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What are the Different Ways to Use a Soybean?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 16, 2024
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Soybeans are versatile and can be used in a number of different ways. While many of these applications involve the creation of food products, the soybean can also be used for other purposes as well. In fact, new ways to utilize soybeans have emerged in recent years that would never have been considered in times past.

The most common use of the soybean is as food for humans. In addition to simply cooking a pot of beans, the soybean can be used to make oil and also to create a finely milled powder that can be used in a wide range of products. The oil is often used in a number of commercial foods such as crackers. Fish products like sardines and tuna are often packaged in the oil as well, since it helps preserve the product with relative ease.

Soybean powder can be used in a number of dairy alternatives and vegetarian dishes as a means of adding protein to the daily diet. Tofu is a good example of a tasty and nutritious soy product. Soy curd is also processed from the powder and used to create alternatives to various cheese products. Soy milk can also be created using the powder, providing people with dairy allergies a healthy alternative.

Of course, the soybean can also be served whole. One dish, known as edamame, is simply harvested soybeans that are picked while still young and relatively tender. The beans are steamed in their pods and served as an accompaniment to rice, meats, and other foods. The pods can also be seasoned with anything from a little salt and pepper to various types of curries and blends of spices.

Along with being food for humans, the soybean can also be used to create feed products for animals. Ground soybean fiber is separated from the oil and is toasted to create the basis for a number of feeds for cattle, chickens, and other farm animals. Soy protein is also used in many different brands of fish food.

There is also the chance that products found around the home contain soybeans combined with other substances. Ground soybeans can be used along with recycled newspapers and other ingredients to create environmentally-friendly plywood, particle board, and even flooring tiles. The oil from the beans can be utilized in the production of adhesives used to bind wood sections of many furniture pieces. Soy can also be included in the formula for carpeting and automobile upholstery. There is even soy ink that is made and used all over the world.

One of the new applications of the soybean is in the creation of biodiesel fuels as an alternative to gasoline. Purportedly, fuel made with soy oil burns cleaner than petroleum based fuels, reducing emissions. Along with use in vehicles, the soy oil can also be used to substitute for other petroleum based products, such as lubricants and cleaners used in manufacturing plants.

Because soybeans are a renewable resource, there is every indication that more ways to make use of the soybean will appear in the years to come. However, the use of the bean as a nutritious source of protein will likely remain the most common application.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including DelightedCooking, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By anon1002057 — On Aug 27, 2019

The most common use for soybeans is animal fodder. About 75 percent of the world's soy production goes to animal and fish feed, and the demand is increasing.

By pleonasm — On Nov 03, 2013

@irontoenail - Bananas are particularly vulnerable to that because they are grown from cuttings, rather than from seed. There are definitely risks to soybeans from diseases, but that's the same as any plant.

What I think is the bigger issue is that soybeans are becoming so vital to so many industries that they are one of the main causes of rainforest removal in some countries. On the plus side, they are a crop that will fix nitrogen in the soil. But if anything, that means they should be grown in places where nutrients have been depleted.

By irontoenail — On Nov 03, 2013

On the one hand I think it's great for people to be using soybeans for so many different purposes, particularly since they are a renewable resource.

On the other hand it never seems to be a good idea to put all of our eggs in one basket. I hope there are a lot of soybean varieties and that they are being sensible in the way that they breed and grow them. If there is some kind of disease that wipes them all out quickly then it seems like a lot of different industries could end up in trouble.

It's not like this hasn't happened before. Ireland during the potato famine is one example, but even more recently there was a huge die off of bananas all around the world because they were using a single kind of banana variety and it was vulnerable to a particular disease.

By pastanaga — On Nov 02, 2013

Soybeans are really delicious just as a bean. I usually have a packet of them in my freezer and I'll just add them to anything that needs a little bit more green in it. They have a much firmer texture than a lot of other kinds of beans and they don't seem to cook down into mush as quickly as other kinds do, so they work well in stews and things like that.

They might be an acquired taste or something though because one of my friends can't stand them.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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