The Secret of Edamame
Soy snack is a yummy - and healthy - handful
What's so secret about edamame? Well, the name for starters. The first few
times I heard it, I had to ask, "eda-whaty?" As it turns out, it's just
a fancy name for boiled green soybeans -- and the real secret is that they are
much yummier than they sound.
I knew edamame had "arrived" when I saw Faith Hill snacking on them
during a backstage-type interview for Country Music Television. They're the
snack my favorite Japanese restaurant brings you when you sit down to a table,
and they're the after-school snack my daughter asks for by name.
Say what you will about the debate over the health benefits of soy: any way
you slice it, the edamame is a star legume! Just 1/2 cup of them a day really
punches up the fiber, protein and vitamin/mineral content of your diet.
Here's what you'll find in a half-cup serving of shelled edamame (or 1 1/8
cup edamame in the pods):
- 120 calories
- 9 grams fiber
- 2.5 grams fat
- 1.5 grams polyunsaturated fat (0.3 grams plant omega-3 fatty acids)
- 0.5 gram monounsaturated fat
- 11 grams protein
- 13 grams carbohydrate
- 15 mg sodium
- 10% of the Daily Value for vitamin C
- 10% Daily Value for iron
- 8% Daily Value for vitamin A
- 4% Daily Value for calcium
As you can see, that little serving of edamame gives you a bunch of fiber: 9
grams, about the same amount you'll find in 4 slices of whole-wheat bread or 4
cups of steamed zucchini. It has almost as much protein as it does
carbohydrate. It contains around 10% of the Daily Value for two key
antioxidants; vitamins C and A. And for a plant food, it's quite high in iron;
it has about as much as a 4-ounce roasted chicken breast.
The Soy Debate
The idea that soy is a wonder food has lost a bit of ground recently. An
analysis of nearly 200 soy studies done over the past 20 years found that no
firm conclusions could be made about most of the proposed benefits of soy.
According to Mark Messina, PhD, president of the nutritional consulting firm
Nutrition Matters, these results aren't surprising because firm conclusions can
be made only on the basis of large, long-term studies. As you might expect,
these types of studies are very expensive.
"Consequently, most of the soy studies have been relatively short in
duration and usually involved relatively small subject numbers," explains
Although most researchers agree that further research is needed, recent
studies propose the following possible health benefits of soy:
- Soy protein may help reduce insulin resistance, kidney damage, and fatty
liver in people with diabetes, according to a study in rats.
- A new study from the Chinese University of Hong Kong indicated that soy
protein containing isoflavones (phytoestrogens) significantly reduced overall
cholesterol and LDL "bad" cholesterol, and raised HDL or "good"
cholesterol, especially in men.
- A study in women reported that regular consumption of soy foods was
associated with healthy cholesterol levels.
- The component thought to be at least partly responsible for soy's health
benefits is a type of phytoestrogen called isoflavones. Isoflavones also appear
to work with certain proteins in soy to protect against cancer, heart disease,
- Results from a new study in China suggest that eating more soybean protein
may help prevent and treat hypertension.
- A study in which 12 postmenopausal women drank 36 ounces of soy milk daily
for 16 weeks noted an anti-inflammatory effect of the isoflavones found in soy.
According to the study authors, this may be important in the prevention of bone
loss and cancer, among other things.
The bottom line: "It remains prudent to recommend soy in a heart-healthy
diet because of [its] nutritional value and as a healthy substitute for protein
sources that are higher in saturated fat and cholesterol," says
Pennsylvania State University nutrition researcher Penny Kris-Etherton, PhD,