When you think of soybeans, soybean oil or roasted soy milk might come to mind. It might be a surprise to know that those are only two of the many uses for soybeans. Soybeans are a member of the legume family and originally from East Asia. They have expanded from their use as a nutritious food to being used in household products, pet foods, fuel and more. In addition, new uses are always being explored.
According to the National Biodiesel Board at Biodiesel. org, soybean oil is one of the natural oils used to make biodiesel fuel. Soy biodiesel burns much cleaner than petroleum-based fuels and is a renewable resource. It is not however considered a vegetable oil-based fuel because processing removes the glycerin from the oil.
The North Carolina Soybean Producers Association states that the majority of soybeans are used for non-food purposes and for replanting new soybean crops. The remainder ends up in food products for human consumption. One of these is soybean oil. Soybean oil is used to prepare foods and in making salad dressings and margarine. According to Soybean.org's soy food guide, soybeans are an excellent source of health benefits, especially to children. Soybeans are used to provide healthier options of favorite foods. For example, soy burgers are a vegetarian version of the traditional hamburger.
Many products used in everyday life have soy-based options. The Dixon Ticonderoga Co. produces soy-based crayons, which are safer and nontoxic compared to petroleum-based crayons. Another commonly used product are soy candles. The North Carolina Soybean Producers Association further states that these candles made with soybean oil burn with less soot. In addition, another product, soy-based printer ink cleans up easier and is better for the environment than regular printer ink.
Once soybeans are processed to remove the oil, the fiber from the soybeans is left. This fiber called soy meal, which is high in protein, is toasted then added to prepared animal foods. This animal food includes food for farm animals, poultry and pets. Even pet fish food now has soy meal fiber in it. The main consumers of soy meal in the animal world are chickens and pigs.
Soy lubricants are better for the environment than petroleum lubricants. They can also reach a higher level of heat. Hydraulic fluid is one of the lubricants most recently researched and made with soy beans. Other uses include soy-based foams for coolers and padding in car seats. Research continues on these uses and for new ones, since soybeans are a renewable resource.