Can You Eat Raw Soybeans? [Benefits & Precautions ]

What do canned tuna, protein powder and soup all have in common? Soy is on the ingredients list! This plant based protein comes from soybeans, which are a part of the legume family.

While no one can seem to pass up a steamy plate of lightly salted edamame at an Asian restaurant, can you also eat raw soybeans? The answer may soy-prise you!

Raw soy, the protein that comes from soybeans, is a surprisingly common ingredient  in a variety of products. However, just like the whole seeds, it is imperative that you thoroughly cook soybeans, soy and edamame. Never eat them raw.

Why?  They contain anti-nutrients, which are substances that will prevent the absorption of essential vitamins and minerals as well as cause extreme digestive upset, including diarrhea and vomiting. However, interestingly enough, you can eat soybean sprouts raw!

Thankfully, the simple steps of soaking and cooking the beans make them perfectly safe to eat! 

The Importance Of Cooking Raw Soybeans

The Prevention Of Anti-Nutrients

Just like all other beans, soybeans contain compounds called “anti-nutrients”. As the name implies, these natural compounds have a negative effect on your nutrition. Their purpose is to deter animals from eating them. 

When consumed, they block the body’s ability to absorb beneficial nutrients. They can also have adverse and even dangerous side effects. The main anti-nutrients in legumes include lectins, phytates (phytic acid), saponins and tannins.

Lectins

Lectins are “proteins that bind to carbohydrates”. Our bodies cannot break them down and they end up sticking to the walls of our digestive tract. When consumed in excess this can cause damage and health issues.

According to food experts at Harvard University, soybeans “contain phytohaemagglutinin, a type of lectin that can cause red blood cells to clump together. It can also produce nausea, vomiting, stomach upset, and diarrhea. Milder side effects include bloating and gas.” 

Additionally, this compound also inhibits the absorption of key vitamins and minerals such as calcium, zinc, iron and phosphorus. Moreover, they can have a negative impact on the body’s intestinal flora. Lectins can also “play a role in inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and type 1 diabetes.”

Thankfully, this only occurs in their active state. In other words, when you eat the soybeans raw.

Phytates (Phytic Acid)

Similar to lectins, phytates also block the absorption of the same beneficial nutrients. This compound also contains ​​antioxidant properties. While this may seem beneficial, it can also cause inflammation in some less desirable areas like the digestive tract. 

Saponins

According to researchers at the University of Copenhagen, saponins “are considered natural plant toxins because they are capable of disrupting red blood cells and producing diarrhea and vomiting. Their toxic effects are related to the reduction of surface tension.”

Tannins

Last, but certainly not least, “tannins have also been reported to exert other physiological effects, such as to accelerate blood clotting, reduce blood pressure, decrease the serum lipid level, produce liver necrosis, and modulate immunoresponses.” One of the reasons that they have such a detrimental impact on a person’s blood functions is that these compounds specifically block the absorption of iron.

Safely Preparing Soybeans

After reading about all of the detrimental compounds in this tiny little seed, you may be wondering why people would ever eat it in the first place. First, these vegetables are extremely healthy. Second, these compounds are only present in high amounts when the soybeans are raw, thus you should always cook them before you eat them. 

“Lectins are water-soluble and typically found on the outer surface of a food, so exposure to water removes them.” In fact, this is the case for most antinutrients including the aforementioned phytic acid, saponins and tannins. It also removes trypsin inhibitors.

Trypsin is a digestive enzyme that breaks down proteins.

As the name implies, TI’s prevent the body from completing their function. This can lead to pancreatitis, making it another ideal thing to remove from the soybeans.

How To Remove Anti-Nutrients

The best practice is to soak your fresh soybeans in water for at least 12 hours. Some experts advise as much as 16 hours to achieve an optimal effect. Then, rinse them following this initial step. Next, you need to cook the whole soybeans.

Researchers have found that the “reduction in the levels of antinutrients, along with an improvement in protein and starch digestibility, was observed after cooking these food legumes.

Maximum improvement in [protein and starch] digestibilities was observed on cooking these food legumes at 121 °C for 10 [minutes]”. 

Thus, no matter what method of preparation you choose, cook the raw soybeans for 10 minutes at 250 degrees Fahrenheit before you eat them. This will not only improve the nutrient qualities of the beans, but it will also remove the detrimental components. 

