Discover why soybeans are one of the most popular crops in the U.S.

April is National Soyfoods Month, making this the perfect time to learn more about soybeans – a legume that’s been used and consumed across the world for thousands of years and is steadily growing in popularity.

Grown in the upper Midwest as well as in portions of the Mississippi Delta and the southeastern U.S., soybeans are the second-most-planted field crop in the nation, coming in right behind corn, and the crop accounted for $42 billion in U.S. cash receipts in 2016.

What makes soybeans so attractive to farmers and consumers alike? Unlike other crops, soybeans can fix their own nitrogen and require minimal nitrogen fertilizer, so they’re fairly easy to grow. Plus, soybeans are used to create a wide variety of foods for both humans and animals, and the crop is an excellent source of plant-based protein, which makes it a top choice for vegetarians and vegans.

Soybean Health Benefits

In addition to being high in protein, soybeans have many other health benefits. They contain a significant amount of dietary fiber (both soluble and insoluble) and are packed with several vitamins and minerals. For example, the legume is rich in vitamin K, riboflavin, folate, vitamin B6, thiamin and vitamin C, and it’s an important source of minerals such as manganese, phosphorus, copper, potassium, magnesium, zinc, selenium and calcium.

Soybeans are naturally cholesterol-free and low in saturated fat, too, and the fiber in soybeans has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels in the body by scraping excess cholesterol off the walls of blood vessels and arteries. With that in mind, it’s no surprise the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officially recognized the cholesterol-lowering effects of soy protein in 1999 with a health claim stating that 25 grams of soy protein per day may reduce the risk of heart disease.

More good news: Recent research suggests that soy may lower the risk of prostate, colon and breast cancers as well as osteoporosis and other bone health problems while also alleviating hot flashes associated with menopause.

Common Soybean Uses

Many soybeans are processed for their oil in the U.S., and that oil is used in various food products including margarine, salad dressings, mayonnaises, breads, crackers, cakes, cookies, and pies. Additionally, foods like tuna and sardines are often packed in soybean oil.

Soybeans are also processed in order to create soy milk, soy flour, soy protein, tofu, and other products, and their high-protein fiber is commonly used to make food for poultry, cattle, pork, and other farm animals and pets.

Soybean oil can be used to produce biodiesel fuel for diesel engines as well, and it’s regularly used to create candles as it helps them burn longer and reduces the amount of smoke and soot produced. Finally, soy is used to create nontoxic crayons and inks, and it’s a common ingredient in industrial lubricants, solvents, cleaners and paints.

If you’re considering diversifying your operation, soybeans might be the right choice for you. As your long-term financial partner, AgAmerica can help that dream come true with a land loan customized to the unique needs of your operation.