For decades there have been numerous soyfood options available around the world –2 fermented, nonfermented, and ingredients:3
- Fermented soy options include tempeh, miso, soy sauces (including tamari), and natto.
- Nonfermented soyfoods include fresh green soybeans (edamame), whole dry soybeans, soynuts, soy sprouts, soymilk, tofu, okara, yuba, protein bars, and fortified cereals.
- Soy ingredients include textured soy protein, soy protein isolate, soy protein concentrate, soy flour, lecithin, and soybean oil.
Today, many of these legacy soyfoods are landing on people’s plates for the first time, as “new-to-them” options which may provide solutions to some of the many decisions people make about their food.4 Additionally, in the past 30 years, soyfood choices have evolved and expanded even more through food innovation. Here are just a few examples:2,5,6
Tofu (bean curd) – U.S. production began in California in the 1960s, and today, tofu is available in many forms including firm, silken, and extra firm as well as various flavored and baked versions.
Tempeh (made from fermented soybeans) – Historical evidence indicates that tempeh was originally made by Central Javanese people, appearing in their dietary patterns around the 1700s.7 It became available in the U.S. in the 1960s. Tempeh is now available in versatile forms and flavors that can be enjoyed from breakfast through dinner as a side dish or entrée.
Soymilk (beverage made from soybeans) – Soymilk was available in the U.S. only as a shelf-stable product until 1996 when the first refrigerated soymilk appeared in supermarkets. Today, in addition to soymilk, shoppers can also choose from yogurts and frozen desserts made from soy that come in different flavors and styles.
Edamame (young, green soybeans) – Edamame has been enjoyed for more than 2,000 years. As sushi became popular in the 1980s, edamame became more well-known because it was served as a side dish.2,8 Now, edamame is available fresh, frozen, and dry roasted.
Soy protein (soy ingredients that contain different concentrations of protein) – Soy flour, soy protein isolate, and soy protein concentrate are increasingly used in protein bars, beverages, as well as cereals, and as a base for making plant-based meat options.
Soy burgers (burgers that include soy as an ingredient) – Veggie burgers have evolved since the original versions hit the market in the 1990s. Today’s soy-containing options appeal to many palates, from people looking for a more traditional plant-based veggie burger to those seeking a more meat-like eating experience. Current ready-to-eat products and recipes for the home cook include plant-forward combinations that partner with other protein-containing foods, including vegetables, beans, meat, and/or poultry.
- Del Carmen, Jen. Watch a U.S. Soy Harvest: Soy Spam Provides 24/7 Live View of U.S. Soybean Farm. USSOY.org. 11.5.2021. Available at https://ussoy.org/watch-a-u-s-soy-harvest-soy-span-provides-24-7-live-view-of-u-s-soybean-farm/?pillar=sustainable-farming-practices®ion=americas&goal=inform-educate Accessed 12.6.21.
- Shurtleff, William; Aoyagil, Akiko. History of the Soyfoods Movement Worldwide (1960s-2019). 7.5.15. Available at https://www.soyinfocenter.com/books/215 Accessed 12.6.21.
- Golbitz P. Traditional soyfoods: processing and products. J Nutr. 1995 Mar;125(3 Suppl):570S-572S. doi: 10.1093/jn/125.suppl_3.570S. PMID: 7884535. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7884535/ accessed 12.6.21
- Messina M. Modern applications for an ancient bean: soybeans and the prevention and treatment of chronic disease. J Nutr. 1995 Mar;125(3 Suppl):567S-569S. doi: 10.1093/jn/125.3_Suppl.567S. PMID: 7884533. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7884533/ accessed 12.6.21
- Webster, Allison. Sound Science: History of Soy and Health. International Food Information Council. 12.5.17. https://foodinsight.org/sound-science-history-of-soy-and-health/ accessed 12.6.21
- Smith, Annabelle K. The History of the Veggie Burger. Smithsonian Magazine. 3.19.14. Available at https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/history-veggie-burger-180950163/ accessed 12.6.21
- Astuti M, Meliala A, Dalais FS, et al. Tempe, a nutritious and healthy food from Indonesia. Asia Pacific journal of clinical nutrition. 2000;9(4):322-5.
- Washington State University Extension. Edamame. Available at https://pubs.extension.wsu.edu/edamame accessed 12.15.21
- Funk, Linda. Soyfoods are Integral to Top Food Trends. USSOY.org. 9.21.21. Available at https://ussoy.org/soyfoods-are-integral-to-top-food-trends/?persona=human-commodity-oils&pillar=exceptional-composition®ion=americas&goal=inform-educate accessed 12.6.21
- Blakeslee, Joy. Consumer Research Shows Support for U.S. Grown Soybeans. Available at https://www.soyconnection.com/soy-information-health-professionals/continuing-education/health-nutrition-newsletter/newsletter-article-list/consumer-research-shows-support-for-u.s.-grown-soybeans accessed 12.6.21
- Food & Drug Administration (FDA). Food Ingredients and Packaging. Available at https://www.fda.gov/food/food-ingredients-packaging accessed 12.6.21