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Food scientists create healthy probiotic drink from soy pulp


Associate Professor Shao-Quan Liu and doctoral student Ms Weng-Chan Vong from the NUS Food Science and Technology Programme have devised a unique cocktail of enzymes, probiotics and yeast to produce an okara beverage rich in gut-friendly nutrients. Credit: National University of Singapore

Food scientists at the National University of Singapore (NUS) have given okara – the residue from the production of soy milk and tofu that is usually discarded – a new lease on life by turning it into a refreshing drink that contains live probiotics, dietary fibre, free isoflavones and amino acids. By encapsulating these nutrients in a beverage, they can be easily absorbed into the body, and promote gut health.


Created using a patented, zero-waste process, the tasty drink can be stored at room temperature for up to six weeks and still retain high counts of live probiotics to better deliver health effects. This is unlike commercially available probiotic drinks which are mainly dairy-based and require refrigeration to maintain their levels of live probiotics. These beverages also have an average shelf-life of four weeks, and do not contain free isoflavones, which have a host of health benefits.

“Okara has an unpleasant smell and taste—it smells fishy, tastes bland, and has a gritty mouthfeel. Our breakthrough lies in our unique combination of enzymes, probiotics and yeast that work together to make okara less gritty, and give it a fruity aroma while keeping the probiotics alive. Our final product offers a nutritious, non-dairy alternative that is eco-friendly,” said project supervisor Associate Professor Shao-Quan Liu, who is from the Food Science and Technology Programme at the NUS Faculty of Science.

Turning unwanted soy pulp into a nutritious drink

About 10,000 tonnes of okara are produced yearly in Singapore. As it turns bad easily, causing it to give out an unpleasant smell and a sour taste, okara is usually discarded by soy food producers as food waste.

The idea of using fermentation to produce a drink from okara was first conceived by Ms Weng-Chan Vong, a Ph.D. student from the NUS Food Science and Technology Programme. She recounted, “Fermented soy products, such as soybean paste and miso, are common in Asian food culture. When I was young, my grandparents explained to me how these fermented foods are made. The fermentation process was like magic to me – it transforms bland food into something delicious.”