Soybeans! When people think of soybeans, what comes to mind first is food; protein-rich, nutritious food. Soybeans, however, are so much more than food.
Soybeans or soya beans is a plant that comes from a large group of arable food crops. It is a leguminous vegetable of the pea family that grows in tropical and temperate climates. It is native to many geographic locations, including Asia, America and Africa.
In Africa, it grows in several countries, including Nigeria, Zambia and South Africa. However, it is mostly cultivated by small-scale farmers across the continent where it is planted alongside other legumes and vegetables for its oil, its extracts and livestock feed.
Aside from food soybeans has so many other uses.
Outlined below are some non-edible products that are made from soybeans:
Biodiesel: Soybean grains can be crushed to produce biodiesel, a fuel alternative produced from soybean oil. Biodiesel is a renewable, biodegradable fuel manufactured for automobiles, tractors and other heavy industrial machinery.
One of the advantages of biodiesel is that it can be used in existing engines and mechanical infrastructures with practically no changes. Biodiesel can be pumped, stored and burned just like petroleum diesel fuel, and can be used pure, or in blends with petroleum diesel in any proportion.
Another benefit of soy biodiesel is that it is environmentally friendly. Soy biodiesel is non-toxic and biodegradable, compared to petroleum diesel fuel, which is refined from crude oil. This is because biodiesel has fewer air pollutants than normal diesel AGO (automotive gas oils).
Candles: Candles are made from wax. Wax is formed from rapidly heating and cooling hydrogenated oils. Soybean oil is used to make soy candle wax, which is used to make scented candles.
Soy candles are candles made from soy wax, which is a processed form of soybean oil. They are usually container candles, because soy wax typically has a lower melting point than traditional waxes, but can also be made into pillar candles if certain additives are mixed into the soy wax.
Soy candles are used in restaurants, cafes, and diners because of their clean emissions and their ability to burn longer.
Paint: There are paint dyes and paint solutes that are made from soybean grains. Soy paint is paint made primarily from soy oil resins, and it combines the advantage of being a renewable resource while also being non-toxic.
Soy flour is also used in latex type (water-based) paints as a replacement for normal poster colour paints used for canvass art paintings and wall paintings.
Soybean pods are also utilized in the processing of soy ink and other colour dyes, which can be used to print newspapers.
Crayons: Soybeans have a lot of multi-functional uses, which includes the production of crayons for children. Crayons are made from the melting and cooling of hydrogenated paraffin wax, which is then mixed with colour pigments and coloured dyes.
Soy crayons are made from soybean oil instead of petroleum-based paraffin wax. Soy crayons are better for the environment and have smoother, brighter colours that do not flake when used on surfaces.
Children should be encouraged to use soy crayons, as they are easy to use and do not leave messy residues, compared to normal wax crayons.
Soybeans are also used in the medical and pharmaceutical industries. Certain drug capsules are derived from soybean extracts, used to coat antibiotics and pain relievers, which are utilised worldwide.
Besides, paracetamols, antihistamines and dietary supplements contain soy. They are used to treat various ailments and provide dietary protein to the body.
Dietary supplements are products in capsules or tablets that provide essential nutrients, such as proteins, vitamins, minerals or any similar nutritional substance, to nourish the body.
Soy supplements provide protein nutrients to help in the repair of worn-out cells and improve bone mineral density for male and female adults.
Soybeans have the potential to become a super crop. Its uses are numerous to the agricultural, industrial and medical sectors. It also offers tremendous benefits to human beings.
Reginald Onabu, Researcher and Public Relations Officer, Writes from Lagos