Unilever and Wageningen University research

Soy remains the most widely used and studied plant-based protein source thanks to its high protein content and quality, relative to other plant-based ingredients.

But during the production of soy-based products, the ingredient generally undergoes several processing methods such as soaking, grinding, and heating to create soy milk, or dehulling and fat extraction to create soybean flour, and then removing soluble carbohydrates from this to create soy protein concentrate.

So although soy is well known for its high protein quality, little is known about the effect of processing methods on protein nutritional quality. Processing may influence the amino acid pattern and digestibility of soy protein, leading to different protein quality scores for different soy protein products. What’s more, consumers have expressed concern that processed soy products found in meat-free alternatives are made less nutritious by these processes.

To gain a better understanding of the effect of processing on the protein quality of soy, Unilever and Wageningen University researchers assessed the indispensable amino acid (IAA) composition and digestibility of varying soy products, to obtain both digestibility indispensable amino acids scores (DIAAS) and protein digestibility corrected amino acid scores (PDCAAS).

DIAAS is the current standard of evaluating protein quality and was developed by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization about a decade ago in order to address certain limitations of the older PDCAAS score.

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