- The seeds of an erect bushy plant, Glycine max, of the pea family, originating in China but now a major crop grown worldwide in frost-free, warm summer climates and containing about 20 per cent oil and 35 per cent protein on a dry weight basis. The pods contain between 2 and 4 seeds which may be green, brown, yellow or black. A common food in China and Southeast Asia and an important animal feed. Used as a source of bean sprouts, oil, flour, milk, protein curds, vegetable protein and meat analogues and sauce as well as being an important food pulse in its whole state. The beans, especially the oil, are rich in compounds which behave like weak oestrogens and dilute the effect of the body’s own oestrogens, thus reducing the risk of breast cancer, but evidence has been reported that raw soya flour fed to rats produced pancreatic cancer.