Soybean Oil: A Nutritious Oil From A Versatile Legume

Soybean oil comes from crushed soybeans. Soybeans contain a lot of oil, which is why the soybean is classified as an oilseed. Except for the peanut, soybeans have more oil than other legumes.

Soybeans are one of the oldest crops grown by man. Historians believe they were first cultivated in the northeastern part of China in 11 BCE. During this period, soybeans were primarily consumed as food.

The first mention of them as a source of oil was in 1061. Documents from the 14th century describe an oil press used to extract soybean oil. In the 16th century, soybean oil gets mentioned in a pharmacopeia wherein its flavor and other properties are described. Defatted soybean cakes were being used as pig feed in the 17th century. In the mid-18th century, soybean oil was discussed for the first time in the English language where it appeared in a presentation to the Agricultural and Horticultural Society of India.

In the early 1900s, soybeans were important to England for soybean oil production. England was the first non-Asian country to import soybeans on a large scale. The first solvent processing plant for processing soybean oil started production in Germany a few years later.

The demand for soybean meal to feed livestock has been high since the 1940s. Soybean oil is a byproduct of making soybean meal so its prices have been low, which accounts for a large part of its worldwide popularity.

The first term for soybean oil in the US is Chinese bean oil. Other early terms for it include soya bean oil. The modern name — soybean oil — took hold in the 1940s.

Today, soybean oil is the world’s second most widely used oil.

Soybean oil flavor profile

Soybean oil is usually deodorized to produce a neutral-tasting oil, but its flavor and smell can return during storage. The returned flavor is referred to as the reversion flavor. When this happens, soybean oil can cause food to taste vegetal and slightly fishy.

Health benefits of soybean oil

Along with being popular, soybean oil is considered generally healthy because it contains compounds like those below:

  • Linoleic acid: The main polyunsaturated fat in soybean oil, linoleic acid contributes to its health benefits.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: The omega-3 fatty acids found in soybean oil have been shown to play major roles in various areas including heart, brain and immune system health.
  • Vitamins: Soybean oil is a good source of vitamin E and an exceptional source of vitamin K.

By using soybean oil in your diet, you can prevent or treat health problems like:

  • Heart disease: The fact that soybean oil is low in saturated fats and contains no cholesterol makes it beneficial for heart health. Soybean oil also contains phytosterols that may reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels. LDL is the bad cholesterol that can contribute to heart disease.
  • Poor bone health: The vitamin K in soybean oil is essential for healthy bones.

Health concerns

Soybean oil is rich in omega-6 fatty acids. While you do need omega-6 fatty acids in your diet, most of us get enough of them in our diets, which means that soybean oil could contribute to use getting too much. Excess omega-6 fatty acids can lead to inflammation and chronic illness.

Common uses

Soybean oil has a high smoke point, which makes it useful as a general-purpose cooking oil. You can use it for stir-frying and deep-frying.