The soybean or soya bean (Glycine max) is a species of legume native to East Asia, widely grown for its edible bean, which has numerous uses.
Traditional unfermented food uses of soybeans include soy milk, from which tofu and tofu skin are made. Fermented soy foods include soy sauce, fermented bean paste, nattō, and tempeh. Fat-free (defatted) soybean meal is a significant and cheap source of protein for animal feeds and many packaged meals. For example, soybean products, such as textured vegetable protein (TVP), are ingredients in many meat and dairy substitutes.
Soy beans contain significant amounts of phytic acid, dietary minerals and B vitamins. Soy vegetable oil, used in food and industrial applications, is another product of processing the soybean crop. Soybean is the most important protein source for feed farm animals (that in turn yields animal protein for human consumption).
Like most plants, soybeans grow in distinct morphological stages as they develop from seeds into fully mature plant.
Further information: Complete protein, Protein quality, and Soy protein
Most soy protein is a relatively heat-stable storage protein. This heat stability enables soy food products requiring high temperature cooking, such as tofu, soy milk and textured vegetable protein (soy flour) to be made.
Soy is a good source of protein for vegetarians and vegans or for people who want to reduce the amount of meat they eat, according to the US Food and Drug Administration:
Soy protein products can be good substitutes for animal products because, unlike some other beans, soy offers a 'complete' protein profile. ... Soy protein products can replace animal-based foods—which also have complete proteins but tend to contain more fat, especially saturated fat—without requiring major adjustments elsewhere in the diet.
The Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS) of soy protein is the nutritional equivalent of meat, eggs, and casein for human growth and health. Soybean protein isolate has a biological value of 74, whole soybeans 96, soybean milk 91, and eggs 97.
Soy protein is essentially identical to the protein of other legume seeds and pulses. Moreover, soybeans can produce at least twice as much protein per acre than any other major vegetable or grain crop besides hemp, five to 10 times more protein per acre than land set aside for grazing animals to make milk, and up to 15 times more protein per acre than land set aside for meat production