From a fresh edamame to even an aged, fermented bean, soybeans in every form have been lauded as a health superfood for centuries. Packed with proteins and antioxidants, it comes as no surprise that it’s often considered a near-perfect food, nutritionally.
It’s the only non-meat food known to have all nine amino acids needed for the body, and pound for pound, is the only known plant-based food that can rival in providing the same amount of protein that meat and eggs can. The FDA also approved that “a daily diet of 25 grams of soy protein as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.”
And did we mention that it’s absolutely delicious? But while soybeans in its many forms provide clear health benefits nutritionally, their uses have begun branching out beyond food, taking form in everyday products that prove the true versatility of soy.
But let’s start with the obvious.
Delicious Soy: Flavor-packed soy foods
The range of tastes that can emerge from the soybean is astounding. From the subtlest of flavors of tofu and soy milk, to the flavor-packed versions of soy such as miso, soy sauce and natto, soy can be the innocuous, healthful delivery of another outside flavor, or become the primary umami-provider of your dish.
Anyone who has tasted a bowl of miso soup can appreciate the depth of flavor that soy provides; even within the field of miso, the flavors run from the more delicate and mild white miso to the rich and robust red miso. Soy sauce hardly needs an explanation, as the king of Asian condiments. And for the slightly more adventurous, a bowl of natto with a dash of soy sauce and mustard will kick your senses awake.
[Products to try: Kikkoman Soy Sauce, Megumi Natto, Cold Mountain Miso]
More delicious soy: Soy Milk Products
For those who are lactose intolerant, soy milk can be a major player in one’s diet. Soy milk’s versatility allows it to turn into a huge variety of foods including tofu, cheese, ice cream and yogurt, providing people with a lactose-free and instantly low-fat substitute to most dairy-based foods. Soy milk’s mild taste also opens the doors to a whole field of different flavors, allowing for decadent flavors in ice cream, smoothies and drinks such as chocolate and vanilla-flavored soy milk. (But even plain ol’ soy still tastes great!)
[Products to try: Sacramento Tofu Soy Milk, Pearl Soy Milk]
Soy Beauty Treatments
Soy isn’t just good for you on the inside — it also has numerous beautifying properties that have started to garner some serious attention from major beauty lines. Maximizing the amino acid-rich soy proteins, soy in beauty products do everything from encouraging skin cell turnover and collagen production to retain moisture to helping your lashes grow longer and stronger. From beauty treatments, cosmetics to cleansers, soy can now be found in a wide variety of your favorite products, making them more effective for your looks and friendlier to the earth. Many spas have picked up on this as well, offering customers with a menu of pampering with soy products; try a pedicure or manicure with a warm soy milk soak that will leave your skin feeling buttery soft.
[Soy beauty products to try: Korres Blush, soy products by Fresh cosmetics, DiorShow Maximizer Lash Plumping Serum & Primer]
Places to visit:
Silk Day Spa: 1425 Franklin St., San Francisco, CA 94105
*Ask for the Milk and Honey Pedicure
Revel Spa: 1315 7th Ave., San Francisco, CA 94122
*Ask for the Soymilk and Honey Manicure]
Not only can you consume soy, you can now wear it as well. Made from soy dregs and waste left over from the soy-based food manufacturing after eliminating its proteins, soy is then spun into fibers that can be used to create cloth and clothing. The texture is soft, making it ideal for baby clothes and clothes worn right next to sensitive skin. Soy fibers can also be blended with other fabrics. Biodegradable when discarded, soy cloth is good for the earth in the long run. It makes an excellent green alternative for baby clothes; try giving it at your next baby shower for your favorite earth-loving mother!
[Try: Soy Savvy: 3250 Laguna St. #109, San Francisco, CA 94123
(415) 932-8166, www.BabySoyUSA.com]
Why soy ink? Environmentally friendly soy ink washes out
more easily than traditional inks, which are petroleum-based, allowing the process of recycling paper to go more quickly during the de-inking process. Soy inks also produce less volatile organic compound fumes, decreasing air pollution during the printing process. A viable alternative to regular ink, soy inks come in a rainbow of colors and provide sharp, vibrant images. Companies producing earth friendly greeting cards, publication, and product packaging have been steadily joining the soy-ink trend, and it’s easy to see why.
With the soybean’s seemingly endless uses, it’s no wonder that a simple bean has become a multi-billion dollar industry. As more research emerges, soy will surely continue to and find other useful ways into our everyday lives.