Get Acquainted With the Health Benefits of Soybean Oil

Soybean oil may have a low profile, but it is well positioned to play a meaningful role in healthful diets. Soybean oil is the most widely produced and most commonly consumed vegetable oil in the United States. It accounts for more than half of all U.S. vegetable oil consumed. However, most consumers don’t realize they are consuming it, let alone deriving health benefits from it, because soybean oil is nearly always marketed and labeled as vegetable oil.

Mark Messina, Ph.D., M.S., Executive Director of the Soy Nutrition Institute, says, “The reason for this labeling approach isn’t entirely known. One theory is that it is linked to the introduction of ‘all vegetable’ shortenings in the 1960s, which successfully replaced lard and beef tallow-based shortenings and were largely soybean oil-based. ‘All vegetable’ cooking oils soon followed in the marketplace.”

With soybean oil accounting for slightly over 7 percent of total caloric intake of Americans today, it’s time to take a closer look at how it can make important contributions to the health of Americans. Soybean oil is a perfect fit for heart-healthy diets because it has a low saturated fat content and a high polyunsaturated fat content. Saturated fat has long been known to raise blood levels of LDL-cholesterol (which is linked to increased heart disease risk) while polyunsaturated fat lowers LDL-cholesterol.

U.S. Dietary Guidelines have recommended limiting saturated fat intake since the 1980s. Saturated fats occur naturally in many foods, but the majority of saturated fats consumed in the U.S. come from animal sources. The most recent recommendation is to consume a diet with no more than ten percent of calories provided by saturated fat. The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fats—including those found in butter, cheese, red meat and other animal-based foods—to only five to six percent of calories.

Soyfoods and soybean oil fit well into diets that adhere to these guidelines. In 2006 the American Heart Association stated that, “ … soy products … should be beneficial to cardiovascular and overall health because of their high content of polyunsaturated fats … and low content of saturated fat.”

Population studies show that diets high in polyunsaturated fat lower the risk of coronary heart disease and favorably affect blood sugar levels. Importantly, soybean oil is also one of a very few good sources of both essential fatty acids—the omega-6 fatty acid, linoleic acid, and the omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid. Our intake of these essential fatty acids has to come from foods because the body cannot produce them.

Versatile soybean oil features a neutral flavor, and can be used for frying, in baking recipes, snacks, salad dressings, dipping sauces and more. The Soyfoods Council offers a wide selection of recipes such as the award-winning Creamy Mango Habanero Dressing from Chef Alex Strauss of Hy-Vee Market Café in West Des Moines, IA. The recipe took first place honors in the 2016 Soy Salad Dressing Competition. It’s made with soft silken tofu, fresh mango, habanero chiles and limes, tamari soy sauce, honey and soybean oil. Other recipes featuring soybean oil include Chocolate Soynut Spread, made in a food processor with salted soynuts, soybean oil, cocoa powder and powdered sugar.

Served over mixed local greens with avocados, hearts of palm, red peppers and Jamaican jerk pork

"Creamy" Mango Habanero Dressing

  • 1 -12 ounce package Mori-Nu soft silken tofu, drained well
  • 2 ripe mangos, peeled, roughly chopped
  • ½ to 1 fresh habanero chile, minced (depending on how spicy you want it)
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 2 tablespoons tamari soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • ½ cup soybean oil
  • Salt and pepper

Combine first 6 ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Blend to puree with a hand wand or in a blender. Slowly add oil to emulsify while still blending. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

  • Yields: Salad dressing for 4 to 6 servings

To find soybean oil at the grocery store, simply read the cooking oil labels: Oils labeled as vegetable oil are usually 100 percent soybean oil. For more information about soybean oil and nutrition—or for details about the wide variety of available soyfood ingredients—visit the Soyfoods Council website at www.thesoyfoodscouncil.com. You’ll also find a wide variety of kid-pleasing snacks and ideas for family meals. The Soyfoods Council offers easy-to-understand health information including the latest studies related to soy, as well as cooking tips and recipes.

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