With more people turning to vegetarianism, veganism and plant-based diets, and a renewed interest in high-protein diets, soya chunks are popular among vegetarians for their high protein content. Apart from vegetarians, soya chunks are popular among non-vegetarians too, for their meat-like density and texture. The high protein content in soya chunks makes it very popular, especially among the fitness conscious.
Soya chunks are readily available in all stores. Soya chunks first became popular in Eastern parts of India. Then, even the non-vegetarians started buying soya chunks and started using them as a substitute for meat. The love for soya chunks caught on in other parts of India gradually.
However, there are conflicting views regarding how much soya chunks are good for health. First, a few years back, specific popular diets focused on what soya was deficient in, giving it a bad rap. Like all other good things, one should consume soy in moderation too.
What are Soya Chunks?
Imagine getting all the goodness of meat without its downsides. Soya chunks are Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) or Textured Soy Protein (TSP). Extraction of beans gives soybean oil. The residue or the by-product that is left behind is called soy flour. Incidentally, this flour led to the formation of soya chunks. Since all the oil is removed, the flour is defatted. So, soya chunks are ideally fat-free.
Another advantage of soya chunks is their neutral taste. A classic pulao with soya chunks must be familiar to most. They blend well with all cuisines, making it easy to adapt to the cooking style. Although soya chunks come in their dehydrated form, they double their volume quickly. The texture of soya chunks becomes soft, fibrous, and spongy once you soak it in water. The protein in soya chunks is on par with real meat. Moreover, they are low in fat and are pocket friendly. Hence, they get their name as ‘vegetarian’s meat’.
The History behind Soya Chunks
The Soya Production and Research Association (SPRA) debuted soya chunks or TVP in the fall of 1972. The founder, Robert W. Nave, was raised in India and had a deep interest in the welfare of low-income people. Initially, SPRA sold soya chunks at low prices and in affordable packaging. But the product did not receive a warm welcome.
SPRA began to market soya chunks as a premium product with improved packaging. They were only sold in specific stores and targeted the upper-income group. Once the Sikh community made soya chunks a common ingredient in their weddings, the product’s success was inevitable.
Nutritional Values & Facts of Soya Chunks
The nutritional values can vary depending on the brand, and method prescribed to cook. For example, a famous soya chunk brand in India has the following nutrient profile.
100 g of soya chunks has:
- Calories: 345 kcal
- Protein: 52 g
- Carbohydrate: 33 g
- Fibre: 13 g
- Fats: 0.50 g
- Calcium: 350 mg
- Iron: 20 mg
- A serving (100 g) of soya chunk has a significant amount of calories. Hence, one should choose portion size wisely depending on their daily calorie intake.
- Some brands require the soya chunks to be fried in oil first. This process can increase the calories drastically.
- The protein in soya chunks is highly impressive. Comparatively, 100 g of chicken and egg contains only 27 g and 13 g of protein, respectively. The rich protein content makes up for the daily recommended value for both men and women.
- Similarly, the fat content in soya chunks is insignificant when compared to meat and eggs.
- Soya chunks have a considerable amount of calcium in them. The amount makes up 35 percent of the daily recommended value.
- More minor traces of iron, vitamin A and vitamin C are also part of the nutrient list. However, their presence is trivial.
Health Benefits of Soya Chunks
1. Acts as a meat substitute
Vegetarians and those who suffer from protein deficiency can incorporate soya chunks into their diet. They help to make up for the recommended value of protein without tampering with one’s traditions.
2. Promotes heart health
Soya chunks are rich in protein, omega3 fatty acids and fibre. Hence, they work to reduce bad cholesterol in the body. In addition, good cholesterol prevents several heart ailments, making soya chunks a heart-friendly food.
4. Aids in weight loss
The fibre content in soya chunks keeps hunger at bay. In addition, they can keep you full for long hours. Thus, when taken in correct proportions, soya chunks can aid in your weight loss journey.
5. It helps to reduce menopausal symptoms
Many women going through the menopause phase have hot flashes, night sweats, trouble sleeping, vaginal dryness, and mood swings. Dozens of small studies have looked at the effects of soy on these symptoms, especially hot flashes and a 2015 analysis of 10 studies found that plant isoflavones from soy reduced hot flashes by 11%.
6. Regulates hormonal imbalance in women
Due to phytoestrogens in soya chunks, women with irregular hormonal activity can eat soya chunks regularly. In particular, postmenopausal women and those suffering from PCOS benefit the most.
