The Miracle Soya Bean

By Dr. D. P. Atukorale

It is said that the soya bean is a gift to all generations of mankind from the sages and wise rulers of China. When the soya reached the West at the end of the 18th century, the soya oil, which was commercially made, was used for manufacture of soap and the remains of the bean were fed to the cattle.

Soya meat and soya milk are very familiar to most Sri Lankans and it is low in calories and being a plant product, soya does not contain cholesterol. Soya milk is the ideal substitute for dairy milk if you are allergic to lactose or if you are a pure vegetarian who wants to get the benefits of a diet free of animal products.

I believe that today, expanding of soya industry should be encouraged by the government of Sri Lanka as it makes good economic sense when compared to the very high cost involved in meat production.

A cup of soya beans (172g) contains 15.43g of fat of which 3.41g is monounsaturated, 8.71g is polyunsaturated. A cup of soya beans contains 28.62g of protein, 3.47g of fibre, 1 .72 RE of vit A, 2.92mg of vit C, 0.27mg of thiamine, 0.49mg of riboflavin, 0.69mg of nicotinic acid, 0.69mg of biotin, 0.31mg of pantothenic acid, 0.40mg of thiamine, 92.5mcg of folic acid, 177.44mg of calcium, 8.84mg of iron and 1.98mg of zinc.

A word of caution

Soya and some of the other beans contain a substance known as trypsin inhibitor. Tripsin is an enzyme secreted by the pancreas and trypsin helps to digest proteins. As heating destroys trypsin inhibitor, all soya products have to be heated before eating. Soya milk, Tofu and TVP are heated during the manufacture. Therefore in actual practice, soya sprouts is the only one that should be boiled before consuming.


Tofu which is a fermented product like bean curd but is a dried form. Tofu contains 100% soya bean and has a higher percentage of protein than any other natural food in existence and is entirely cholesterol free. Tofu has been the staple food for millions of people in Asia for centuries. In Japan most of the people say "O - TOFU" meaning honourable tofu. Today the soya bean has become the King of Japanese kitchen. In fact arrival of tofu, miso and ahoyu initiated a revolution in the national cuisine in Japan. When the new crop of soya beans arrives at tofu shops in Japan each autumn, ardent devotees sample the first tofu with discrimination and relish of French vintners (Book of Tofu by William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi 1975).

Eating tofu reduces the risk of cancer according to several decades of large scale research in Japan. Eating tofu cuts the risk of stomach cancer and tofu has anti-carcinogenic properties (Nutr. Cancer, 1982:3; 257-68pg)


Tempeh probably originated in Indonesia and is a fermented soya bean product made in the traditional manner for centuries throughout Indonesia where it is a basic food for millions of people. It is highly digestible, smells like fresh mushrooms and tastes remarkably similar to chicken. It is a suitable food for young children and older people.

Does Tempeh contain vitamin B 12. The answer is both "yes" and "no". Recent tempeh samples purchased from various markets in Jarkarta reveals that a high amount of vit. B 12 is present. However commercially prepared western tempeh does not contain any B12.


This is a fermented mixture of soya bean, salt and usually a cereal such as rice or barley. It has a romantic flavour and comes in many different colours. It is one of the staples of every Japanese and Chinese kitchen. It is made by inoculating the basic ingredients with mould and leaving to age in cedarwood kegs for at least one year. In Japan it is commonly respected as a food and as a medicine. It is used as an ingredient in soup, sauces, dressings, spreads and other vegetable dishes. Epidemiologioal studies have shown that consuming miso usually as soup can reduce incidence of stomach cancer. Researchers from Okayama University Medical School have established that miso has antioxidant properties, isoflavones and saponins.

Soya Sauce

This is an ancient and traditional seasoning which has achieved prominence and acceptance the world over. It is a dark rich sauce with a savoury salty taste as well . Very little is required within a dish or serving. There are three types of soya souce:

(a) Commercial accelerated production type which is widely available. It is made in a very short time by speeding the process of fermentation using chemicals and usually contains colourings and preservatives.

(b) Shoyu which is made by fermenting wheat and soya bean together for at least 3 years. During this time flavour develops making it a delecious addition to most savoury meals.

(c) Tamari is made by fermenting soya and salt over a long period of time between 2 and 3 years. It is not used so much for cooking as in case of shoyu as the flavour is much stronger.


This is made of ground dried soya bean and producing a dense rich flour. It may be mixed with wheat flour, with a view to increase the protein content of your bread.

TVP (Texturized Vegetable Protein)

TVP is made from soya bean processed into high protein low fat food. TVP is made to resemble the look and texture of meat products. This can be flavoured to resemble chicken, beef or bacon. TVP is easy to cook with, readily absorbing the flavours of herbs, spices, gravies and other meal components at the saute stage of cooking. TVP is the commonest soya product available in our boutiques and supermarkets.

TVP is a valuable, safe and inexpensive source of proteins and content of 40% protein is very much more than in fish, meat, poultry and dhal.

Soya beans as mentioned earlier are rich in minerals such as calcium iron and zinc and has many of the vitamins such as Vitamin C, Vit A and B complex vitamins.


Soya bean is rich in anticarcinogens as mentioned earlier. Protease inhibitors in soya prevent the activation of certain genes that cause cancer and also protect against damaging effects of free radicals.

Phytosterols in soya bean proteot against cancer of large intestine. Soya beans also contain lecithin which is a fat which prevents ischaemic heart disease.

Omega - 3 fatty acids isoflavones, saponins and phenolic acids found in soya are effective against cancer.

Risk of Heart Disease

Soya beans reduce the blood cholesterol level especially the LDL (bad cholesterol) level and also raises HDL (good cholesterol) level and prevents ischaemic heart disease.

Curtesy: Peter Cox’s Guide to Vegetarian Living.