The consumption of soy products, including edamame, has become a controversial subject in recent years.
While some claim that soy can block thyroid function and fuel cancer growth, more and more emerging research shows that this delicious legume can actually be a healthy addition to a well-rounded diet.
So what exactly is this tasty legume and is edamame bad for you? Let’s take a closer look to discover everything you need to know about this nutritious soy product.
What Is Edamame?
Edamame is a type of immature soybean commonly found in many types of Asian cuisine. The round, bright green beans are often still encased in their pods and are popped out prior to consumption.
Although soybeans have been cultivated in China for over 7,000 years, they were only introduced to the U.S. within the last few centuries. In fact, the use of the term “edamame” was first recorded in 1951, and it didn’t appear in the dictionary until 2003.
Additionally, while it’s a common source of confusion, the official edamame pronunciation is “eh-duh-maa-mei,” and the term is actually derived from the Chinese words for “steam” and “pea.”
Today, edamame is a popular product found in the frozen section of nearly every grocery store. It’s also featured in a variety of recipes and is favored for its unique taste, texture and nutrition profile.
Edamame is relatively low in carbs and calories, but rich in protein, fiber and an array of important micronutrients.
One cup of prepared edamame beans contains the following nutrients:
- 189 calories
- 16 grams carbohydrate
- 17 grams protein
- 8 grams fat
- 8 grams dietary fiber
- 482 micrograms folate (121 percent DV)
- 1.6 milligrams manganese (79 percent DV)
- 41.4 micrograms vitamin K (52 percent DV)
- 0.5 milligrams copper (27 percent DV)
- 262 milligrams phosphorus (26 percent DV)
- 99.2 milligrams magnesium (25 percent DV)
- 0.3 milligrams thiamine (21 percent DV)
- 3.5 milligrams iron (20 percent DV)
- 676 milligrams potassium (19 percent DV)
- 9.5 milligrams vitamin C (16 percent DV)
- 2.1 milligrams zinc (14 percent DV)
- 0.2 milligrams riboflavin (14 percent DV)
In addition to the nutrients listed above, the edamame nutrition facts also contains calcium, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6 and niacin.
1. Supports Heart Health
Edamame is rich in soy protein, which is well-known for its ability to enhance heart health.
According to a review published in New England Journal of Medicine, swapping animal protein for soy protein was effective at improving lipid levels in the blood to help reduce the risk of heart disease.
Edamame is also loaded with fiber, which can help decrease cholesterol levels and block the build-up of fatty plaque in the arteries.
2. Linked to Lower Risk of Cancer
Studies show that soy products, such as edamame, may help protect against certain types of cancer.
In particular, research suggests that soy consumption may be linked to a lower risk of prostate cancer in men.
Other studies have found that a higher intake of soy could be associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer as well, although more research is still needed.
3. Great Source of Protein
One of the top edamame benefits is its impressive plant-based protein content. In fact, a single serving contains a whopping 17 grams of protein, putting it right on par with other protein foods like poultry, fish and eggs.
Protein plays a central role in overall health and is crucial to tissue repair, muscle growth, immune function and more.
Filling up on high-protein foods can also help keep you feeling fuller for longer to support increased weight loss.
4. Keeps Bones Strong
Edamame is high in soy isoflavones, a compound that has been linked to a number of powerful health benefits.
Soy isoflavones may be especially beneficial when it comes to bone health, with some research showing that they can actually impact bone metabolism and increase bone mineral density.
One study published in European Journal of Clinical Nutrition even found that soy isoflavones were effective at promoting bone formation and preventing bone loss in menopausal women.
5. Soothes Symptoms of Menopause
For this reason, they may be beneficial for women going through menopause, which is the natural decline in hormone levels that marks the end of a woman’s reproductive years.
Interestingly enough, one study out of Sweden found that taking 60 milligrams of isoflavones daily for 12 weeks reduced symptoms of menopause like hot flashes and night sweats by 57 percent and 43 percent, respectively.
6. Increases Weight Loss
Edamame is packed with protein and fiber, both of which are incredibly important on a healthy, weight loss diet.
Fiber moves through the gastrointestinal tract slowly, promoting satiety to curb cravings and appetite.
Meanwhile, protein can increase feelings of fullness and reduce levels of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, to support long-lasting weight loss.
7. Stabilizes Blood Sugar
Like other types of legumes, edamame is a great choice when it comes to maintaining steady blood sugar levels.
It has a low glycemic index, which is a measure of how much specific foods increase blood sugar levels when consumed.
It’s also rich in fiber, which slows the absorption of sugar in the bloodstream to support better glycemic control.
Furthermore, one study found that administering soy isoflavones to postmenopausal women was able to significantly reduce both blood sugar levels by and insulin within a six-month period.
Edamame is available in fresh and frozen varieties, both of which are nutritious and easy to prepare.
It can also be purchased still in the pods or shelled, based on your personal taste and preferences.
A variety of products like edamame pasta, edamame spaghetti and edamame noodles have started to pop up on supermarket shelves lately as well.
However, because these products are highly processed, it’s unclear whether these products contain the same health benefits, so it’s best to stick to fresh varieties whenever possible.
There are plenty of options for how to eat and enjoy this tasty legume, whether it’s as an appetizer, snack or side dish.
How to Eat
There are several different options for how to cook edamame, which makes it easy to find something to satisfy nearly any palate.
You can steam, sear, boil, roast or microwave edamame and consume it either hot or cold, depending on your preferences.
It’s often cooked and served still in the pod, so be sure to remove the beans inside prior to consumption.
Simply pop the beans out with your fingers or bite into the pod to remove them.
Then, top it off with a bit of salt for a simple snack or enjoy in your favorite recipes, from salads to sushi bowls.
Risk and Side Effects
Despite the many benefits of edamame nutrition, there are several side effects that you may want to consider as well.
For starters, many people wonder: is edamame soy? The answer is yes, and because this nutritious legume is made from immature soybeans, it is not suitable for those with an allergy to soy products.
Additionally, according to the Center for Food Safety, it’s estimated that around 94 percent of soybeans in the U.S. are genetically engineered.
Many people choose to avoid consumption of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) due to concerns about long-term health effects, antibiotic resistance and food allergies.
Selecting organic varieties of edamame whenever possible is a simple way to minimize your exposure to GMO foods.
Keep in mind that soybeans also contain a good amount of antinutrients, which are compounds that block the absorption of certain minerals in the body.
However, preparation methods such as soaking, sprouting, fermenting and cooking can significantly reduce the amount of antinutrients present in the final product.
Soy also contains goitrogens, which are compounds that can interfere with thyroid function by blocking the absorption of iodine.
Fortunately, research shows that consumption of soy products is unlikely to impact thyroid function in healthy adults, unless an iodine deficiency is also present.
Finally, although it’s relatively low in carbs and high in fiber, those on a keto or low-carb diet should also be mindful of their intake to keep carb consumption in moderation.
- What is edamame? This type of legume is made from immature soybeans, and is available still in the pods or pre-shelled.
- The edamame nutrition profile is high in protein and fiber, plus important vitamins and minerals like folate, manganese and vitamin K.
- Is edamame good for you? This nutritious legume has been linked to a number of health benefits, including increased weight loss, enhanced heart health, reduced bone loss, better blood sugar control, a lower risk of cancer and relief from several symptoms of menopause.
- However, many varieties are genetically modified, it can contain antinutrients and goitrogens and it’s not suitable for those with an allergy to soy.
- There are plenty of options for how to make edamame, and it’s easy to enjoy boiled, steamed, roasted, seared or simply microwaved as a healthy addition to a balanced diet.