Soybean production has traditionally been one of the largest agricultural enterprises in Arkansas. In fact, Arkansas ranks 10th nationally in soybean production. Our farmers produce more than 150 million bushels yearly. The value to our economy is more than $1.5 billion.
Soy products are very low in cholesterol and sodium. They are also a good source of vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and copper, and a very good source of protein, folate and manganese.
Soy, a versatile bean, is found in foods like soymilk, soy sauce, miso (soybean paste), tempeh (which is kind of like a soy cake), and tofu. Soy is also sometimes added to foods like breads, cereals, and meat products, and used as a meat substitute in products such as soy burgers and soy hot dogs.
Since 1513 when Ponce de Len first introduced North America to the contagious concept of the "fountain of youth," people have sought a solution to aging. Could soy foods be that magic solution? Even though soyfoods will in no way turn back the hands of time, research does indicate that soyfoods have many positive effects on a variety of health concerns that develop as we age.
Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. While there are many risks for heart disease, high LDL-cholesterol is a major factor. Research shows that eating more soy protein and less animal protein can help lower high cholesterol. However, a balanced diet with variety is key to good health. Three cups of legumes per week is a very reasonable goal for the support of good health.
Several benefits of soy protein exist for the management of diabetes. Many soyfoods have a lower glycemic index. Foods with a low glycemic index help keep blood sugar levels more stable, making diabetes much easier to control. Additionally, many soy foods are high in dietary fiber and fiber also helps stabilize blood sugar levels.
Research also looks promising that eating soy foods may reduce the risk of prostate and breast cancers, may help prevent bone loss, and might help relieve some symptoms of menopause. Studies even indicate that eating soy foods show promise for boosting mental ability.
Soy flour is extracted from ground soybeans which enhance protein, provides moisture to baked goods and provides basis for soy milk and textured vegetable protein. It improves taste as well as texture of foods as well as lowers fat absorption in fried foods. Soy flour tastes from a beany flavor to a sweet and mild flavor. There are several brands on the market and can be found at your larger supermarkets.
Fortified soymilk is part of the dairy group. It contains calcium, vitamin D, vitamin A, potassium, and protein in amounts like cow's milk, however it contains no dairy products. It is also used in meals in similar ways to cow's milk.
Whether you are interested in becoming more heart healthy, want to lose weight, or you are seeking healthful food selections, soyfoods can fit into any lifestyle!
For more information, contact the Miller County Extension Office, 870-779-3609. We're online at [email protected], on Facebook at UAEXMillerCountyFCS, on Twitter @MillerCountyFCS or on the web at uaex.edu/Miller.
Carla Due is a county extension agent-staff chair with the Miller County Extension Service, part of the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.