It seems that soy crops up everywhere. It's in milk, frozen foods, dairy, fuel, oil and a slew of other products. How one little plant fits its way into so many different things is a mystery to many people, but it doesn't make them any less curious. Just what is soy?

What Is Soy?

Simply stated, soy is a bean. These legumes can be grown in a wide variety of soils, and are quite hardy, although they cannot deal with frost, so a cool climate might put them at risk.

Where Does Soy Come From?

It is believed by many that soy beans were cultivated from the Glycine ussuriensis, a wild, Asian vine. In China, soy beans were grown before recorded history, and spread to the rest of the world through contact with outsiders, such as Europeans and eventually Americans.

Soy in Foods

Soy is used to produce soy milk, tofu, grits, soy sauce, teriyaki and vegetable oil. Soy is also a large component in many animal feeds, since it possesses a great deal of protein, and while green it can be used as hay, forage or even fertilizer.

Industrial Soy

While soy is an industry in and of itself, with 50 percent of the world's crop being grown in the United States, soy can be used to make things other than food. Soy is often used in the creation of glycerin, writing ink, paints, soaps, linoleum and rubber substitutes.

Health Claims

Some say soy lowers cholesterol, prevents the risk of certain cancers, and provides the protein of meat without the health risks. While there have been a few studies done on this subject, the evidence is not yet in as to whether or not this plant will indeed make a person healthier.