The soya bean is a plant of the leguminosae family, which is extensively grown in the United States and Asia. It has the highest nutritional value of all beans, supplying protein, vitamin B and unsaturated fats which are low in cholesterol.
Soya beans are small, rounded in shape and yellowish in colour. They may be used whole as a vegetable or to make bean curd, and ground to make soya flour, meal and grit for use in baking. Soya beans are also commercially processed to produce a flavourless cooking oil and SOY SAUCE. Soya beans which are allowed to sprout are a good source of vitamin C. (See BEAN SPROUTS for more information.) All these soya products play an important part in the modern diet, especially that of vegetarians.
The protein in soya beans may be isolated and transformed, by using modern technology, into meat-like chunks or cubes and granules after binding with an agent such as gelatine, starch or egg white. Artificial flavouring and colouring may also be added. Such soya bean protein is at present mostly sold in bulk to commercial caterers but smaller amounts are now available for home consumption from most health food shops. Processed soya bean protein is an ideal convenience food since it is precooked before dehydration and the packets may be stored in a cool, dry place until required. Once the processed soya bean protein has been hydrated it should be treated as a perishable food.