Despite being one of the most popular crops in the world, there's a lot of mystery around edamame—immature soybeans cooked and served inside their pods. Is it an awesome plant-based protein source? Or will it completely mess with your hormones? Can you cook with it, or do you just eat it the way they serve it in those little bowls at sushi restaurants? Consider this your edamame primer because all your burning questions are about to be answered.
"Edamame is an excellent source of many nutrients and antioxidants and is a great food to include in your diet," says registered dietitian Mascha Davis, RD. Here's why you should consider it the next time you're looking for a plant-based protein to mix things up.
- Mascha Davis, MPH, RDN, registered dietitian and founder of Nomadista Nutrition
What are the most important edamame benefits for your bod?
1. It's a good source of protein. One cup of edamame has a whopping 14 grams of protein, making it an excellent energy source—especially for vegans. "It's higher in protein than chickpeas, lentils, or black beans," Davis says.
2. It has all the essential amino acids. Leucine, lysine, threonine, tryptophan...gang's all here! "Edamame has all nine essential amino acids," Davis says. This makes it a complete protein source, versus sources like grains, nuts, and seeds.
3. Edamame is a good source of fiber. This is another reason why Davis is into edamame. One cup has six grams of fiber, which is a fourth of your recommended daily intake.
4. It supports healthy weight management. You can thank all of edamame's great fiber for this one. "Fiber helps maintain a healthy weight by slowing down nutrient absorption," Davis says. "This is good because sugars are absorbed slower, so energy is released gradually and the body can metabolize those nutrients better. Fiber also contributes to heart health and can help lower cholesterol."
5. It's full of folate. "Edamame is a great source of folate," Davis says. Considering the nutrient is linked to lowering the risk of heart disease and strokes while also supporting hair and nail growth, that's a pretty major win.
6. Edamame is a good source of vitamin K. Vitamin K plays an essential role in blood clotting, helps maintain a healthy metabolism, and regulates calcium levels—and it just happens that edamame is full of it. "A cup of edamame covers about 41 percent of our daily vitamin K needs," Davis says. But it's important to pair it with olive oil, avocado, or another healthy fat to really reap the benefits. "Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin, so eating some fat with the beans will help absorb more of it," Davis says.
7. It has calcium. Not only does edamame have vitamin K, which helps regulate calcium levels, it contains calcium itself. That makes it a double-win for your bones.
Are there any downsides of eating edamame?
1. Edamame is a soy product, which has potential hormonal effects. Edamame is a type of soy and thus has a bad rep amongst some people in the wellness space for its hormone-disrupting potential. (Basically, soy is high in phytoestrogens, compounds that can mimic the activity of estrogens.) While scientific evidence has largely debunked the idea that moderate amounts of soy will disrupt healthy people's hormones, people who are pregnant, in treatment for hormone-related cancers, or taking thyroid medications should talk to their doctor before upping soy intake (including edamame) to make sure it won't interfere with your healthy.
2. Most edamame is genetically modified. The majority of soy is grown in the US and soy is one of the biggest GMO crops grown here. If this is something you're worried about, look for a certified organic food label when buying edamame products at the grocery store.
3 ways to try edamame—besides eating it straight from the pod
If you're looking for a completely plant-based lunch or dinner that's protein-packed enough to sustain you, this recipe from My New Roots is it. It's made with edamame and lentils—two great energy sources.
Edamame is a natural star in Asian-inspired dishes, as this Thai quinoa bowl so beautifully proves. The quinoa and cashews give additional protein while the broccoli, carrots, and red cabbage amp up the fiber.
You can also keep things simple and enjoy edamame on its own, with just salt and vinegar drizzled on top. Roasting them in the oven will help them absorb the flavor, making it a truly satisfying snack.
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