9 Surprising Benefits of Edamame

Image via Bembu

By Bembu

If you’ve ever been to a restaurant that serves edamame as an appetizer, then you know how addictive those little green treasures can be. You may have even embarrassed yourself by scarfing them down faster than anyone at the table. Although the name “edamame” sounds pretty fancy, it’s just another way of saying steamed or boiled green soybeans still in their pod. Most of the time, they are served with salt to further enhance their deliciousness.

Although edamame is 100 percent plant-based and full of fiber, protein, and vitamins and minerals, many people shy away from soy. But these legumes have some fantastic health benefits that are worth giving them a second chance. Here are nine surprising benefits of edamame and some tasty ideas for enjoying them.


What is Edamame?

Edamame is a Japanese term that translates to “unripened green soybeans still in their pod.” They are harvested before they ripen or harden and are enjoyed by people all over the world as a tasty snack or in main dishes. You can buy them fresh, frozen or dried.

Because they are a complete protein, edamame is a vital source of protein for people who follow plant-based diets. A complete protein contains all nine of the essential amino acids. They are usually found in animal-based foods, but edamame is one of the few plant foods that includes all of them. Quinoa is another good example. Edamame is also gluten-free, low in calories, and high in iron and calcium.

 

One cup of frozen edamame beans provides you with 10 percent of your daily recommended intake of calcium, 20 percent of iron, 16 percent of vitamin C, 121 percent of folate, and 52 percent of vitamin K. Here is a complete breakdown of its nutritional profile based on a one-cup serving:

  • 188 calories
  • 18 g of protein
  • 8 g of fat
  • 8 g of dietary fiber
  • 13 g of carbohydrates
  • 3 g of sugars
  • 98 milligrams (mg) of calcium
  • 52 mg of iron
  • 99 mg of magnesium
  • 676 mg of potassium
  • 262 mg of phosphorus
  • 5 mg of vitamin C
  • 482 mg of folate
  • 41 mcg of vitamin K

Edamame is also high in the protective plant chemical called isoflavones, which are a type of phytoestrogen that may have antioxidant properties. In fact, soy products are the most abundant source of isoflavones in the human diet. They have an estrogenic activity that binds to estrogen receptors within cells and may be able to reduce the risk of hormone-related cancers, such as breast, uterine, and prostate cancers. Isoflavones may also be able to enhance bone mineral density and blood lipid profiles, according to some studies.

Health Benefits of Edamame

 

Any food that packs as much of a nutritional punch as edamame is sure to contain a lot of health benefits. Here are nine that might surprise you.


9 Surprising Benefits of Edamame

1. May prevent age-related brain diseases

Plant-based foods are well known for promoting overall health, but research shows that populations who eat higher amounts of soy may be at a reduced risk of developing brain diseases later in life. A 2006 research published in the Environmental Health Perspectives journal found that both men and women who eat traditional Asian diets may be less likely to develop age-related brain diseases as well as depression.

Authors of the research believe that soy’s brain-protecting properties may be due to its high isoflavone content. One researcher stated that there had been work done on monkeys showing that soy modifies the metabolism of serotonin in a manner that might be useful for the prevention of depression. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in the brain that helps make you feel happy. It is also believed to control social behavior, mood, sleeping and eating patterns, coping mechanisms, and cognitive function. One study supported this theory by finding that women who were given isoflavone supplements for six months performed better on a verbal fluency test than women who were given placebos.

2. May lower cholesterol

Edamame is a cholesterol-free food that might be able to prevent the buildup of cholesterol. Several studies have linked abnormally high amounts of cholesterol to an increased risk of heart disease. One study pointed out that high cholesterol is linked to an increase in death in most people over 60 years old.

Another study found that people who ate 47 grams of soy protein each day lowered their total cholesterol by 9.3 percent. Additionally, their LDL or “bad” cholesterol went down 12.9 percent. Finally, a study published in the journal Circulation recommended that eating 50 grams of soy protein each day lowers bad cholesterol by 3 percent.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also supports the health benefits of soy on the heart. They recommend eating soy protein as well as a diet low in saturated fat to help prevent heart disease. When it comes to protein, soy might be different from other types. Unlike animal-based proteins, soy is high in fiber, vitamin K, and antioxidants, which may reduce heart disease by improving your blood lipid profile, according to some studies.

3. May help stabilize blood sugar levels

9 Surprising Benefits of Edamame

Even if you don’t have diabetes, it’s important to eat foods that keep your blood sugar levels in check. Despite being a legume, soy is relatively low in carbohydrates compared to other forms. It’s also high in fiber and doesn’t contain any added sugar, which may help send a steady stream of glucose to the rest of your body without spikes or dips.

Research shows that people who eat a lot of processed sugar are at an increased risk of developing diabetes. But edamame has a low glycemic index rating, and its high fiber content prevents excessive blood glucose dumping, meaning that it won’t spike blood sugar levels. It’s a great food to eat as part of a plant-based or low-sugar diet.

4. May help manage menopausal symptoms

Menopause occurs when a woman reaches the age when she stops menstruating. It usually happens around 51; however, this number differs for every woman. Symptoms may include hot flashes, mood swings, urinary incontinence, weight gain, bone loss, and changes in the breasts and skin. But several studies suggest that soy and isoflavones may reduce these side effects.

Interestingly, not all women respond well to the isoflavones in soy. You have to have the right type of gut bacteria. That’s because certain types of bacteria convert isoflavones into a compound that is believed to be responsible for many of the benefits of soybeans called equol. Research shows that if you have this type of gut bacteria that produce equol, then you may benefit from using soy to prevent menopausal symptoms.

One study found that women who took 135 mg of isoflavones per day for one week (or the equivalent of eating 68 grams of soybeans daily) reduced their menopausal symptoms, but only if they were equol producers. People in Asian populations tend to produce more equol than Westerners, and it might have something to do with the high intake of soy products in this area.

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