Edamame is another name for the soybeans that are traditionally grown in East Asian countries such as Japan, China and Korea since almost two thousand years. With increasing awareness of the edamame health benefits, these beans are now a major crop in North and South American countries, too. Edamame are the seeds of the plant Glycine max of the family Fabaceae. These beans are harvested when they fully ripen and just before they grow hard and then parboiled and frozen to keep them fresh.
Why is Edamame Beneficial?
Most of the edamame health benefits are a result of its high protein content. It is also rich in minerals such as phosphorus, calcium, sodium and iron and the vitamins A and C. Besides, although it contains some fat, most of this is in the form of polyunsaturated fat, which makes edamame a healthy option compared to other snacks.
Edamame in Traditional Medicine
According to Chinese traditional medicine, soybean is useful for appropriate functioning of the stomach, kidney, heart, liver and the excretory system. It is also considered good for people with acidosis and the oil from soybean is considered healthy because of its high concentrations of unsaturated fatty acids.
In the Ayurvedic system of India, edamame health benefits depend on the method used to prepare the soybean. It is believed that the soy products prepared by fermentation tend to aggravate certain humors in the body, leading to ailments as well as sluggishness of the body and therefore, it is best to use fresh soybeans
Health Benefits of Edamame
Edamame is a snack that has a lot of nutritional value; however, recent research is also proving it to be effective in several disorders such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol levels, cardiovascular disease and cancer. These edamame health benefits are attributed to its content of flavonoids, phenolic acids, phytosterols, phytoalexins, peptides and saponins.
Benefits in type 2 Diabetes : Asians who consume about 200 grams of soybeans per day have been found to have a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Animal studies have demonstrated that soy foods increase the body’s production of insulin receptors which results in better uptake of insulin, suggesting a role for soybeans in type 2 diabetes. These findings need to be corroborated by actual studies in races other than Asians, though.
Cardiovascular Benefits : A lot of research has been done in the area of soy proteins and cardiovascular disease. A major finding of these studies is that a daily consumption of around 30 grams of soy protein tends to lower the risk of coronary heart disease, mainly because of its ability to lower LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol.
Edamame health benefits may also be a result of their content of soyasaponins that have been associated with lowering the risk of coronary artery disease in animal studies. These studies have shown that the soyasaponins lower the amount of cholesterol that is absorbed from the intestine. They have also found that soysaponins can reduce the proportion of harmful lipid peroxidation reactions in the blood vessels, reducing the risk of atherosclerosis. Soysaponins also cause a greater quantity of bile acids to be excreted through the feces and this reduces the body’s store of cholesterol.
Benefits against Cancer : Soy is known to contain several phytoconstituents that possess antioxidant properties and these are believed to make it a valuable agent in preventing cancer. It is believed that soybeans may reduce the risk of prostate cancer in men and breast cancer in women. Most importantly, the isoflavone genistein, has been linked to an increased activity of the body’s antioxidant enzymes such as glutathione peroxidase and reductase, superoxide dismutase and catalase. Phenolic acids found in soybean are also known to have antioxidant property and all these compounds together contribute to soybeans’ activity against free radical reactions in the body.
Weight Loss Benefits : The high content of protein in soybeans may act as an appetite-suppressant and this can help people who are seeking to lose weight. In many obese people, there is a greater synthesis as well as deposition of fatty acids in the adipose tissue and both these processes involve the activity of certain proteins.
In a promising development, researchers have found that soybeans contain certain peptides that tend to reduce the synthesis of these proteins in the body. These preliminary findings imply that edamame health benefits may extend to combating obesity, too. A randomized control trial on overweight persons in Korea found that taking soybean supplements did not cause them to lose weight or lower their cholesterol levels. However, it was found that the subjects showed higher levels of HDL (high density lipoprotein) cholesterol which is considered beneficial in lowering the risk of atherosclerosis.
Anti Microbial Benefits : Studies using methanolic extracts of soybeans have shown it to possess antimicrobial action against a wide range of microorganisms.
How to Select and Store
Edamame is available in raw or boiled or steamed forms. When purchasing, make sure these soybeans have a deep green color and the pods are firm. You may store fresh edamame in the refrigerator, but need to consume it in two days; the frozen variety will remain fresh if stored even for a few months in the refrigerator.
Precautions while using Edamame
Edamame contains small quantities of oxalates that can lead to formation or aggravation of kidney and gallbladder stones. Therefore, people with such conditions should avoid consuming edamame. Pregnant women too should avoid consuming too much of edamame as there have been no studies to prove the safety of edamame during pregnancy.
A high intake of soybeans may interfere with the efficacy of prescription drugs such as tamoxifen and other breast cancer treatment drugs. Persons on thyroid hormone replacement as well as the anticoagulant Warfarin should avoid high intake of edamame.
Edamame health benefits are being investigated in improving brain function, reducing the pain of arthritis, reducing menopause symptoms and enhancing exercise performance. Include it in your diet and enjoy its health benefits!