Those with soy intolerance or allergy should avoid soybeans
Medically reviewed by Jamie Johnson, RDN
Edamame is a low-carb, high-protein soybean and a type of legume. It's rich in fiber, folate, and magnesium and contains all nine essential amino acids. Soybeans picked young are edamame, which are soft and easy to eat. Mature soybeans are dry and used to make soy products like tofu.
Edamame is traditionally found in East Asian cuisine and is prevalent in vegetarian and vegan diets. In grocery stores, you can find edamame whole, shelled, frozen, or fresh.
Soy is among the top eight allergens in the United States. Soy allergies can have serious side effects. If you are allergic to soy, avoid edamame.
This article covers the health benefits of edamame, how best to prepare them, and how to spot soy allergies.
Nutrition Profile of Edamame
Edamame contains all essential amino acids and is rich in calcium, fiber, vitamin C, and iron. The nutritional breakdown of 1 cup of beans (shelled edamame) includes:
Fat: 8 grams (g)
Protein: 18.4 g
Calcium: 97.6 milligrams (mg)
Iron: 3.52 mg
Sodium: 9.4 mg
Carbohydrates: 13.8 g
Fiber: 8 g
Sugars: 3.4 g
Magnesium: 99.2 mg
Vitamin C: 9.45 mg
Where to Find Edamame
Whole or shelled edamame can usually be found in your local grocer's frozen vegetable aisle. Some stores with a specialty produce section will carry fresh edamame pods.
Health Benefits of Eating Edamame
Edamame is an excellent source of vegetable protein, with more than 18 g per cup (boiled and shelled). Soy protein is considered high-quality because it contains all nine essential amino acids, which is why it's often a staple in vegan and vegetarian diets.
Low in Carbohydrates
Soybeans are naturally gluten-free and low in carbohydrates compared to other legumes. For example, edamame contains only 14 g of carbs per cup compared to 40 g for cooked kidney beans.
Prevents Sugar Spikes
Edamame is considered a high-fiber food. One cup satisfies about one-third of the recommended daily intake. Because of this, they are an excellent snack for those with diabetes, as the high protein and fiber content prevents sugar spikes. Soy products like edamame are also high in protein and contain compounds called isoflavones that have been shown to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Lowers LDL Cholesterol Levels
Edamame is low-fat (8 g per cup) and contains polyunsaturated fats, which are considered "good" fats that can help lower total cholesterol and and levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol ("bad" cholesterol). In one review of 46 studies, researchers found that 25 grams of soy protein daily reduced overall LDL levels in adults by up to 4%. One cup of edamame has about 18 g of soy protein.
Reduces Menopause Symptoms
Soybeans contain naturally occurring plant compounds called phytoestrogens, which mimic the female hormone estrogen. The production of estrogen slows during menopause, causing bone loss, vaginal atrophy, and other symptoms.
One study found consuming about 15 g of soy protein, like edamame, for six months has been shown to reduce bone loss. While more research is needed, some evidence indicates that consuming soy, such as edamame, during menopause may help reduce symptoms such as hot flashes.
Lowers Risk of Heart Disease
Soy foods, like edamame, have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and improve the function of the heart and blood vessels thanks to their combination of polyunsaturated fat, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
One study shows replacing red meat with soy and nuts lowered the risk of heart disease by 14%. Other research found that those who ate soy products at least four times a week had a lower chance of heart disease compared to those who didn't eat soy at all.
May Prevent Prostate Cancer
Some studies found isoflavones, compounds in soy, inhibit the growth and development of prostate cancer. Once digested, soy isoflavones become steroid-like compounds that decrease cell transition spreading. People in countries with a traditional diet high in soy products show a much lower rate of prostate cancer than populations without a high intake of soy.
Reduces Blood Pressure
Foods rich in potassium, like edamame, have been shown to lower blood pressure levels. The mineral helps relax blood vessel walls, which reduces blood pressure. One cup of edamame beans has about 676 mg of potassium. That's about 25% of the recommended daily value for adult women and 20% for adult men.
If you're not allergic to soy and don't have conditions that may worsen with soy consumption, it's safe to eat edamame frequently. Be sure to look for signs of gas or bloating, which may indicate intolerance. Adjust intake accordingly or talk to a healthcare provider.
Are Edamame Beans and Pods Both Edible?
Edamame shells may be tempting to chew on because they absorb flavor during preparation. Technically, both the pod and the edamame beans are edible, but it isn't advisable to eat the pods as they are tough to chew and swallow. Edamame pods, or shells, should be disposed of or composted.
If you've eaten a pod or part of a pod by mistake, don't worry. They are not toxic and will likely be digested with ease, but an excessive number of pods may cause digestive issues.
Soy Risks and Considerations
Soy allergies typically appear in children 3 and under, but it's possible to develop an allergy at any age. Telling signs of an immune response to soy include:
Be mindful of soy intolerance, which may appear as digestive issues, bloating, gas, or other mild symptoms.
Because soy can be found in many foods, like soy milk, tofu, soy sauce, and even processed foods like bread and energy bars, it's important to keep track of developing symptoms.
Cooking, Preparing, and Shelling
If you're going for a snack, boil, steam, or microwave whole pods for 10 to 15 minutes (shells on) or until soft. Then strain, rinse, and salt to taste. Use your teeth to pop the beans out of the shell.
Use the same cooking methods when working with edamame beans. Then toss, mash, or prepare as you'd like. They can be added to soups, salads or pureed as a hummus alternative.
You must cook edamame. Soybeans can cause serious digestive issues when eaten raw.
Edamame is the only source of plant protein containing all nine amino acids. They are high in fiber, low in carbs, and even have helpful fat compounds that lower total cholesterol levels and relieve hot flashes.
Relatively inexpensive and quick to prepare, edamame is a staple for vegans and vegetarians. Because edamame is an immature soybean, those with soy allergies should steer clear, and those with an intolerance should consult a healthcare provider before consuming.
Read the original article on Verywell Health.