Soybeans (Glycine max)
Annual legume (Glycine max
, or G. soja
) of the pea family (see legume
) and its edible seed. The soybean plant has an erect, branching stem, white to purple flowers, and one to four seeds per pod. It was probably derived from a wild plant of East Asia, where it has been cultivated for some 5,000 years. Introduced into the U.S. in 1804, it began to be farmed widely as a livestock feed in the 1930s, and the U.S. is now the world's foremost soybean producer. Economically the world's most important bean
, the soybean provides vegetable protein for millions of people and ingredients for hundreds of chemical products, including paints, adhesives, fertilizers, insect sprays, and fire-extinguisher fluids. Because soybeans contain no starch, they are a good source of protein for diabetics. Processed for food, soybean oil is made into margarine, shortening, and vegetarian cheeses and meats. Soybean meal serves as a high-protein meat substitute in many food products, including baby foods. Other food products include soybean milk, tofu
, salad sprouts, and soy sauce.
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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.