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Edamame Nutrition Facts

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Updated February 18, 2011

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

While there is conflicting information on the health benefits of soy, just a glance at the edamame nutrition facts shows you why it is such a healthy food:

What's notable is that the protein and carbohydrate content are virtually equivalent, the fat is low, and the fiber is high. And while the protein profile of edamame doesn't include all nine essential amino acids (most vegetarian protein options don't), as far as total nutrient balance, edamame is a nearly perfect food choice for anyone. It is a great meal component or snack food choice for diabetics who need to be especially mindful of nutrient balance.

Edamame are soy beans that are harvested early -- while they are still green. An early harvest produces a soft, sweeter bean than if they were allowed to fully mature on the vine. You can find frozen shelled and unshelled soy beans in most grocery stores these days, in the frozen vegetable section. They are a quick cook, taking just five or six minutes to boil. Lightly salted you can enjoy them as a snack, or toss them in salads, soups, or any recipe in the place of other beans.

As far as studies into the benefits of soy go, the problem is that most soy studies have been relatively short in duration and involved a small sample size. Because of this, most researchers agree that further research into the benefits of soy is needed. But preliminary research suggests that soy protein may help reduce insulin resistance, kidney damage, and fatty liver in people with diabetes. Several studies have suggested that regular consumption of soy foods produces healthier cholesterol levels. The component thought to be at least partly responsible for soy's health benefits is a type of phytoestrogen called isoflavones, which appear to work with certain proteins in soy to protect against cancer, heart disease, and osteoporosis. Most controversial is the research into soy and cancer prevention, and soy should be avoided if you are taking the anti-cancer drug tamoxifen -- it has been shown to antagonize the effects of this drug in some types of breast cancer.

So while research is still needed into the "extra" added benefits of soy, edamame should still be considered a healthy addition to your diet -- if for no other reason, for the high protein, high fiber, low fat, and overall nutrient balance of the bean.

Sources

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Azadbakht L, Atabak S, Esmailzadeh A. Soy protein intake, cardiorenal indices, and C-reactive protein in type 2 diabetes with nephropathy: a longitudinal randomized clinical trial. Apr 2008;31(4):648-654.

Azadbakht L, Kimiagar M, ehrabi Y, Esmaillzadeh A, Hu FB, Willett WC. Dietary soya intake alters plasma antioxidant status and lipid peroxidation in postmenopausal women with the metabolic syndrome. Br J Nutr. Oct 2007;98(4):807-813.

Liao FH, Shieh MJ, Yang SC, Lin SH, Chien YW. Effectiveness of a soy-based compared with a traditional low-calories diet on weight loss and lipid levels in overweight adults. Nutrition. Jul-Aug 2007;23(7-8):551-556.

Lichtenstein AH. Soy protein, isoflavones, and cardiovascular disease risk. J Nutr 1998;128:1589-92.

Rideout TC, Chan YM, Harding SV, Jones PJ. Low and moderate-fat plant sterol fortified soymilk in modulation of plasma lipids and cholesterol kinetics in subjects with normal to high cholesterol concentrations: report on two randomized crossover studies. Lipids Health Dis. 2009 Oct 20;8:45.

Setchell KD. Phytoestrogens: the biochemistry, physiology, and implications for human health of soy isoflavones. Am J Clin Nutr. Dec 1998;68(6 Suppl):1333S-1346S.

Welty FK, Lee KS, Lew NS, Zhou JR. Effect of soy nuts on blood pressure and lipid levels in hypertensive, prehypertensive, and normotensive postmenopausal women. Arch Intern Med. May 28 2007;167(10):1060-1067.

Morimoto Y, Steinbrecher A, Kolonel LN, Maskarinec G. Soy consumption is not protective against diabetes in Hawaii: the Multiethnic Cohort. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2010 Oct 6.

Steinberg FM, Murray Mj, Lewis RD, et al. Clinical outcomes of a 2-y soy isoflavone supplementation in menopausal women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Dec 22.

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