Exotic and ever enjoyable edamame

Edamame – ever eaten it?  There was a time when very few people knew what edamame even was.  But ever since Americans took a strong liking to sushi back in the 1980’s when Japanese restaurants in California served them with Japanese beer, the popularity of eating edamame has steadily grown over the years. It was in 1994 when packaged ready-to-eat edamame appeared in a supermarket for the first time.  

Definitely more appealing than tofu or tempeh, edamame resembles a lima bean but with a much more pleasing taste and texture and has introduced individuals in the U.S. to the world of soybeans.  Edamame is an immature green soybean that is sometimes called green vegetable soybeans and is considered the second most popular soyfood in America after soymilk.

This young soybean known as edamame has been harvested before the beans have had a chance to harden.  They can be purchased shelled or in the pod, fresh or frozen. 

Sometimes edamame will be labeled as “mukimama” which is the Japanese term for edamame that is shelled from the pod.  Most U.S. grocery stores will usually have the packages labeled as “shelled edamame.”

Excellent nutritional profile

When it comes to nutritional exceptionality, edamame is tough to beat.  Packed with nutrients, it is considered a standout even among other soyfoods.  One cup of edamame contains just under 200 calories, 8 grams of fiber, and 18 grams of complete protein.  Edamame is also well-balanced in terms of its macronutrient makeup – about one-third of the calories in edamame come from protein, one-third from carbohydrate, and one-third from fat.  This balanced ratio of macronutrients makes edamame a winner in terms of being a perfect snack providing the right balance of protein, carbs, and fat plus fiber to increase satiety. 

The fat composition found in edamame beans are a good source of both omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fats with one cup of cooked beans providing nearly 3 grams of omega-6 and nearly 0.6 grams of omega-3 fats.

It’s no surprise but edamame is also a standout in terms of vitamins and minerals it provides.  This soybean is an excellent source of thiamin, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, vitamin D, folate, and manganese. 

Edamame’s star nutrient – isoflavones

Phytochemicals abound in edamame but what really is impressive about it is the fact it contains isoflavones which soyfoods contain abundantly.  The richest sources of isoflavones are soybeans and soy products in the human diet.  Isoflavones are phytoestrogens which are plant chemicals with the capability of having estrogenlike effects. 

There was at one time controversy surrounding the eating of soyfood.  This stemmed from past studies using rats exposed to high doses of isoflavones showed an increase in breast cancer.  Today, this old information has been debunked and even the American Cancer Society states that no reliable studies have pointed to any dangers from eating edamame and other soyfoods.  In fact, the American Institute for Cancer Research considers soy a food that fights cancer.

Soy isoflavones are believed to be of benefit for the following health conditions:

·Controlling symptoms of menopause and perimenopause such as reducing frequency and severity of hot flashes. 

·Maintaining bone mineral density helping to increase bone strength and reduce incidence of osteoporosis

·May help to offset the action of the body’s natural estrogen which sometimes can lead to monthly menstrualpain, heavy bleeding and other symptoms of endometriosis in women

·May protect against enlargement of the prostate gland which can lead to urinary difficulties, frequent nighttime awakenings and erectile dysfunction

·May protect against hormone-related cancers of the breast, prostate, and endometrium.

Even though isoflavones may act like estrogen, they also have antiestrogen properties by being able to block the more potent natural estrogens from binding to the estrogen receptor.  In addition, they stop the formation of estrogens in fat tissue and can stimulate production of a protein that binds estrogen in the blood, making it less able to bind to the receptor.  Isoflavones also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can work in other ways to reduce cancer. 

Eating edamame

Generally, most people take a strong liking to edamame.  Whether eaten shelled or unshelled, edamame is fun and delicious to eat having a naturally pleasing taste with just enough texture to make it seem fulfilling and appetizing. 

The ways to enjoy eating edamame are endless.  They can be boiled, steamed, microwaved and then sprinkled with salt which is a tradition.  Be creative and use various salts such as black or truffle.  Add more flavor to eating edamame by cooking them in a wok with a little oil, garlic, and crushed chili peppers or chili paste.  Edamame can also be eaten just as a snack by themselves and are delicious hot, cold, or at room temperature.

Edamame has great versatility as it easily goes with many different foods – add shelled edamame to pilafs, casseroles, pastas, soups, or stews.  Bump up flavor and nutrients to grains such as rice, couscous, or quinoa by adding in edamame. They also go great with salads or pureeing them to make a dip or a spread for a wrap or sandwich.  Increase protein and fiber content of guacamole by adding pureed edamame to a mashed avocado. 

No matter how you use edamame, anyone looking to add in more plant-based protein to their diet, need to look into using edamame. For more information and recipes on edamame and other soy foods, visit www.soyconnection.com