What is soy?


Soy, or soya, is a climbing plant of the legume family. It is cultivated primarily for its oil seeds that yield edible oil with the highest consumption rate worldwide.

Like peas and green beans, soy is a leguminous plant. Originating in southern Asia, soy was cultivated as early as 4,000 years ago. In fact, soy has been among traditional Chinese food for centuries.

Along with corn, soy is one of the most cultivated plants around the globe. It plays an increasingly important role in the human diet as well as animal feed in the form of oilseed cakes.

Over the years, several varieties of soy have been created. Protein-rich and low-cholesterol soy is excellent for healthy eating. Soy grains are one of the richest natural foods. They contain a large quantity of proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, vitamins A and B, potassium, calcium, magnesium, zinc and iron.

Soy grains can be eaten as is, like beans, cooked or prepared otherwise. Several food products are made from soy, including tofu, miso, natto, soy sauce, soymilk and other meat substitutes.

Soy has unique properties beneficial to human health. A number of studies have demonstrated that regular consumption of soy can yield impressive results, including reducing hot flashes, menopausal disorders, the development of osteoporosis and memory problems.

These studies have also demonstrated that a large consumption of soy helps to better control diabetes and reduce cardiovascular disease and some types of cancer (colorectal, prostate and breast).


Either term may be used, according to linguists. The term soy is borrowed from the Japanese language, while the term soja is derived from the German language. In French-speaking North American communities, the English derivative soya was adopted, while French-language European countries have adopted the German form soja. In fact, the term soya was derived from a Manchurian word through the Dutch language, in turn borrowed from the Japanese word shoyu.