12 Reasons to include Edamame in your diet
Edamame (pronounced Eh-Dah-MAH-May) are young soy beans which have been harvested early, before they have hardened, and they've been around for centuries. In fact, edamame were cultivated in China and other Asian countries as early as the third and fourth centuries AD.
They can be bought shelled or in pods and if you can't find fresh, they are usually available frozen. The USA has become the largest grower of soybeans in the world but most are used for animal feed or soybean oil. Unfortunately, almost 90% of soy products in the US come from GM soy beans - certified organic soy beans and those that are not from the USA are not likely to be GM, but it's wise to double check before purchasing.
We love cooking with edamame, or eating them as a tasty, high-protein snack, so we've come up with 12 reasons to include these little pods of nutrition in your diet!
#1. They're a complete source of dietary protein
Great for vegans and vegetarians who can't get their protein from meat or dairy sources, edamame contain all of the nine essential amino acids your body needs, and did you know they're the only plant-based source of complete protein? Replacing meat-based protein with edamame could cut your risk of developing heart disease (1). Half a cup of green soybeans contains 11 grams of protein!
#2. They're packed with vitamins
A cup of edamame contains 16% of your body's daily vitamin C needs, 10% of calcium, 121% of folate and 52% of vitamin K (for healthy bones). You'll also find thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin E, magnesium, copper, zinc, potassium and manganese (2) - we told you these little beans are good for you!
#3. They contain isoflavones
The phytoestrogens (a type of isoflavones) contained in edamame and other soy products can reduce your risk of developing osteporosis in later life, and whilst the jury is out as to the benefits and dangers of phytoestrogens, they're said to also reduce symptoms of PMS and reduce your risk of certain types of cancers by regulating your oestrogen levels and lowering your cholesterol. The magnesium and calcium they contain can also help to prevent migraines.
#4. They're a source of good fats
A cup of edamame beans contains 8 grams of fat - but that includes 3 grams of polyunsaturated fat. Consuming unsaturated (good) fats can help to lower your overall cholesterol levels and keep your heart healthy. Edamame's polyunsatured fats include omega-3 fatty acids, which can boost brain health and reduce your risk of heart disease (3).
#5. They're versatile
Edamame can be served as a healthy snack by boiling them for just 5 minutes and sprinkling with a little salt - remember, you don't eat the pods! They're a great accompaniment to some of our healthy sushi recipes. They can also be used as a replacement for peas in many recipes, pureed and added to hummus, baked with olive oil and a little parmesan or used in soups, stews, salads and stir fries - phew! If you're buying frozen edamame, make sure you check that they don't contain any additives.
#6. They bolster your immune system
You'll find that edamame contain around 60% of your recommended daily intake of copper, which can help to keep your immune system functioning optimally. In addition, phytoestrogens Daidizein and Genistein can help to ward off certain types of cancer in women (4). We all need a bit of help fighting off colds and flu during the winter months, so try adding some edamame to your diet.
#7. They're an excellent source of fibre
A cup of edamame contains 4 grams of fibre and we all know we need to eat more fibre - not only does it help our digestive system to function as it should (and keeps us regular), it can also help to lower cholesterol levels and ensure we feel full after eating. If you're a constant grazer or can't resist snacks, perhaps you need to eat more fibre. Try edamame and the fibre they contain should stop you reaching for unhealthy snacks mid-afternoon.
#8. They can help protect your kidneys
Edamame can be eaten to decrease the levels of protein in the urine for those with early-stage kidney disease, which could help to slow the progression of the disease (5). Even if you're healthy, eating edamame could help to protect your kidneys.
#9. They're loaded with antioxidants
Boiled, baked or chucked into a healthy stir-fry as one of your five-a-day, edamame contain high levels of antioxidants, which can help flush out toxins and damage-causing free radicals to strengthen and bolster your immune system. Saponins and isoflavones help to protect the body against free radicals and are found in high quantities in edamame.
#10. They're good for your skin
Edamame are packed with vitamin A, which helps to keep your skin smooth and silky soft. Vitamin A is also important for healthy vision and a properly-functioning immune system; it can help your body to fight viruses. Other great sources of vitamin A include carrots, sweet potatoes and squash - try some of our super-healthy sweet potato recipes for inspiration!
#11. They may help to prevent diabetes
In animal studies, foods containing soy, such as edamame and other soy products, were shown to lessen insulin resistance, but only when combined with healthy polyunsaturated fat. In some populations in Asia, consuming approximately 200g of soy a day is linked to a decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, although studies in the UK and USA are still inconclusive (6).
#12. They taste amazing
The best reason to include edamame in your diet is their flavour - sort of like a nuttier, stronger-flavoured broad bean. Used in a variety of dishes, from pasta to stir-fries and Japanese noodle dishes, they add flavour and pack a nutritional punch, are loaded with vitamins and count as one of your five-a-day! What's not to love?
If you're looking for edamame inspiration, why not try some of these amazing recipes - we especially love the Edamame Spinach Scramble which we think would be great for a weekend brunch that's loaded with protein; perfect for after your workout!
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