Soy Flour

Among all the legumes cultivated worldwide, the soybean plant (scientific name Glycine max) is economically most successful. In addition, it is also the most widely cultivated legume globally. Nearly all the soybeans that are cultivated are utilized as raw material for extracting soy oil. On the other hand, the residues are mostly used for feeding domestic animals. While people in East Africa have been consuming various soy foods for several years, only some amount of it are directly consumed by people in Europe and the United States. In fact, soybean is an excellent dietary source of oil as well as protein. Compared to many other legumes, soybean needs a great deal of time to cook to give it an edible texture. This may partially be the reason for using soybean in the form of processed food in many East Asian nations.

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Many scientific studies have suggested that consumption of soybean is very nutritional as well as beneficial for our health. As a result, people have undertaken many approaches to include soybean in the diet in various ways. In present times, using soybean protein is the right approach to augment consumption of soybean. Apart from nutritious soy oil and soy protein, soybean encloses various valuable nutrients. In fact, soybean is a unique food whose chemical constituents have been disclosed completely.

To obtain soy flour you need to roast the soybeans and then grind them finely into powdered form. Soy flour is an excellent source of proteins. In addition, it contains rich amounts of B vitamins and minerals like iron and calcium. When added to various food products, soy flour also makes their flavour and texture enjoyable.

Made from grounded roasted soybeans, soy flour is a product that contains elevated levels of protein. Aside from being protein-rich, it also contains isoflavones. The flavour of soy flour may vary from gentle to strong depending on the method used to process it. In many recipes, soy flour can be used as a substitute of whole grain flour or wheat flour.

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There are three types of soy flour and each of them are different from the other - natural (full-fat) soy flour, low fat soy flour and defatted soy flour. Full fat or natural soy flour preserves all the natural oils found in soybeans. Similarly, low fat soy flour contains about 33% of the fats that are present in natural soy flour. On the other hand, defatted soy flour is prepared from defatted soybeans but it still retains some fat that are found in soybeans.

Soy flour not only adds protein and other nutrients to food preparations, but it also lends a pleasing texture, flavour and moisture to the finished foodstuff. In order to improve the shelf-life and obtain maximum freshness, it is advisable that you should always store soy flour in an airtight container and keep the container in a freezer or refrigerator. If you store soy flour in this way, it generally remains useable for about a year.

You can find mention of soy flour in the medical texts dating back to the 4th and 5th centuries AD where it is believed to be a cure for a variety of health conditions. People in China started making confections with soy flour way back in the 18th century. People also started using soy flour as an item in preparing soy coffee by 1927. In addition, Chinese people also started using soy flour to make popular sweets. Initially, confections made by the Chinese with soy flour included a variety of foods such as soybean cakes and soybean candy.

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People in Japan refer to soy flour as kinako. However, there is not documentary evidence to suggest when roasted soy flour made its way from China to Japan. Nevertheless, it is believed that the Buddhist monks might have taken this food from China to Japan, Going by historical references; people Japan were using soy flour roughly from 1050 AD. In fact, two varieties of soy flour - green and yellow - are used in Japan. In the initial days, they used soy flour to make hyorogan by blending it with hemp seeds and buckwheat. The mixture of soy flour, buckwheat and hemp seeds were made into small and lightweight balls that could be carried by people while traveling. In fact, hyorogan was one of the main rations allocated to the military. Moreover, it is believed that hyorogan was also a part of the diet of ninjas. As in the case of the Chinese, people in Japan also blended roasted soy flour and sugar to prepare various sweets that were basically a variety of the Chinese sweets. Even in present times, this remains to be one of the main uses of soy flour.

Towards the end of the 19th century, foods products made from soy flour in Japan were hardly made at home, but would be available commercially.

On the other hand, people in Korea as well as in Indonesia used soy flour mostly to prepare savoury dishes instead of making sweets.

When you are preparing some dish using soy flour, it may be necessary to reduce the cooking time because this product tends to turn brown quicker than many other varieties of flour. For instance, if you are using soy flour in confection, you need to keep an eye on the baked goods to be sure that the food is not overcooked. In fact, cooking at reduced temperature may also help in preventing the food from being overcooked. At the same time, it is important to keep stirring the soy flour before you measure it because it has a tendency to pack down during the storage period. Toasting the soy flour lightly in a dry skillet prior to using it in a recipe may help the food to have an enhanced nutty flavour.

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Similar to soybeans from which soy flour is derived, soy flour is also loaded with a number of nutrients making it a highly nutritious ingredient in any food you prepare with it. The essential nutrients present in soy flour include B vitamins, various minerals and dietary fiber. A brief description of these nutrients is given below.

B vitamins: Soy flour is an excellent source of many B vitamins, which include folate, niacin and thiamine.

Essential minerals: Soy flour supplies our body with considerable amounts of essential minerals, including potassium, phosphorus and manganese.

Dietary fiber: Soy flour is packed with dietary fiber which offers the body several health benefits.

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Health benefits

Soy flour is packed with B vitamins, a number of essential minerals and dietary fiber and, hence, it offers several health benefits. Earlier, people in China used soy flour as a remedy for a variety of health conditions.

