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People are becoming health conscious and the demand for speciality foods is therefore increasing. Soybean has a tremendous potential to be transformed into a number of such foods suited to people's requirements. The daily use of soybean in the diet can provide balanced nutrition at a low cost, in addition to health benefits. Awareness of these aspects is now spreading. The likely utilization pattern of soybean in the 21st century is in direct food uses, mechanically expressed and physically refined soy oil, livestock and aqua feed and pharmaceutical and other industrial products. The strategy would be for the complete utilization of soybean constituents for food, feed and pharmaceutical products. This requires needs-based and high-quality research and development in the areas of soybean processing and utilization.

Soybean was originally processed to improve its shelf life, inactivate or remove anti-nutritional factors, improve safety, make desirable sensory changes, produce more convenient products and add value. Today, however, some of these reasons have changed, with a focus on maintaining or saving the components of soybean that have health benefits. For example, instead of removing oligosaccharides that cause flatulence in some people, these are now looked upon favourably because they increase the bifido-bacteria population in the colon, giving a protective effect against pathogenic organisms. Isoflavones and trypsin inhibitor (Bowman-Birk inhibitor) are believed to provide protection from cancer (Danji, 2000; Messina, 2002). With increasing interest in the use of soybean in food, due to its health benefits, the demand for direct food uses of soybean may increase in the future.

Soybean is one of the nature's wonderful nutritional gifts of plant origin and it provides a high-quality protein with minimum saturated fat. Soybeans help people feel better and live longer, with an enhanced quality of life. Soybeans contain all of the three macronutrients required for good nutrition, as well as fibre, vitamins and minerals. Soybean protein provides all of the essential amino acids in the amounts needed for human health. Almost 40% of the calories from soybeans are derived from protein, making soybeans higher in protein than any other legume and many animal products. The quality of protein in soybean is remarkable. Health professionals consider soy protein to be a superior protein. The amino acid pattern of soy protein is virtually equivalent in quality to that of milk and egg protein. During the 1990s, the Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization Protein Evaluation Committee put soy protein on a par with egg and milk protein (FAO/WHO, 1990).

Unlike many other good sources of protein, soybean not only has a higher percentage of oil, but also a good-quality fatty acid profile. It has a low saturated fat content with a high amount of polyunsaturated fatty acids, and is a readily available source of essential fatty acids. Compared with other legumes, soybean contains more than double the amount of most of minerals, especially calcium, iron, phosphorus and zinc, and a very low sodium content.

Highlighting research findings with respect to the nutritional and economic benefits of using soybean through the print and electronic media has a great potential to increase the demand for soy foods. The industry must respond to such a demand with an array of soy-based and isoflavone-fortified conventional foods. For soy foods to become truly mainstream, a variety of convenient, user-friendly products is needed and efforts should be made to make them available on the market at an affordable price. The industry will have to take soy foods to the consumer, rather than relying on the consumer to seek them out. Conventional breads, snacks, crackers and breakfast cereals to which soy has been added are likely to be particularly attractive. A breakfast cereal that combines oats or corn with soy flakes represents a convenient way for consumers to incorporate soy into their diet and it does not require lifestyle modification. Nearly half the soy protein needed to lower cholesterol could easily be consumed at one sitting if such a cereal provides 5-6 g of soy protein and is eaten in combination with soy milk.

The need is to create an awareness about soy products and their benefits and to make such products available on the market through small-scale decentralized soy food processing enterprises. Domestic-level processing and utilization of soybean for food and feed need to be given priority, especially in the rural sector. Central and state development agencies may come forward to make implementation plans. The hardware and technologies for a number of soy foods that match traditional food recipes and food habits are available. The need is to make use of such indigenous facility for the benefit of the people. The following measures are suggested to accelerate soybean food uses in the world:

• Create awareness among the masses about the economic, nutritional and health benefits of soybean and its products using print and electronic media.

• Train individuals, groups and entrepreneurs in the manufacturing and marketing of soy-based food products and machinery.

• Make technical support available to potential entrepreneurs in the form of project reports, consultancy and services.

• Link research and industry to refine the product and modify technologies, with time, for better efficiency and the output of a high-quality product.

• Forge a strong political will and positive government policies to encourage the production and domestic utilization of soybean.

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