Advantages Of Soybeans

Health Benefits

For those individuals looking for plant-based proteins, it is hard to beat soybeans! “They are high in protein but low in calories, carbohydrates and fats; they supply all nine essential amino acids; they’re high in vitamins and nutrients; they contain no cholesterol; and they are easy to digest.” The American Heart Association also notes that this unofficial superfood can help to lower your risk of heart disease. 

Additionally, soy bean flour is a fantastic health food that is made with roasted soybeans. Thus, it is already cooked and ready for consumption.

Food Preservation

Looking at the makeup of this vegetable, 80% of the soybean is meal and 20% is oil. Interestingly enough, the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council notes that only a whopping “3 percent of soybean meal used in the U.S. is in food products like protein alternatives and soy milk. [Alternatively, the] oil used for food accounts for 61 percent of soybean oil used in the U.S. [Soy] appears in products like soy sauce, breakfast cereals and bars, and some beverages and whipped toppings.”

It is also an ingredient in salad dressings, cereals, infant formulas and cooking oil.

Why is soy oil such a coveted ingredient? “The legumes’ consistency allows them to be transformed into oils and flours, as well as dairy and meat substitutes. Importantly, isolated soy proteins are used to emulsify fat and bind water, which keeps many products’ moistness without affecting other ingredients.

[For example,] soy lecithin is often used in chocolate, margarine and cheeses to keep their ingredients from separating and clumping.”

Who Should Avoid Soybeans

Soybeans and soy foods can be a healthy part of your diet. However, there are a few individuals who should steer clear of this vegetable.

Individuals With Vitamin And Mineral Deficiencies

Researchers at Harvard advise that “people who are at high risk for diseases related to mineral deficiencies, such as osteoporosis with calcium deficiency or anemia with iron deficiency, may wish to monitor their food choices for anti-nutrient content.” This applies whether you wanted to eat the soybeans raw or cooked. However, with the amount of foods that contain soy based ingredients, it can be hard to eliminate these food items completely out of your diet.

Therefore, pay attention to when you eat foods with high amounts of anti-nutrients like soybeans. This means that you should consume your steak with a side of spinach at lunch and then eat the edamame at dinner. This allows for proper iron absorption despite inhibitors being a part of one’s diet.

Individuals With Allergies

Did you know that “soy is one of the eight major allergens that must be listed in plain language on packaged foods sold in the U.S., as required by federal law”?  While this allergy only affects 0.4% of children, the reactions can many times be life-threatening. Moreover, as of 2019, there were a recorded 23.6 million children in the United States that fell under the age of 6.

That small percentage encompasses 94,400 kids. In retrospect, this is a very notable issue. 

Thankfully, the Food Allergy Research & Education Organization states that “studies show an allergy to soy usually occurs early in childhood and often is outgrown by age three. The majority of children with soy allergy will outgrow the allergy by age 10.”

However, they have also found that if your child is one of the few who develops this dangerous sensitivity, they have an extremely high likelihood (88%) of having a peanut allergy as well.

“Individuals with soy allergy were [also] more likely to be allergic or sensitized to major allergens including peanuts, tree nuts, egg, milk and sesame than to non-peanut legumes such as beans, peas and lentils.”

Individuals With Inflammatory Bowel Diseases

Legumes, or beans, are often called the “musical fruit” because they contain indigestible saccharides. Baked beans, chickpeas, lentils and soybeans have high amounts. So IBS patients should avoid them, or eat them in very small quantities.”

This also applies to those with Chron’s Disease, ulcerative colitis and diverticulitis. Instead, the Cleveland Clinic recommends these individuals stick to a low-FODMAP diet. This requires the removal of all fermentable carbohydrates from one’s diet.

Final Thoughts

Like black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas and peanuts, some people cannot tolerate soybeans in their diet. However, for those who enjoy the subdued sweetness of this healthy snack, they come in a variety of options. Purchase raw dried soybeans or buy pre-cooked (blanched) canned and frozen varieties!

They even make a soy chorizo or Soyrizo! Make sure to cook this variety before eating.

Either way, what this means is that you can buy these products in bulk without the worry of them spoiling! Lastly, once you reheat the pre-made options or prepare the raw soybeans, just make sure to eat them within four days, otherwise they will spoil.

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