Many of my readers and clients have been asking why soybean is not a good choice for vegetarian source of protein. Soybeans have been a traditional food in many countries both in fermented and fresh forms. Raw and green soybeans are called Edamame and can be boiled or roasted to make a nice appetizer. Soy has many health benefits, it is a complete protein with essential amino acids that makes it a valuable protein resource for vegetarians.
One of the reasons or controversies around soy is the presence of isoflavones in soybeans that are actually phytoestrogens. Now you would get researches both in favor of phytoestrogens and against it. But it is a fact that in estrogen deficient days (PMS) soybeans would help you deal with symptoms. It would also help during menopausal phase of discomforts. However, taking soy isolates and phytoestrogen isolates can interfere with the way estrogen receptors estrogen responsive genes orchestrate the hormone function, if the dosage is not calibrated correctly.
Eating whole soy has not been reported to cause any disturbances in hormone profile. Read here to know more.
Presence of phytates and oxalates in soy can inhibit absorption of minerals by the system, but phytates and oxalates are present in all the grains and lentils and out body is accustomed to overcome it. If your major protein intake is through soybeans only, you might consider having supplements of Iron, Zinc and Calcium or choose foods that are rich in these.
Also, if you are suffering from hypothyroidism, you should take iodine rich foods and keep taking soybean as one of your protein source, especially if you are largely vegetarian. Japanese populations have been taking large amounts of soy products, both fermented and plain cooked soybeans and they also eat a lot of algae that are super rich in Iodine. If there is optimal iodine available to the system, soy products don't affect thyroid function. So if you are concerned whether you should eat soy products if you are a hypothyroid, include seaweeds in your diet once a week or simply a medium sized potato baked or cooked with it's skin. Having natural Himalayan salt or iodine fortified salt is also a good way but we eat too less salt many a times. Read more about Iodine sources.
Another compound is Lectins which is blamed for soy not being suitable for consumption, but all vegetarian sources of proteins (legumes) have it and our system does not get so high amount of lectins to cause any harm. Read more about why soybeans are not to be blamed.
Talking about soybeans, one more thing that is to be taken care of, is that we should never eat raw soybeans as the presence of trypsin and protease inhibitors in it inhibits the activity of protein digesting enzymes. These compounds get deactivated once the soy beans are cooked. Also, take care to soak the soybeans first for at least 14 hours and then discard the soaking water. Now process the soaked soybeans any which way you like. In the next part of this post, I am suggesting a few ways soybeans can be included in our daily diet, especially in Indian homes.
I prefer soaking the soybeans as mentioned above and then make a paste of it using some fresh water. This paste can be refrigerated for further use for a week or so. The paste also ferments well and very quickly in Indian summers. I have experimented very successfully for making idlis, dumplings and chapatis and breads using this soybeans paste in combination with whole wheat flour or rice flour etc.
Discarding the soaking water helps remove most of the Lectin phytoheamaglutinin so the protein is more digestible, and does not cause flatulence and bloating. I have written about it regarding kidney beans as well. It is worth mentioning here, that the soy flours available in the market have this lectin and is not suitable for consumption. So it's sensible to start from whole soybeans at home. Tofu and soy milk are safer as these are made after soaking the soybeans.
Now let's see how you can use soybeans for your daily foods.
Would you like a dumpling recipe that uses a fermented paste from the fridge, a few more ingredients, a quick whip and steaming for 15 minutes or microwaving for 3 minutes to give you a filling healthy meal? Yes that's how this dumpling recipe works.
As mentioned above, one cup of dry whole soybeans are soaked for at least 14 hours, the soaking water is discarded and the soybeans are blended to make a paste using fresh water. This paste looks like idli paste but quite milky in color and texture. Keep this paste at room temperature for about 2 hours so the fermentation process starts, then refrigerate for the whole week.
Note that one cup of dry soybeans soak up to become 2.5 cups and then make 3.5 cups of paste. To each cup of this paste add about half a cup of whole heat flour, half a cup of barley flour and 2 tbsp wheat or oats bran. Do not add water and knead a soft pliable dough to make your chapatis. The same dough can be fermented without using any fresh yeast as it makes a nice natural sourdough and can be baked into a free style loaf of bread.
The chapatis are softer than normal whole wheat chapatis and keep well even when you eat them after a couple of hours. These chapatis make a great option for lunch boxes as they are soft even after a few hours. However, you cannot make ultra thin chapatis from this dough.
For the dumplings, I add a little coarse barley flour or any millet flour and some grated vegetables, salt and pepper and steam it in separate bowls (I microwave it in greased and covered bowls).
You can see the dumplings are served with a chutney made of generous amounts curry patta, roasted bengal gram, coconut bits, dry red chilly and some ginger. Everything blended smooth in the blender with some water and salt to taste. These dumplings taste great with any spicy Indian daal made a little thinner.
And there is this soybeans idli that tastes great even when you replace urad dal with soybean paste. I just add a cup of the said soybeans paste to a cup of idli rawa (coarse rice semolina) and let it ferment. Then steam idli with it. the resultant idlies are softer, spongier but a little crumbly as soy paste is not as binding as black gram (urad dal). The taste is great.
The chutney served with this idli is a very flavorful creamy chutney that used cashewnuts along with a generous amount of curry patta and coconut.
Blend all these ingredients till smooth in a blender...
1/3 of a fresh coconut scraped or 1/2 cup frozen coconut bits
broken cashew nuts 1/4 cup
ginger roughly chopped 1 tbsp
curry patta 1 cup or about 20 mature springs
whole dry red chilies 3-4 or to taste
salt to taste
water as required
See how this idli is steamed in microwave using opal bowls. The boals are greased and covered during cooking time, each idli takes 2.5 minutes to cook and is sufficient for one breakfast serving along with a generous amount of the above chutney.
Do let me know if these recipes help you to incorporate soybeans in an economical way for daily home cooking. The way soybean paste is used, is the best way to process soybeans for frequent consumption.
I have posted home made soy milk and tofu and also soy yogurt if you want to experiment more with soybeans at home.
I would love to hear from you if this article is useful for you.