7. Improves digestive health
Both animal and human studies have shown that consumption of soy foods can increase the levels of bifidobacteria and lactobacilli in the gut, thus enhancing gut health.
8. Contains anti-inflammatory properties
Consumption of soy foods has been shown to have beneficial effects on multiple aspects of human health, including reduced risk of inflammation-related diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and certain cancers.
9. Regulates blood sugar levels
Soybean can be extremely beneficial for diabetics and should definitely be added to their diet. A study from the University of Massachusetts Amherst found that soybean is rich in bioactive compounds known as isoflavones. These compounds are responsible for lowering the risk of diabetes and heart diseases. More importantly, the study noted that consuming soy-based foods can lead to a decrease in blood sugar levels and even improve tolerance of glucose in those who have been diagnosed with diabetes.
Recipe Using Soya Chunks
Soya chunks are a fantastic substitute for meat in almost all non-vegetarian dishes. From biriyani to pasta, you can use them in a variety of cuisines as well. Here are two simple recipes to get you started with soya chunks.
Soya Pulao Recipe
Pulao is one of the easiest dishes that use soya chunks. Pair it with the soya Manchurian given below for a perfect main course.
- Soya chunks – ½ cup
- Rice – ½ cup
- Ghee (homemade is preferable) – 2 tbsp
- Cumin seeds – ½ tsp
- Bay leaves – 2
- Peppercorns – ½ tsp
- Cinnamon stick – ½
- Cloves – 2 to 3
- Onions – ½ cup
- Any vegetable of choice (optional)
- Soak the soya chunks in water till it becomes spongy. After that, rinse the pieces a couple of times in water.
- Simultaneously, soak the rice in water as well.
- Take a pressure cooker and add oil or ghee to it.
- Once the oil is heated, add cumin seeds, bay leaves, peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, and cloves.
- Chop up onions and toss them in after the spices.
- Once the onion becomes golden brown, add vegetables of your choice.
- Now, include the soy chunks and sauté for a few minutes.
- Add the soaked rice to the cooker with 1 ½ cups water and close the lid.
- After one whistle in high flame, put the cooker on simmer mode.
- Wait for 4 to 5 whistles. Then, wait for the steam to release before opening the lid.
Side Effects of Soya Chunks
The presence of phytoestrogens in soya chunks is a reason for debate. Although this property is highly beneficial for women with hormonal imbalance, it may be unnecessary for others. Consuming high amounts of soya chunks may cause hormonal issues in men as well. They also have the potential to increase uric acid in the body, leading to some health problems. However, these effects are valid only when one consumes soy chunks in large quantities. Therefore, stick to a maximum of 25 to 30 g of soya chunks per day and rejoice in their benefits.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
A. Soya chunks are rich in protein and fibre. However, avoid consuming soy chunks in excess quantity. The presence of phytoestrogens can be harmful in some instances. It may lead to health problems like hormonal imbalance, thyroid imbalance, and higher uric acid levels in the body. The recommended serving of soy chunks is around 30 grams per day.
A. Boil water in a pan and add the dehydrated soy chunks to it. Cook for about 5 to 6 minutes or until the soya chunks become spongy and enlarged. Next, run cold water over the cooked soya chunks to rinse them well. Lastly, squeeze out any excess water before adding to gravies and rice. Many brands come with an instruction manual on the back of the cover. Read them first for a better understanding.
Q. Can men consume soya chunks?
A. Yes, soya chunks, when taken in correct quantities, is beneficial for men too. Phytoestrogens which are naturally present in plants have a similar function to the human hormone estrogen. So, some theories say that consuming large amounts of it may cause hormonal imbalance in men. As a precaution, do not exceed the recommended serving per day.
A. For easy recipes, you can add soya chunks to salads, pulao and fried rice. Replace meat with soya chunks in any dish for a vegetarian option. A simple curry made with soy chunks tastes excellent too. Since they do not have any particular taste, you can add them to a variety of dishes. Make sandwiches and paninis with soy chunks as filling for healthy snacks.
A. No, soya chunks have very low-fat content. Soya chunks can help in weight loss. The high fibre food tends to keep you fuller for more extended periods. Therefore, soya chunks do not have fattening properties inherently. However, if consumed in large amounts, they may exceed your daily calorie intake. When this practice continues for long periods, it may lead to weight gain.