Soybeans are versatile and can be used in a number of different ways. While many of these applications involve the creation of food products, the soybean can also be used for other purposes as well. In fact, new ways to utilize soybeans have emerged in recent years that would never have been considered in times past.
The most common use of the soybean is as food for humans. In addition to simply cooking a pot of beans, the soybean can be used to make oil and also to create a finely milled powder that can be used in a wide range of products. The oil is often used in a number of commercial foods such as crackers. Fish products like sardines and tuna are often packaged in the oil as well, since it helps preserve the product with relative ease.
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Soybean powder can be used in a number of dairy alternatives and vegetarian dishes as a means of adding protein to the daily diet. Tofu is a good example of a tasty and nutritious soy product. Soy curd is also processed from the powder and used to create alternatives to various cheese products. Soy milk can also be created using the powder, providing people with dairy allergies a healthy alternative.
Of course, the soybean can also be served whole. One dish, known as edamame, is simply harvested soybeans that are picked while still young and relatively tender. The beans are steamed in their pods and served as an accompaniment to rice, meats, and other foods. The pods can also be seasoned with anything from a little salt and pepper to various types of curries and blends of spices.
Along with being food for humans, the soybean can also be used to create feed products for animals. Ground soybean fiber is separated from the oil and is toasted to create the basis for a number of feeds for cattle, chickens, and other farm animals. Soy protein is also used in many different brands of fish food.
There is also the chance that products found around the home contain soybeans combined with other substances. Ground soybeans can be used along with recycled newspapers and other ingredients to create environmentally-friendly plywood, particle board, and even flooring tiles. The oil from the beans can be utilized in the production of adhesives used to bind wood sections of many furniture pieces. Soy can also be included in the formula for carpeting and automobile upholstery. There is even soy ink that is made and used all over the world.
One of the new applications of the soybean is in the creation of biodiesel fuels as an alternative to gasoline. Purportedly, fuel made with soy oil burns cleaner than petroleum based fuels, reducing emissions. Along with use in vehicles, the soy oil can also be used to substitute for other petroleum based products, such as lubricants and cleaners used in manufacturing plants.
Because soybeans are a renewable resource, there is every indication that more ways to make use of the soybean will appear in the years to come. However, the use of the bean as a nutritious source of protein will likely remain the most common application.