Edamame: The health benefits and risks

Edamame is a form of soybean that is still in its infancy. Edamame beans are a common plant-based snack and food with potential health benefits.

Edamame beans are harvested before they ripen or harden. Shelled, in the pod, fresh, or frozen, they are available.

Edamame beans are naturally gluten-free and low in calories, with no cholesterol and a high protein, iron, and calcium content.

Continue reading to learn more about the health benefits of edamame and how to incorporate it into your diet.

Benefits

Soy food intake has been linked to a lower risk of many age- and lifestyle-related illnesses, as well as improved overall health.

1) Age-related brain diseases

edamame
Edamame may help to prevent age-related brain diseases.

Consumption of soy isoflavones has been linked to a reduced risk of cognitive decline in studies.

Treatment with soy isoflavones has been shown to enhance aspects of thinking and cognition, such as nonverbal memory and verbal fluency, in previous studies.

These results were not confirmed in a 2015 report involving 65 people with Alzheimer’s disease.

However, according to a 2015 meta-analysis, soy isoflavones can help improve cognitive function after menopause. The authors recommended that the participants in the studies be followed up on to see whether they developed Alzheimer’s later in life.

2) Cardiovascular disease

Soy protein has been found to have properties that can lower low density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol levels in a person’s blood, according to some scientists.

According to the authors of a 2017 report, soy can also support cardiovascular health through fiber, antioxidants, and other mechanisms.

People can also discover that eating soy products instead of full-fat dairy products lowers their cholesterol levels.

Animal fats appear to be saturated, whereas most plant-based fats are unsaturated. Saturated fat consumption has been linked to heart disease and other cardiovascular issues.

3) Prostate and breast cancer

The impact of soy on breast cancer risk is a subject of debate. Phytoestrogens, which are isoflavones found in soy, tend to behave similarly to estrogen. High estrogen levels have been linked to an increased risk of some types of breast cancer.

Soy, on the other hand, has been linked to a reduction in the risk of breast cancer in Asian women. One explanation for this may be that genistein, the key isoflavone in soy, has antioxidant properties that may inhibit rather than promote cancer cell development.

The evidence does not indicate that soy products raise the risk of breast or other forms of cancer, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). According to the ACS, the benefits of soy consumption far outweigh the risks.

In addition, a 2018 study and meta-analysis found that eating soy products reduces the risk of prostate cancer in men.

4) Depression

Edamame contains folate, which is needed by the body for the production of DNA and proper cell division.

According to previous research, getting enough folate will help prevent depression.

It can accomplish this by preventing too much homocysteine from forming in the body.

Homocysteine levels above a certain threshold can prevent blood and other nutrients from reaching the brain, as well as interfere with the development of serotonin, the “feel-good” hormone. This hormone aids in the regulation of mood, sleep, and appetite.

5) Diabetes

According to a 2012 report, people with type 2 diabetes can benefit from eating unsweetened soy products like edamame.

These researchers looked at data from 43,176 individuals over the course of 5.7 years. They discovered that people who ate unsweetened soy products had a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, while those who ate sweetened soy products had a higher risk.

However, since the study had many flaws, further research is needed to determine if consuming soy products will help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

6) Fertility

Some people believe that eating more iron and protein from plant sources including edamame, spinach, beans, pumpkin, tomatoes, and beets will help with fertility and ovulatory disorders.

Edamame is a rich source of iron, folate, and plant based protein.

According to a 2018 mini-review, a high consumption of folic acid, polyunsaturated fats, and plant-based foods appears to be linked to fertility. The authors advocate for a greater understanding of the role of a healthy diet in fertility issues.

7) Energy levels

Iron deficiency anemia is caused by a lack of iron in the diet, which affects how the body uses energy.

Along with lentils, spinach, and dried fruit, edamame is an excellent nonheme source of iron.

Learn more about anemia due to iron deficiency.

8) Inflammation

Edamame is high in choline, a nutrient related to the B vitamins. It contributes to healthy sleep, muscle movement, learning, and memory.

According to a 2010 report, choline can help reduce the inflammation associated with asthma.

Choline can help protect against the inflammation that contributes to cardiovascular disease, according to a rodent study published in 2017.

These results do not prove that consuming edamame provides these benefits, but it does provide some defense.

A lack of choline, on the other hand, may lead to liver disease, atherosclerosis, and likely neurological disorders.

A cup of hulled edamame beans contains 16 percent of a person’s daily choline requirement.

9) Menopause-related problems

Isoflavones in soy can help alleviate the effects of two aspects of menopause by acting like estrogen. According to a 2016 study, soy isoflavones can help to slow bone loss and improve bone strength.

Another research from 2017 found that women who took soy isoflavones for 12 weeks had less signs of menopause, such as fatigue, hot flashes, depression, and irritability, than those who did not.

The majority of studies have looked at isoflavones in isolation rather than in soy-based foods. It’s unclear if a daily dietary consumption of food has the same impact.

