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The Soybean Innovation lab (SIL) Nutrition Program, works within a research for development model to enable the nutritional and economic benefits of populations in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) through the soybean value chain. We apply nutrition, food science, engineering, and business concepts to address nutrition gaps in low-income settings, using DINES criteria foods [Delicious, Inexpensive, Nutritious, Environmentally and culturally sustainable, and Safe]. We focus our efforts on bringing soy foods to early child nutrition and institutional feeding programs by building the capacity of stakeholders, especially agro-processing companies, NGOs and learning institutions in SSA.

The nutritional content of soy

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The primary use of soybeans is human and animal nutrition. Soybeans are a great source of quality protein and energy. Soybeans provide 440 kcal per 100 g and feature as much as 38% protein and 18% oil. The protein in soybeans, unlike other legumes, is a high-quality complete protein, similar to that of an egg. Soy is high in fat and fiber. Most of this fat is monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, including omega-3 fatty acids. Plant oils, including soybeans do not contain cholesterol. Soybeans are a great source of vitamins E and K and B vitamins such as riboflavin, thiamin, pyridoxine, and folic acid. They also provide iron, zinc, copper, potassium, magnesium, manganese, and phosphorus.

Nutritonal Content

soy foods and soy food products

Soybeans are versatile and boost nutrition when added to other foods. Soy ingredients can boost both macro- and micronutrients, and increase nutrition and food safety in complementary foods traditionally made of maize and groundnuts, which are prone to mycotoxin contamination. As an ingredient in school lunches, soy can contribute to recommended daily allowances for protein with little, or no added cost. 

complementary feeding (COMFA)

SIL reseachers developed Complementary Food for Africa, or ComFA. ComFa is a blending of soybean flour, sweet potato (a rich source of provitamin A), fish powder, a little oil and water. Two servings of ComFA as a complement to breast milk gives infants (6-9 month) over 100% of their energy, protein and vitamin A daily requirement. ComFA is great nutrition complement compared to similar products avaialble made of staples such as corn, cassava or wheat. 

full-fat soy flour

Full-fat soy flour (FFSF) is a food ingredient made from unextracted, dehulled soybeans. To earn the label ‘full fat soy flour,’ 97% of the product must pass through a 100-mesh standard screen.  SIL has studied the FFSF shelf life in typical SSA sub-tropical conditions, and due to its unsaturated oil content, recommends its use within 6 months of preparation when stored in adequate conditions or pre-treatment using germination to extend shelf-life quality. FFSF is highly nutritious, it contains approximately 38% protein, 21% fat and 9% fiber.

soy protein concentrate

Soy protein concentrate is an upcycled high protein flour ingredient made from soybean meal, a by product of pressed oil. The process converts soybean meal into a flour that is approximately 65% protein. Through cooperation with Dr. Keshun Liu, at the USDA Agricultural Research Station, SIL is refining a water-based method for commercial usage in SSA.

soy protein isolate

Soy protein isolate is the most concentrated form of soy protein that is approximately 90% protein. The protein in soybean de-fatted soy flour, or flakes is separated through a washing process and is relatively free of odor, flavor, color and anti-nutritional elements. Soy protein isolate is used as an ingredient to enhance nutrient density.

okara flour

Okara flour is an upcycled food ingredient made from the insoluble parts of the soybean that remain after ground soybeans are filtered to make soymilk and tofu. Okara is highly nutritious, rich in energy, fiber and protein, and nearly flavorless when dried and milled into flour.

traditional soybean foods

Soybeans have been consumed for centuries in Asia, the plant (Glycine max) is native to East Asia. Soymilk is widely enjoyed in Africa and be made at home with little equipment. Tofu is made from soymilk, much like cheese is made from cow’s milk.  Fermenting adds distinctive flavors and characteristics to foods like soy sauce, fermented bean paste and tempeh (fungal fermentation). Soy oils are a popular vegetable oil and can readily be fortified. Defatted soybean meal, a by product of crushing soybeans for oil, is an up cyclable ingredient for human and animal nutrition.

Soy Foods

scaling up

Sub-Saharan African (SSA) Agro-processors are vital for farmers and consumers, particularly in the soybean value chain. Enabling agro-processing contributes to economic growth, food security and employment. SIL’s Nutrition Program supports SSA agro processors with seminars, training, consulting and novel ingredient preparations for DINES criteria foods [Delicious, Inexpensive, Nutritious, Environmentally and culturally sustainable, and Safe]. 

SIL’s Nutrition Program is working with processing partners and research and development institutions (R&DI) in SSA to strengthen capacity and transfer lab-based protocols e.g., packaged ComFA, soy protein concentrate flour, okara soy flour, and fortification, into an African industrial setting, with sustainable results.​ SIL's Nutrition Program also has resources for smaller processors transforming soybean into DINES criteria foods. Resources on soybean nutrition. transforming soybeans into soymilk, okara and storage are available.

Scaling Up

Human Nutrition Team

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Dr. Juan Andrade

Principal Investigator

Soybean Nutrition Program

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Dr. Francis Amagloh

University for Development Studies Lead

Soybean Nutrition Program

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Annette Donnelly


Soybean Nutrition Program

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