Soybeans are used in Kansas primarily to feed livestock. William Schapaugh, professor in agronomy, said there were about four million acres of soybeans in Kansas last year. According to the Kansas Soybean Commission, 414,000 tons of soybean meal were used to feed pigs, beef and dairy cattle in 2013. Soybean meal is fed to animals because it has a high protein content, which helps them gain weight.
Schapaugh said soybeans are tested at K-State to develop new varieties that are disease resistance and drought tolerant.
Soybeans can be grown on ground that is not good enough to grow corn. However, drought and rabbits have prevented soy from being grown in western parts of Kansas.
“Soybeans are legumes, which means they can fix their own nitrogen, so less (nutrients) would be needed in the soil,” Natasha VanGundy, sophomore in animal sciences and industry and soybean farmer, said.
Soybeans produce more protein per acre than any other grain crop and are efficient in water, land and energy production, according to the Soyfoods Association of North America’s website.
According to the website, soy is the only plant that provides all the essential amino acids that animal protein provides. Many protein sources have high cholesterol, which can lead to heart disease. Soy contains no cholesterol.
Soy foods are commonly used as alternatives to milk products for people who are lactose intolerant or have milk allergies. Products like soy milk, soy cheese, soy yogurt and dairy-free frozen desserts can replace the lactose-containing products. Soy milk provides essential vitamins A and D that could otherwise be lost in a diet lacking cow’s milk.
“Soybeans provide essential amino acids which the body uses to make proteins that help break down food, grow and repair body tissue, and perform other body functions,” Kylie Hanson, graduate student in human nutrition, said.
Hanson said she recommends, like any other food, to have a variety in your diet daily to help meet your nutrient needs.
Soy contains isoflavones, which is a phytoestrogen that mimics the estrogen made in the body. Isoflavones can be beneficial, but too much of them could be harmful.
According to scientificamerican.com, excess isoflavones “might reduce fertility in women, trigger premature puberty and disrupt development of fetuses and children.” It is uncertain, however, how much “too much” is.
April was National Soy Foods Month and the Soyfoods Association of North America celebrated by spreading awareness of the benefits of soy-based foods. The theme this year was “Soyfoods, Endless Possibilities.” The organization spread awareness during the month by promoting soy foods in supermarkets. It set up displays, cooking demonstrations and gave out coupons.