As the global population continues to increase, world leaders and scientific researchers alongside U.S. farmers strive to identify ways to feed our growing populace.

In a new “Perspective” published in Frontiers in Nutrition, author Mark Messina, Ph.D., M.S., outlines how soybeans play a key role in providing — in a sustainable way — the protein and calories required for a healthy diet. This ancient food can help meet modern day food challenges. Soybeans are one of the most widely grown crops in the world, but direct consumption of soy protein by humans is limited outside of Asia.

Legumes (beans, pulses) are recognized by nutritionists as underutilized sources of protein. Soybeans are higher in protein than other legumes, and contain all nine essential amino acids in adequate amounts needed in the human diet. Plus, the quality of that protein is similar to animal protein and higher than other plant proteins. Furthermore, the rather unique macronutrient composition of soybeans makes them valuable as a food source for a growing population. Because of their high fat content, soybeans are more calorically dense so they can provide much needed calories as well as essential fatty acids.

From an environmental perspective, soybeans are one of the most efficient means of producing protein. For one, like all legumes, soybeans symbiotically convert atmospheric nitrogen into nitrogen-related compounds needed for growth, thereby reducing the need for fertilizer. Due to their high protein content and productivity, soybeans can produce more protein per acre than other legumes, and the amount of greenhouse gas emissions per unit protein is low compared to other foods. Furthermore, U.S. farmers continue to improve their on-farm efficiency to reduce their environmental impact.

“Our soybean farmers work hard to make their operations as sustainable as possible,” says United Soybean Board (USB) Farmer-Director from Indiana and SNI Global Board Member Kevin Wilson. “Our farmers are aiming to increase energy efficiency by 10 percent and reduce land use impact by 10 percent, soil erosion by 25 percent, and total greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent by 2025. This industry-wide effort poses soy as a sustainable global food solution.”

Soybeans are considered one of the world’s staple crops, and their production exceeds four times the amount of all other legumes combined. Soybeans, like other legumes, are recognized as an affordable food that can be economically incorporated into a wide range of cuisines. From traditional soyfoods such as tofu and soymilk to modern products like soy burgers and soy yogurts, there are options that fit everyone’s needs.

Because of their nutrient profile and the adoption of sustainable farming practices by agriculture producers, soybeans are well positioned to help address the increasing caloric and protein needs of the growing global population.

For more health related research, please visit the Soy Nutrition Institute website at https://thesoynutritioninstitute.com.

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