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The Amazing Soybean

By Thelma Ledford

Good Eats LedfordThe amazing soybean!   The soybean is perhaps the world’s most important legume because of its unusually high nutritive value. Besides its unusual power to satisfy hunger, it provides calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium; Vitamins A, B-complex, and Vitamin C. It really is a miracle food. It has one and half times as much protein for its weight as cheese, peas or navy beans, twice as much protein, ounce for ounce, as meat or fish, three times as much as eggs or whole wheat flour, and eleven times as much as milk. And, it is very important for our waistlines—soybeans have much lower carbohydrate content than other shell beans.
But, it is for still another reason that soybeans are such a provision from God. Protein is constructed of a series of building blocks known as amino acids. Soybeans are a nearly perfect source of the essential amino acids which our bodies need, and the missing two can be supplied by adding different combinations of food.
Soybeans with brown rice and bulgur wheat, for example, make for complete amino acid content. Other dishes that complement the soybean are: corn and milk, or peanuts and sesame. I usually use a tablespoon of specially produced protein powder with all vegetarian meals to avoid the effort to combine them. Because I eat lots of grains, vegetables, nuts, and fruits, I have to work to see that I get enough calories for energy. I do not enjoy combining foods to include all the essential amino acids. I add a complete protein powder that contains all the necessary building materials.
If “only one” essential amino acid is missing, the body will excrete the nitrogen molecules and use the protein for energy, instead of building tissue with it. It is too important to guess. If I eat eggs or poultry at a meal, I do not need to supplement—these are complete proteins. If a person eats mostly fatty animal protein in a meal with little or no complex carbohydrates for energy, then the body will use the “protein” you ate for energy. This creates a shortage of building materials, and the body will get its supply of protein from your own body. Can you imagine your body using your own lean mass and bones for its building material? Its task is to take protein from the food we eat and restructure it into “amino acids” to build and repair our cells. Why don’t you think about this for a moment? “Scary!” Another example: A fast-food meal; hamburger, salad, fries, and a soda have relatively no long-lasting energy foods, and although it is filling (fat is the staying power), there is little or no building material in this meal. Come by and see the burger which I purchased in l995…still in a bag.  It sure has “staying” power, it doesn’t spoil!
Back to soybeans:   Some of the latest discoveries are that they contain natural compounds that may help keep cholesterol levels low, ward off some of the debilitating affects of menopause, and even decrease the chance of getting certain forms of cancer.
As important as soy foods appear to be to a healthy diet, nutritionists agree that when it comes to soy protein, “substitution” rather than addition is the route to take. If you are baking, making a meatloaf, cookies, and bread, you can learn to substitute part of the flour with soy flour. I have been using this idea for many years. One thing to remember is that it “browns” quickly and you can burn it if you coat meats with it. My cornbread always has some soy flour in it.
The soybean is perhaps the world’s most important legume. A legume is a plant having a number of seeds in a pod, such as beans or peas. Many legumes can absorb nitrogen from the air and place it into the soil. The peanut is also a legume, and so is clover to the lawn. The soybean has less fat than other shell beans.
Soybean Flour:    My first introduction to soybeans was while I was cleaning house for my piano teacher when I was in my teens. I received twenty-five cents an hour and worked a couple of hours twice a week to pay for my music lessons. One day I helped her shell those little green beans, called soybeans. I never did taste them, and I never thought about them anymore. When I started reading about nutrition, I discovered their value and purchased soybean flour, full-fat, to add to my regular baked goods.
You cannot bake with soy flour alone because it contains no gluten, and the bread would not rise. I would replace two tablespoons per cup of wheat flour with soy flour. When making whole ground, yellow cornbread I leave out the wheat flour, and use some soy flour.
Soy flour enhances the ability to brown. So when using it in baked goods, I am careful not to use too much, or whatever I cook will burn before cooking is completed. There are many ways to use soybeans besides using the soy flour. You can buy dry soybeans at the health food store, grain stores, or Co-ops. Strange as it seems to others, I enjoy eating just plain cooked soybeans, lightly salted and freshly cooked as with any other beans.
Cooked soybeans:   I cook a large pot full and after eating my fill, I can store some in containers for the freezer to use later as I wish. They can be used in many other ways; added to chili, made into a baked bean dish, toasted for snack foods are just some ways. Should you ever see fresh soybeans in the market, they can be boiled in salted water for fifteen minutes and eaten.
How to cook them:   A cup of dry soybeans gives you about two and a half cups of cooked beans. Discard any shriveled or discolored beans just as you would any other type beans. You may wish to cook larger amounts for freezing later, but if it’s your first time, begin with one or two cups. Soak the beans overnight. (The water also carries off a lot of carbohydrates that make for difficult digestion, and flatulence.) Also, add some meat tenderizer (no msg) during soaking. Drain and add fresh water. These are more difficult to cook than ordinary beans. Don’t be afraid to cook them long enough to become really tender; they hardly ever become mushy.
A faster method of cooking:   The beans may be soaked for two hours; then drain and place the soaked beans in ice cube trays with fresh water, and freeze them. When you are ready to use, drop them into boiling water with whatever seasonings you desire, and continue cooking until tender.
Other ways to use soybeans:   The beans can be ground into “meal” by running the cooked beans through a blender, or by grinding them. They can be used to make baked beans, added to chili, made into a meat loaf, snacks, or hamburgers. There are many ways to get them into your diet.  Experiment! You may discover a new way you like better.
— What do you think? Send Letters to the Editor to thomas.sellers@journalinc.com.

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