty acids.4 Other more popular products containing high protein soy include tofu, soynuts, and edamame. Replacements for meat products include soy burgers such as the brand Boca Burgers, Tofurkey, Tofu Dogs, etc. Soy can also be used to make milk, cheese, pastas, and cereals. Soy products for food have become very important in nutrition for children. Soy provides a good source of protein for children while lowering the saturated fat and caloric intake, therefore combating childhood obesity and diabetes. In addition, soy provides many nutrients such as zinc, iron, and calcium, as well as high amounts of fiber that children often miss in their diets.5 So to all parents out there, soy is great for you as well as your children, not to mention a very cost-effective way of staying healthy. There of course has been controversy as well, mainly that it provides too much estrogen for boys, and may be affecting their natural body and hormone development. So of course consult your pediatrician to find out what the appropriate soy intake is for your children.

Ink and Toner: Soy is now being adopted by the printer cartridge industry as a way to be more environmentally friendly. Traditional printer ink is petroleum based (as are most products we encounter day-to-day), combined with other man made chemicals such as pigments, waxes and resins, thus proving hazardous to our health and harmful to the environment.6 In contrast, soy ink is comprised of 35% soybean and 65% petroleum compounds.7 Even though it is not 100% soy, it’s a start! In addition, using soy in ink products results in lower levels of Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) emissions, which contain toxins and increase air pollution.8 Another plus of using soy in the printer cartridge industry is that toner can be made using soy byproducts, therefore you can use the same amount of soy for one product to create two products!9 The use of soy in ink started in the United States, yet the benefits have been so great that it is catching on overseas. Now many countries in Asia and Europe as well as Australia are beginning to use the eco-friendly process of soy in their printer and cartridge industry as well.10

Clothing: Not only can soy be used for food, nutrition, and to print out your term papers and business proposals, but it can also be a great fashion statement! The process of making clothing out of soy fiber is very friendly to the environment. The soy is grown organically, thus using little to no pesticides, while the fiber is produced using a wet-spinning process, then the liquid soy is solidified to make this sustainable fiber.11 In addition, clothes made from soy fiber are recyclable and biodegradable. Soy fibers are extremely durable, strong, and absorbent due to soy’s natural wicking properties. Soy-based clothing will also dry quickly, is resistant to shrinking and wrinkling, and insulates heat better than cotton or wool.12 In addition, soy fibers are smooth, sheer and light, therefore providing a beautiful and elegant effect. Clothes made from soy fiber are resistant to sunlight, therefore protecting the skin from harsh rays. Some even argue that the amino acids present in soy provide health and nutrition to the skin too.13 Therefore, clothing made from soy is fashionable, durable, environmentally friendly, and potentially beneficial for your health!

What are the Environmental Benefits to Using Soy?
Growing soy for food consumption is much kinder on the environment than raising meat products. Meat accounts for about 20% of all greenhouse gasses—so even if you substitute soy for meat only once or twice a week, you will still be lowering your carbon footprint.14 A meat eater’s diet is responsible for seven times the amount of greenhouse gas emissions of a vegan’s (no animal products) diet.15 Even drinking soymilk is better for the environment when compared to drinking cow’s milk. Producing soy protein is about 13 times more energy-efficient than producing dairy protein. Studies in Ireland show that it takes 3.59-6.7 kWh of electricity per week to milk each cow for dairy production, which accounts for about 1% of the world’s energy consumption. Needless to say, eating soy products is an incredibly eco-friendly alternative to eating meat, even if just once and a while! Even drinking soymilk is better for the environment in comparison to cow’s milk. Using soy protein is about 13 times more energy-efficient than producing dairy protein. Therefore, it is not only arguably advantageous to consume products made of soy for one’s overall physical health it is also beneficial to the environment!

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Last Updated ( Thursday, 17 November 2011 )