Health Benefits of Edamame

Are Edamame Good for People With Diabetes?

Edamame
Thomas Gasienica/Getty Images

If you've ever been to a Japanese restaurant, chances are you've snacked on edamame, firm little beans encased inside fuzzy green pods. But you don't need to be eating out (or to fork over five dollars a serving) to enjoy this protein-packed snack. Edamame is easily available in the freezer section of most grocery stores. Here's why you should eat more edamame.

What Are Edamame?

Edamame are soy beans that are harvested early -- while they are still green.

An early harvest produces a soft, sweeter bean than if they were allowed to fully mature on the vine. You can find frozen shelled and unshelled soy beans in most grocery stores these days, in the frozen vegetable section. They are a quick cook, taking just five or six minutes to boil. Lightly salted you can enjoy them as a snack, or toss them in salads, soups, or any recipe in the place of other beans.

The Nutrition of Edamame

It's high in protein, high in fiber, low in fat, and generally nutrient dense. One cup of edamame in the shell delivers 8 grams of fiber, 17 grams of protein and 8 grams of healthy fats. It also gives you over a day's worth of folate, as well as a range of other B vitamins and minerals, including potassium.

Edamame and Diabetes

As far as studies into the benefits of soy go, the problem is that most soy studies have been relatively short in duration and involved a small sample size.

Because of this, most researchers agree that further research into the benefits of soy is needed. But preliminary research suggests that soy protein may help reduce insulin resistance, kidney damage, and fatty liver in people with diabetes

Edamame and Heart Health and Cancer

Several studies have suggested that regularly eating soy foods produces healthier cholesterol levels.

The health benefits of soy health benefits is due, at least in part, to a type of phytoestrogen called isoflavones, which appear to work with certain proteins in soy to protect against cancer, heart disease, and osteoporosis. Most controversial is the research into soy and cancer prevention, and soy should be avoided if you are taking the anti-cancer drug tamoxifen -- it has been shown to antagonize the effects of this drug in some types of breast cancer.

How to Eat Edamame

There are two main ways to enjoy edamame--in and out of the shell. If you have edamame in the shell, you'll simply need to cook the pods in boiling water, drain, add a sprinkle of salt and then use your teeth to drag the beans out of the shell (they pop out easily).

If you are using shelled edamame, you can add it as you would other beans: to top a salad, to boost the protein content of a bowl of mac & cheese or use it in a recipe where edamame is the star ingredient, such as this edamame carrot salad.

Sources

Azadbakht L, Esmaillzadeh A. Soy-protein consumption and kidney-related biomarkers among type 2 diabetics: a crossover, randomized clinical trial. J Ren Nutr. 2009 Nov;19(6):479-86.

Azadbakht L, Atabak S, Esmailzadeh A. Soy protein intake, cardiorenal indices, and C-reactive protein in type 2 diabetes with nephropathy: a longitudinal randomized clinical trial. Apr 2008;31(4):648-654.

Azadbakht L, Kimiagar M, ehrabi Y, Esmaillzadeh A, Hu FB, Willett WC. Dietary soya intake alters plasma antioxidant status and lipid peroxidation in postmenopausal women with the metabolic syndrome. Br J Nutr. Oct 2007;98(4):807-813.

Liao FH, Shieh MJ, Yang SC, Lin SH, Chien YW. Effectiveness of a soy-based compared with a traditional low-calories diet on weight loss and lipid levels in overweight adults. Nutrition. Jul-Aug 2007;23(7-8):551-556.

Lichtenstein AH. Soy protein, isoflavones, and cardiovascular disease risk. J Nutr 1998;128:1589-92.

Rideout TC, Chan YM, Harding SV, Jones PJ. Low and moderate-fat plant sterol fortified soymilk in modulation of plasma lipids and cholesterol kinetics in subjects with normal to high cholesterol concentrations: report on two randomized crossover studies. Lipids Health Dis. 2009 Oct 20;8:45.

Setchell KD. Phytoestrogens: the biochemistry, physiology, and implications for human health of soy isoflavones. Am J Clin Nutr. Dec 1998;68(6 Suppl):1333S-1346S.

Welty FK, Lee KS, Lew NS, Zhou JR. Effect of soy nuts on blood pressure and lipid levels in hypertensive, prehypertensive, and normotensive postmenopausal women. Arch Intern Med. May 28 2007;167(10):1060-1067.

Morimoto Y, Steinbrecher A, Kolonel LN, Maskarinec G. Soy consumption is not protective against diabetes in Hawaii: the Multiethnic Cohort. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2010 Oct 6.

Steinberg FM, Murray Mj, Lewis RD, et al. Clinical outcomes of a 2-y soy isoflavone supplementation in menopausal women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Dec 22.

Continue Reading