Soybean-based oil is considered a commodity product and typically is not purchased for soy benefits. Margarines predominantly are soy-oil based; however, this category too is not necessarily purchased by consumers wishing to add soy to their diet.
Products made with soy date back many thousands of years. Soybeans are one of the world’s oldest crops, with a long, rich history in eastern world cuisine. Archeological evidence shows that soybeans were first cultivated in Eastern Asia more than 5,000 years ago. The earliest written record of soybean use dates back to the Book of Odes, penned in 1100 B.C. in China. The early Chinese called soybeans ta tou, which means “greater bean.” It appears that Buddhist monks in China developed tofu during the Han Dynasty somewhere between 25 and 220 A.D. Soybeans arrived in Europe and were first cultivated on a very small scale in the early 1700s. They soon found their way to the United States but were not actually grown there at all until the 1800s. Benjamin Franklin was one of the country’s first vegetarians and, reportedly, the person who introduced tofu into the United States in the late 1700s.