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We've all heard the health benefits of soy—it's high in protein as well as B vitamins, and it's cholesterol-free. While the debate in wellness circles rages on, soy milk has become one of the most popular ways to consume soy. Over the last decade it's really gained popularity in the United States but, of course, has been consumed for over thousands of years.

The recipe is simple: take dried soybeans, grind them with water, and strain out the solids until you're left with a smooth, drinkable liquid.

Brief history: Soy milk seems to have originated in China. The first written reference to it is somewhere in the first or second century AD. From the 1920s through the 1940s, soy milk started to be produced in small pockets in the U.S., mainly serving communities interested in its health or vegetarian properties. Gandhi even promoted soy milk production and consumption in India to nutritionally enhance the diets of poor families.

Modern day soymilk has sweeteners and stabilizers added to it, and even flavorings. Vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry are common varieties sold by a number of companies including 8th Continent, So Good, and Silk. And if you're not into all that, you can make your own at home from scratch using a soymilk maker.

Recent reports show that sales of soy milk have been slipping since the beginning of 2010. Industry professionals suspect that the decline is due largely to new kinds of alternative milk on the market: namely almond, coconut, rice, and hemp milk.

One place where soy milk sales seem to be holding its own is in coffee shops. Starbucks even debuted a soy milk Frappuccino this year.

Do you drink soy milk? On its own, as part of your morning coffee or smoothie ritual, or in some other way?

About the author: Lee Zalben was a PB&J-loving kid that grew up to be the founder and president of Peanut Butter & Co., which began as a Greenwich Village sandwich shop serving nothing but peanut butter sandwiches and expanded to include the now-famous line of all natural flavored peanut butter. Lee is a graduate of Vassar College and enjoys traveling the world in search of interesting foods made with peanuts, tree nuts, and seeds. When he's not working, eating, flying or writing, he enjoys scuba diving and training elephants.

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