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Edamame is a young soybean. Edamame beans are a popular, plant based food and snack that may have various health benefits.

People harvest edamame beans before they ripen or harden. They are available shelled, in the pod, fresh, or frozen.

Edamame beans are naturally gluten free and low in calories, contain no cholesterol, and they are an excellent source of protein, iron, and calcium.

Read on to find out more about the health benefits of edamame and how to add it to a diet.

Researchers have linked the consumption of soy foods with a lower risk of several age- and lifestyle-related conditions, and with improvements in overall health.

1) Age-related brain diseases

a bowl of edamame that has many health benefits. Share on Pinterest
Edamame may reduce the risk of age-related brain diseases.

Studies have suggested that consuming soy isoflavones may lower the risk of cognitive decline.

Past investigations have found that treatment with soy isoflavones might help improve aspects of thinking and cognition, such as nonverbal memory and verbal fluency.

One 2015 study, involving 65 people with Alzheimer's disease, did not confirm these findings.

However, a meta-analysis, also from 2015, concluded that soy isoflavones might help improve cognitive function after menopause. The authors suggested that there should be follow-up work on the participants in the trials to look at rates of Alzheimer's later in life.

2) Cardiovascular disease

Some scientists have found evidence that soy protein has properties that can lower the low density lipoprotein (LDL), or "bad" cholesterol levels, in a person's blood.

Authors of a study from 2017 suggest that soy may also benefit cardiovascular health through its fiber content, antioxidant content, and other mechanisms.

People may also find that consuming soy products as an alternative to full fat dairy products helps improve their cholesterol levels.

Most plant based fats are unsaturated, whereas animal fats tend to be saturated. Consuming saturated fats can contribute to heart disease and other cardiovascular problems.

3) Breast and prostate cancer

There is controversy about the effect soy may have on the risk of breast cancer. Some of the isoflavones in soy, known as phytoestrogens, appear to act in a similar way to estrogen. High estrogen levels may increase the risk of specific breast cancers.

Studies on females in Asia, in contrast, have suggested that soy may reduce the risk. One reason for this may be that genistein, the main isoflavone in soy, contains antioxidant properties that could inhibit, rather than encourage, the growth of cancer cells.

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), the evidence until now does not suggest that soy products increase the risk of breast or other types of cancer. The ACS conclude that the benefits of consuming soy probably outweigh any risks.

Also, a review and meta-analysis from 2018 found that consuming soy products may significantly lower the risk of prostate cancer in males.

4) Depression

Edamame contains folate, which the body needs to produce DNA and for proper cell division.

Past studies suggest that having an adequate folate intake may help prevent depression.

It may do this by stopping too much of a substance called homocysteine from forming in the body.

High levels of homocysteine can prevent blood and other nutrients from reaching the brain, and they can interfere with the production of the "feel-good" hormone serotonin. This hormone helps mood, sleep, and appetite.

5) Diabetes

People with type 2 diabetes may benefit from consuming unsweetened soy products, such as edamame, according to a 2012 study.

These scientists looked at data for 43,176 people over 5.7 years. They found lower rates of type 2 diabetes among those who consumed unsweetened soy products, while those eating the sweetened versions had a higher risk of developing the disease.

The study had several limitations, however, so more research is necessary to establish whether eating soy products can help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Which foods are good for people with diabetes?

6) Fertility

Some people have suggested that consuming more iron and protein from plant sources such as edamame, spinach, beans, pumpkin, tomatoes, and beets may promote fertility or lower the risk of ovulatory disorders.

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

A mini-review from 2018 notes an apparent link between fertility and a high intake of folic acid, polyunsaturated fats, and plant based foods. The authors call for increased awareness of the impact of a healthful diet on fertility issues.

What are fertility supplements, and do they work? Learn more here.

7) Energy levels

A lack of iron in the diet can affect how the body uses energy and can lead to iron deficiency anemia.

Edamame is an excellent nonheme source of iron, along with lentils, spinach, and dried fruit.

Find out more about iron deficiency anemia.

8) Inflammation

Edamame contains choline, a nutrient that is similar to the B vitamins. It contributes to healthy sleep, muscle movement, learning, and memory.

A 2010 study concluded that choline might help reduce the inflammation that occurs when people have asthma.

In 2017, a rodent study suggested that choline may help protect against the inflammation that leads to cardiovascular disease.

These findings do not confirm that eating choline from edamame will have these benefits, but it might offer some protection.

Conversely, a deficiency of choline may increase the risk of liver disease, atherosclerosis, and possibly neurological disorders.

A cup of hulled edamame beans would provide 16% of a person's daily requirement for choline.

9) Menopause-related problems

The estrogen-like action of isoflavones in soy may help relieve the impact of two aspects of menopause. A 2016 review concludes that soy isoflavones may slow bone loss and improve bone strength.

In another study from 2017, women who received soy isoflavone treatment for 12 weeks reported fewer symptoms of menopause, including fatigue, hot flashes, depression, and irritability than those who did not.

Most studies have looked at the impact of isoflavones in isolation, rather than in food containing soy. It is not clear whether a regular dietary intake from food has a similar impact.

Learn more about the health risks and benefits of soy.

One cup of shelled edamame provides the nutrients we list below. The table shows how much of these nutrients an adult needs each day, for comparison. These nutrient requirements will vary according to a person's age and sex.

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

Edamame also contains small amounts of vitamin E, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin B-6.

One cup of hulled edamame beans provides an adult with the following:

  • 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 contains complete protein. This means that, as with meat and dairy products, the beans provide all of the essential amino acids that people need and which the body cannot produce itself.

The beans are also a source of healthful polyunsaturated fats, especially omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid.

Soy foods contain isoflavones, a type of antioxidant that may help lower the risk of osteoporosis and cancer.

People who eat only plant based foods can benefit from adding supplements to their diet. Find out more.

Edamame is available in grocery stores and for purchase online.

People can buy it fresh in the pod, shelled, or frozen. When buying frozen edamame, people should make sure there are no additives in the ingredients, 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 flavor that pairs well with many dishes.

Tips for preparing and serving edamame include:

  • 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:

Some past studies have linked excessive soy consumption with a higher risk of a particular kind of breast cancer, but experts do not currently believe there is a risk.

Soy is a common allergen in infants and children and can triggers symptoms in those with eosinophilic esophagitis, an allergic inflammatory disease of the esophagus.

Anyone who experiences symptoms of an allergic reaction should stop eating edamame. If swelling, hives, and breathing difficulties occur, the individual will need urgent medical attention. These symptoms may be a sign of anaphylaxis, a potentially life threatening condition.

How do you recognize anaphylaxis, and what should you do if it happens? Find out here.

Edamame, similarly to other soy products, contains many essential nutrients. It can be a healthful addition to a person's diet and an alternative to sweetened and processed snacks.

A variety of edamame products are available for purchase online.