Soybean oil is produced from the seeds of the soybean plant. To produce soybean oil, the soybeans are cracked, adjusted for moisture content, heated to between 60 and 88 °C (140–190 °F), rolled into flakes, and solvent-extracted with hexanes. The oil is then refined, blended for different applications, and sometimes hydrogenated. Soybean oils, both liquid and partially hydrogenated are sold as "vegetable oil," or are ingredients in a wide variety of processed foods. Most of the remaining residue (soybean meal) is used as animal feed.
Plant sterols, chemicals derived from soybean oil, are used to lower total cholesterol and “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Specially processed soybean oil is used to treat osteoarthritis.
Some people apply soybean oil directly to the skin to repel mosquitoes and other insects.
Soybean oil is also used as a nutritional supplement in intravenous feedings.
- Soybean oil contains no cholesterol, trans-fats and saturated fats. Diets lower in these are associated with improved heart health.
- Polyunsaturated fats including omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in soybean oil add an additional heart health benefit by reducing total cholesterol, lowering LDL or bad cholesterol levels and increase HDL or good cholesterol levels. There is also some evidence that foods with omega-3s are associated with slowing the growth of atherosclerotic plaque and decreasing triglyceride levels.
- The vitamin E in soybean oil is an antioxidant that works by preventing or reversing the damage caused by free radicals. Decreasing exposure or damage done by free radicals also decreases your risk of some cancers.