Soybeans should be called super soybeans once their many nutritional benefits are taken into account. Soybeans are high in vegetable protein and fiber. A one-cup serving has 29 grams of protein and a generous 10 grams of fiber. They are somewhat high in fat with about 15 grams per cup but only 2 of those grams are saturated. The rest are heart-healthy mono- and polyunsaturated. Soybeans are also a good source of calcium, magnesium, riboflavin, thiamin, folate and iron.
Soybeans contain many other components such as phytochemicals and isoflavones that are believed to be disease fighters. Including 25 grams of soy protein in the diet every day may help protect you against osteoporosis, heart disease and certain cancers. Daily consumption of soy protein may help lower LDL cholesterol levels in those that have high blood cholesterol levels and are following a low fat diet.
There are many soy foods on grocery store shelves today including soy cheese, soy milk, tofu, soy pasta and so on. Soybeans themselves are available in a variety of forms. These are:
Edamame: Sweet tasting large soybeans that are harvested prematurely, when the beans are still green. They are also known as sweet beans, as they lack the "beany" flavor of mature soybeans. They are smooth, firm and crisp. Sweet beans retain their texture after cooking. Similar in size and color to green peas, sweet beans can be eaten as a side dish or snack, or added to salads, soups, stir-fries and casseroles. You can find edamame in the frozen vegetable section. Fresh edamame, still in the pod, may be available in natural food stores, some farmer's markets and Asian food stores.
Mature soybeans: Light tan or yellow in color, these are harvested when mature. There are also brown and black varieties. They are dense, pea-sized beans. Dry and canned soybeans can be found in most grocery stores, usually in the natural food section. Natural food stores will also carry them with dry being found in the bulk section or in small packages. These can also be found sprouted. Dried soybeans must be soaked for a long period of time before cooking. Canned soybeans should be ready to be rinsed and used immediately.
Soy nuts: These are simply roasted soybeans. They are somewhat like peanuts and are high in fat. Soynuts are usually available salted and unsalted and are readily found in natural food stores as well as many mainstream grocery stores.
When purchasing fresh soybeans or edamame look for pods that are blemish-free and firm not mushy or wilted. They should be plump.
For dried beans, buy from a store that has a good turnover (in other words, they sell a lot of them so you can be sure the supply is fresh) and where the bins are covered.
Dried soybeans can be stored in an air-tight container in a cool, dry place for up to a year. Fresh mature soybeans need to be refrigerated and used within a day or so. Edamame should be kept in the refrigerator and used within a couple of days. Frozen edamame will keep for several months. Canned products will also keep for a year or more.
Different varieties of soybeans require different preparation. Most of the great information here is from the Ontario Soybean Growers' Marketing Board. Edamame: Boil fresh or frozen edamame in salted water, or steam in the pod until hot, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Mature Soybeans: After a quick rinse, canned cooked soybeans are ready to use. Dried soybeans usually require soaking before cooking.
Soaking: Wash soybeans thoroughly and drain. For every 1 cup of dry soybeans, add 3 cups cold water and 1 teaspoon salt. Soak using one of the following methods:
- Conventional: Soak overnight or for 8-10 hours. If the weather is warm or you soak the beans longer, refrigerate them. Drain and rinse. Beans soaked by this method will keep their shape better and have a more uniform texture.
- Quick Soak: Put dry soybeans and water in a large saucepan and heat on high. Bring to a boil and return to a simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for about one hour. Drain and rinse.
Cooking: After soaking soybeans using one of these methods, they will be ready to be used in recipes.
- Conventional: In a deep saucepan, put soaked soybeans in with enough hot fresh water to cover them. Add 1 teaspoon salt and 2 teaspoons vegetable oil. Cover. Bring to a boil and simmer for 3-4 hours or until tender. Skim off foam occasionally. Add more liquid during cooking if necessary. Cool.
- Note: Black soybeans cook in only about 1-1/2 hours. Check them frequently to prevent overcooking.
- Pressure Cooking: Add soybeans, fresh water and 2 teaspoons vegetable oil. Cook for 20 minutes at 15 lbs pressure. Cool.
- Slow Cooking: To a crock pot, add soaked soybeans, hot fresh water to cover, 1 teaspoon salt and 2 teaspoons vegetable oil. Cook on high heat for 6-8 hours or until tender. Cool.
Tip 1: The water used for cooking soybeans makes a tasty base for soups, sauces and gravies. The liquid from black soybeans is especially flavorful.
Tip 2: Prepare a big batch of soybeans and freeze them in small containers or zippered bags to be used as needed. Or you can store them in their cooking water in air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to three weeks.
Roasting: Great for delicious and nutritious snacks. Add salt, garlic, onion and other seasonings and spices to suit your palate immediately after they are roasted.
- Oven Roasted Method: Spread soaked soybeans in a single layer on a tea or paper towel and pat dry. Spray a cookie sheet with vegetable oil cooking spray. Put the dried soybeans on the cookie sheet. Roast at 350Ã¯Â¿Â½F oven for 40-50 minutes or until soybeans are lightly browned and crunchy. Stir of shake the pan frequently for even roasting and to prevent sticking.
- Electric Frying Pan Method: Pat dry soaked soybeans. In a single layer, roast soybeans in a lightly greased electric frying pan at 350Ã¯Â¿Â½F for 40-50 minutes or until lightly brown and crunchy. Stir occasionally for even roasting and to prevent sticking and burning.
Whether it's a handful of soy nuts as a snack or a sprinkling of soybeans in your pasta sauce, incorporating more soy into your diet is simple.
FYI: One pound (454 g) = 2.5 cups (550 ml) dry soybeans; 1 cup (250 mL) dry soybeans makes 2-1/2 to 3 cups (625-750 mL) soaked, cooked soybeans.
Did you know? It's thought that the first written record of soybeans is dated 2838 B.C.
Healthy Ways to Enjoy Soybeans:
- Puréed or mashed soybeans can be added to muffins, quickbreads and pancake mixes.
- Roasted soybeans can also be crushed and added to home baked goods.
- Add whole or puréed soybeans to scrambled eggs and other egg dishes.
- Add light mayonnaise and seasonings to chopped cooked soybeans to make a nutritious sandwich spread.
- A cup of cooked soybeans is a great addition to your favorite soup.
- Cooked soybeans can be used as a topping for nachos or in fajitas.
- Don't forget the soybeans in your next batch of chili. In any recipe that calls for beans, try replacing some of them with soybeans.
- Serve edamame for a different appetizer while your main dish cooks.
- Stews, stir-fries and casseroles are all made better by a bunch of soybeans.
- A handful of cooked whole soybeans make pasta dishes more interesting.
- Roasted soybeans or soynuts add a different dimension, not to mention nutrients, to your favorite snack or trail mix.
- Use herbs to flavor pureed cooked soybeans. Use as a dip for raw veggies or as a spread for crackers.
- Replace some of the chickpeas with soybeans in your favorite hummus recipe.
- Delight Foods
- Minnesota Soybeans
- North Dakota Soybean Council
- Ontario Soybean Growers' Marketing Board
- Soyfoods Cookbook
- Stratsoy Soybean Resources
- United Soybean Board
- Healthy Soy: Cooking with Soybeans for Health and Vitality by Brigid Trelvar and Karen Inge, Tuttle Publishing, 2002.
- The New Soy Cookbook: Delicious Ideas for Soybeans, Soy Milk, Tofu, Tempeh, Miso & Soy Sauce by Lorna Sass, Chronicle Books, 1998.
- The Simple Soybean and Your Health by Mark Messina and Virginia Messina, Avery Publishing Group, 1994.