Soy: the egg-laying milk sow without meat, milk and eggs

24-May-2022 - Austria

Why can't you eat soy raw? How does soy drink compare nutritionally with milk? And where do the beans in my soy product come from? As part of its latest food research, the Land schafft Leben association took an in-depth look at the versatile soybean and summarized exciting facts about its use in the kitchen.

Photo by <a href="">Daniela Paola Alchapar</a> on <a href="">Unsplash</a>

In view of the fact that soy is particularly popular in Europe for use in meat-free cuisine, the term "egg-laying milk sow" seems somewhat out of place to describe the role of soy in the kitchen. Nevertheless, it hits the nail on the head: Hardly any other food can be used in such a variety of ways as the soybean and the products made from it. From appetizer to dessert, from the main component to side dishes and sauces to beverages: you could prepare an entire menu from the variety of soy products.

In our latitudes, this potential is far from being exhausted, as soy products are used in kitchens here rather as an alternative to animal products such as meat or milk. However, this restriction is completely unjustified, because in the Asian countries of origin of traditional soy products, they are also combined with animal products as a matter of course. It is not uncommon to find tofu and meat on the same plate.

Like other legumes, the soybean itself is not edible raw, as it contains various substances that are unfavorable for health. These include lectins, which can cause red blood cells to clump together, and protease inhibitors. These substances are only deactivated by heating. Not only for this reason, but also because the taste of the bean as such is not very common in Western cuisine, soy is mainly consumed in processed products such as tofu, miso, soy drinks or texturates, which are also becoming increasingly popular in Austria.

Soy: popular raw material for plant drinks and yogurt alternatives

More generally, a trend towards plant-based foods can be observed in Austria, including plant-based drinks. From 2018 to 2020, the total volume sold increased by a full 65 percent, from eleven to 19 million liters. Soy plays a big role here: in 2020, soy and almond drinks each accounted for about 3.7 million liters of the total volume of plant-based drinks sold. Only the share of oat drinks is larger, at around 5.7 million liters. When it comes to plant-based drinks that are flavored, however, soy is clearly ahead.
The situation is similar with plant-based yogurt alternatives, where soy is the most popular raw material: with a sales volume of around 2.5 million kilograms, soy claims more than half of the market, followed by coconut (around 750,000 kg) and almond (around 258,000 kg).

Soy drink and milk contain about the same amount of protein

Whether pure, in coffee, in soups or other savory or sweet dishes: Soy drinks can be used in the kitchen just like cow's milk. But can they keep up in terms of nutrients? As far as protein content is concerned: yes. As with milk, the average protein content of soy drinks is around three grams per 100 grams of liquid. Soy drink is therefore the only plant-based drink that is comparable to milk when it comes to ingredients. To achieve a calcium content comparable to that of milk, calcium is often fortified in conventional soy drinks. In organic products, this is not permitted, nor is fortification with other vitamins. There, the calcium content is negligible.

Soy drinks also do not naturally contain significant amounts of the vitamins B12 and B2 found in milk, which - depending on the manufacturer - may also be added. But (unsweetened) soy drinks also have advantages over milk. For example, they contain less fat and hardly any saturated fatty acids, some fiber and no cholesterol.

"Tofu tastes bland, and that's a good thing."

While one encounters, for example, tempeh - a sliceable block of cooked soybeans coated with a white noble mold - or natto - fermented whole soybeans with a yeasty taste - still rather rarely in this country, tofu is one of the best-known soy products. But what is it exactly? Tofu is curdled soy drink. Its production is comparable to that of cheese, except that tofu does not ripen. To make it curdle, soy drink is mixed with calcium sulfate or nigari, a salt derived from seawater. Then the mass is put into press boxes and squeezed, cut into blocks and cooled in a water bath. In most cases, tofu is then pasteurized and vacuum-sealed.

"Tofu tastes bland, and that's a good thing," cookbook author and soy expert Elisabeth Fischer used to say. After all, tofu isn't just stodgy soy drink, it's a versatile staple for a variety of dishes. Like eggs, which can be fried, boiled, made into noodles or baked into cakes, tofu only really realizes its culinary potential when it is processed into a wide variety of dishes. It can be seasoned in every conceivable way and prepared both sweet and spicy.

Origin of soybeans often unknown

Where the soybeans in all these products come from, however, is often not apparent. This is because neither whole soybeans nor the soybeans in processed products are subject to mandatory origin labeling. However, there are manufacturers who voluntarily indicate the origin. In addition, according to the Primary Ingredient Regulation, a soy drink labeled "Produced in Austria," for example, must indicate if the soybeans - in this case, the primary ingredient - are not from Austria.

Organic products are another exception. In the case of organic products, the origin of the agricultural ingredients must be indicated. However, it is not clear exactly which agricultural ingredient comes from where. A specific country such as Austria or Germany can be indicated, or the indication "EU agriculture" or "non-EU agriculture" or a combination of both: "EU/non-EU agriculture".

Note: This article has been translated using a computer system without human intervention. LUMITOS offers these automatic translations to present a wider range of current news. Since this article has been translated with automatic translation, it is possible that it contains errors in vocabulary, syntax or grammar. The original article in German can be found here.

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