Nutrition

The nutrients mentioned below are found in one cup of shelled edamame. For example, the table shows how much of each of these nutrients an adult requires each day. These nutrient needs can differ depending on a person’s age and gender.

NutrientAmount in a 155-gram cup of shelled edamame beansRecommended daily intake (adult)
Energy (calories)1882,000–3,000
Protein (g)18.546–56
Carbohydrate (g)13.8 of which 3.3 is sugar130
Fiber (g)8.128–33.6
Iron (mg)3.58–18
Calcium (mg)97.61,000
Magnesium (mg)99.2310–400
Phosphorus (mg)262700
Potassium (mg)6764,700
Zinc (mg)2.18–11
Selenium (mcg)1.255
Vitamin C (mg)9.575–90
Folate (mcg)482400
Choline (mg)87.3425–550
Vitamin A, RAE (mcg)23.2700–900
Beta carotene (mcg)271No data
Vitamin K (mcg)41.490–120
Lutein + zeaxanthin (mcg)2,510No data

Vitamin E, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin B-6 are all contained in small quantities in edamame.

An adult gets the following nutrients from one cup of hulled edamame beans:

  • almost 10% of their daily calcium
  • more than 10% of their daily vitamin C
  • around 20% of their daily iron
  • at least 34% of their daily vitamin K
  • at least 120% of their daily folate
  • at least 33% of their daily protein

Edamame also has a full protein profile. This means that, like meat and dairy products, beans contain all of the necessary amino acids that the body requires but cannot generate on its own.

Beans also contain beneficial polyunsaturated fats, especially omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid.

Isoflavones, a form of antioxidant found in soy foods, may help reduce the risk of osteoporosis and cancer.

Recipes

Fresh in the pod, shelled, or frozen options are available. When purchasing frozen edamame, consumers should ensure that the ingredients list only edamame.

Some people may want to know that edamame may have traveled a long way from Asia. If it grows in the United States, it has a good chance of being genetically modified.

Serving tips

Edamame has a mild buttery taste that complements a variety of dishes.

The following are some edamame preparation and serving suggestions:

  • adding it to soups, stews, salads, rice dishes, or casseroles
  • boiling for 5–10 minutes, allowing to cool, and eating from the pod, sprinkled with sea salt
  • serving as a side in place of peas

Recipes from a dietitian

Here are two recipes to try:

Risks

Excessive soy intake has been attributed in the past to an increased risk of a specific type of breast cancer, but experts currently do not believe this is the case.

Soy is a common allergen in infants and children, and it may cause symptoms in people who have eosinophilic esophagitis, a type of allergic esophagitis.

Anyone who has had an allergic reaction to edamame should avoid eating it. If the person develops swelling, hives, or breathing problems, they should seek medical help right away. Anaphylaxis, a potentially fatal illness, may be the cause of these symptoms.

What are the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis, and what do you do if it occurs? Find out here.

Conclusion

Edamame, like other soy products, provides a wide range of important nutrients. It can be a healthy addition to a person’s diet and a healthy substitute for sugary and processed snacks.

Sources

  • Ahsan, M., & Mallick, A. K. (2017). The effect of soy isoflavones on the menopause rating scale scoring in perimenopausal and postmenopausal women: A pilot study.
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  • Appendix 7. Nutritional goals for age-sex groups based on dietary reference intakes and Dietary Guidelines recommendations. (2015).
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  • Applegate, C. C., et al. (2018). Soy consumption and the risk of prostate cancer: An updated systematic review and meta-analysis. 
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  • Barrett, J. R. (2006). The science of soy: What do we really know? 
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  • Gonsalves, N. (2015). Dietary therapy for eosinophilic esophagitis.
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  • Liu, L., et al.. (2017). Choline ameliorates cardiovascular damage by improving vagal activity and inhibiting the inflammatory response in spontaneously hypertensive rats.
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  • Mehta, A. K., et al.. (2010). Choline attenuates immune inflammation and suppresses oxidative stress in patients with asthma [Abstract].
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  • Mueller, N. T., et al. (2012). Soy intake and risk of diabetes mellitus in Chinese Singaporeans.
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  • Panth, N., et al. (2018). The influence of diet on fertility and the implications for public health nutrition in the United States.
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  • Ramdath, D. D., et al. (2017). Beyond the cholesterol-lowering effect of soy protein: A review of the effects of dietary soy and its constituents on risk factors for cardiovascular disease. 
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  • Sahin, I., et al. (2019). Soy isoflavones in integrative oncology: Increased efficacy and decreased toxicity of cancer therapy. 
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  • Soy and cancer risk: Our expert’s advice. (2019).
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  • What are the health benefits of edamame? (LINK)
  • Winslow, A. (2013). Where is your edamame from?
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  • Young, S. N. (2007). Folate and depression—a neglected problem. 
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  • Zeisel, S. H., & da Costa, K.-A. (2009). Choline: An essential nutrient for public health. 
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  • Zheng, X., et al. (2016). Soy isoflavones and osteoporotic bone loss: A review with an emphasis on modulation of bone remodeling.
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