Consumption of soy flour lowers the chances of developing heart disease. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1999 approved that food labels could use a link between soy protein consumption and lowered chances of developing coronary heart disease. The FDA came to the conclusion that adding soy protein to a diet that is low in cholesterol and saturated fat may help to lower the chances of developing coronary heart disease, as this protein helps to lower the concentration of cholesterol levels in the bloodstream.

Soy flour is also beneficial for menopausal women. Including soy protein in their diet may help in reducing incidences of night sweats, hot flashes, mood swings and irritability that women experience during menopause. Findings of clinical studies have revealed that women in post-menopausal stage who consume plenty of dietary soy protein or roughly 20 gm to 60 gm of it every day experienced fewer as well as lesser intense night sweats and hot flashes compared to such women who consumed very less soy flour or did not consume it all. Findings of some other studies, however, showed mixed results. Nevertheless, consuming soy products along with no less than 15 mg of genistein, which is a type of isoflavone present in soy, every day, offers the best possible results.

Soy flour does not contain gluten and this is why it is a wonderful substitute for people who suffer from gluten sensitivity. It is worth mentioning here that gluten imparts elasticity to dough and also makes bread and pasta chewy. People who are sensitive to gluten may suffer from various symptoms like nausea, mouth sores, vomiting, bloating, diarrhea, indigestion and chronic fatigue. However, if such people consume soy flour they will never experience these symptoms as it is gluten free.

Several publications on health and nutrition have strongly supported the epidemiological connection between consumption of soy and lower risks of developing cardiovascular diseases among people. A prospective study undertaken on Chinese women recently showed that diseases related to the coronary system were reduced by more than 50% among subjects who consumed anything between (<4.50 g/d) and (≥11.19 g/d) quartile of soy every day. It has also been established that generally consumption of soy products by people is related to lower cholesterolemia. It needs to be mentioned here that some studies have especially reported a progressive decrease in chances of developing vascular diseases in Japanese population who regularly ingested quartiles of soy protein.

Initial studies showed that the levels low density lipoprotein (LDL) or "bad" cholesterol in strict vegetarians who consumed soy protein was about 60% less, while their high density lipoprotein (HDL) or "good" cholesterol was significantly higher compared to people who were of the same age and gender but consumed non-vegetarian foods and led free lifestyles. More recently, similar findings of studies involving elderly women noted a comparison between people who consumed vegetarian and non-vegetarian food.

According to a hypothesis, consumption of soy protein has an anti-atherosclerosis effect. In other words, soybeans help to reduce and, sometimes prevent, the risk of developing atherosclerosis. This hypothesis is backed up by the epidemiological link between consumption of soy protein and the lesser chances of developing this condition. Findings of several studies undertaken of various animals suggest that consumption of soy protein may be helpful in reducing the chances of developing as well as the final size of atherosclerosis induced during the experiments. According to the findings of these studies, several components of preparations made with soy protein, including the protein as well as isoflavones, are responsible for the anti-atherosclerotic effect.

Soy protein has the potential to be used clinically in the treatment of hyperlipidermias secondary to kidney ailments, especially in the case of nephrotic syndrome (a kidney disease wherein the body passes too much protein through urine). When one suffers from this condition, changing from a non-vegetarian diet to vegetarian diet highly rich in soy products may be very helpful. Changing to a soy protein rich vegetarian diet will not only lower the levels of bad cholesterol, but also reduce excretion of protein via urine. Findings of a study undertaken on the subject recently arrived at the conclusion that compared to a diet based on casein, a diet based on soy protein isolate can be beneficial in significantly reducing serum cholesterol as well as improve nephropathy biomarkers and serum lipids in people suffering from type II diabetes together with nephropathy. The ongoing long-term studies also show that changing to a soy diet may perhaps be useful in having a positive effect on the renal disease's progression.

Aside from the anti-estrogenic effects of isoflavones found in soy protein, for instance holding back the levels of estrogen and extending menstrual cycles, isoflavones also have the ability to contribute to reducing the chances of developing breast cancer owing to their action on carcinogenic cells. In brief, isoflavones work to inhibit the growth of cancer cells. The effects of isoflavones are either non-hormonal or anti-estrogenic because they inhibit growth of ER-positive as well as ER-negative breast cancer cells. As majority of these effects of isoflavones are detected in supraphysiological concentrations, it is necessary to undertake further studies explain these effects in environments that are more physiological in the in vivo as well as human studies. Existence of estrogen and various other substances as well as high concentrations due to intake of heavy isoflavone may possibly interact, thereby reducing the risks of developing cancer.

Soybeans are considered to be one of the best foods for cancer patients. They also help to prevent cancer. Since they reduce the risks of developing various forms of cancer they are a low risk food for this condition. In fact, scientists have established a link between soybean foods consumption and morbidity due to cancer, particularly prostate and colon cancer. This was revealed by an epidemiological survey. A multistage process known as chemical carcinogenesis includes initiation, promotion as well as progression of cancer and several food plants have strong inhibitory consequences against promoting cancer. Findings of one study showed that the anti-carcinogenic promotion effects of these food plants, particularly beans (including azuki, red beans and black beans), oilseed rape and carrot leaf and they have a close association with alkyl peroxide radical scavenging effect. In fact, the anti-carcinogenic action of soybeans may reciprocally engage isoflavones, protease inhibitors, saponins, and inositol-6-phosphate. However, reports on anti-carcinogenic effect of these substances in individual capacity are few in number.

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