Processed Soy Products. What Does Your Common Sense Tell YOU?

“The works of HIS hands are faithful and just;
all HIS precepts are trustworthy.” Psalms 111:7

Whether or not soy is healthy for us is debatable. The processing of soy is an interesting procedure. The soy companies say it is quite safe. Common sense tells me otherwise….

Soy is everywhere and if you ever tried to avoid eating soy, you know it’s in just about everything. Why? It has protein and it’s pretty cheap to use. In fact, according to one source, it is the cheapest oil available. 95% of soy is GMO. The processing of soy brings up many concerns.

Soy Processing:

The prepping

Soybeans are picked and arrive by truck. The seeds are sorted out and the damaged seeds and impurities are removed. The seeds are stored in a silo. Because they are GMO they likely have high pesticide, herbicide and fungicide residue.

The beans are dried in a dryer to reduce moisture. Then, they are sent through machines to crack and remove the hulls. The seeds are heated and rollers press them into flakes. This increases the surface area.

The Bath

The flakes are given a hexane bath.

Hexane is a petroleum solvent. It is used because it is cheap. It is listed as a hazardous pollutant with neurotoxic effects. It is a “mildly toxic, explosive solvent…which is obtained from natural gas and is a common component of gasoline.”

The hexane solvent enables the oils to be extracted from the flakes. The solvent is separated from the oil. It is collected and reused.  The soybean oil is now called crude oil.

The flakes and crude oil part ways.

The Flakes

The leftover flakes are used for human and animal feed. First, they must be desolventized. Meaning the solvent must be removed through evaporation.

For animals- the flakes are toasted and the solvent evaporated with steam. They are cooled and dried. Then, the flakes are ground into soybean meal.

For people- The flakes are flash desolventized in a vacuum with steam or super heated hexane. This is followed by a solvent stripping step using steam.

Some flakes are made into soy protein isolate. They are soaked in warm water and lye to make a “milkshake”. This dissolves the proteins and sugars. The the protein is extracted using a centrifuge. Then hydrochloric acid is added to curdle it. Then it is dryed and formed into powders and “meats”. It is also put into baked goods, soy-based infant formulas and nutritional supplements, including all those protein bars you eat.

The Crude Oil

The crude oil is shipped to produce vegetable oil, margarine, shortening, etc.

First, the oil is refined. This is done by reacting it with an alkali solution to neutralize it.

Degumming, removes a brownish smelly sludge, called gum, using water and a centrifuge.  This glop, as they call it, is lecithin. Soy lecithin is a by-product of the degumming process. Its job is to tie oil and water together.


Bleaching and deodorizing is a chemical refining process to remove free fatty acid using a caustic material such as sodium or potassium hydroxide, a type of lye.

The oil is then washed with water and bleached to remove the color using absorbent acid activated clay minerals. These remove chlorophyll and carotenoid pigments.

It is then deodorized. During this process the oils is subjected to high temperatures for a period of time.  This risks turning the unsaturated fats into trans fats. According to the Harvard School of Public Health all oils that have been deodorized have low levels of trans fats.

Finally, the oil is filtered and stored.


There are many chemicals that have taken part in the production of this oil. It has been shown that hexane residue can be present after the processing is complete.

The EPA states:

small quantities of solvent are present in the crude vegetable oil after the solvent is recovered by film evaporators and the distillation stripper. The hexane may volatilize during the oil refining process; however no emission data are available.”

This statement by the EPA also indicates that hexane can be present. “…as well as any hexane leaving the facility as part of the oil or meal products.”

The Products

Processed soy is used in these ingredients and is in many processed foods you probably eat.

  • Hydrogenated vegetable oil
  • Vegetable shortening
  • Vegetable oil (80% off vegetable oil is made from soy)
  • Soy lecithin
  • Soy protein isolate
  • Soy meal (fed to livestock)
  • soy flour
  • textured vegetable protein
  • soy grits

By the way, hexane is used in processing these oils as well- canola, cottonseed, sunflower, corn, peanut and palm oils. It may also be use with olives and nuts.

The Solution

No one is certain if the small amounts of hexane and other chemicals are harmful to us. Frankly, we are exposed to chemicals everyday from multiple sources. But it is probably better to play it safe.

Soybean oil makes up a large part of our processed food calories. My common sense tells me to avoid it as much as possible. Just because it is difficult to avoid doesn’t mean we shouldn’t or that we should be okay with ingesting these chemicals.

The only way to avoid these chemicals is to use only organic, cold pressed products or oils that are not chemically refined.

Also, limit processed foods that are likely to contain it.

Don’t buy the foods that do contain it. Look for products made with better ingredients.

Your health is worth the effort.


Adams, Mike. Food Forensics.

Ettinger, Steve. Twinkie Deconstructed.

Ask the Expert: Concerns about Canola Oil.

Oilseeds and Grains Manufacturing

Vegetable Oil Processing

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