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What is Edamame? 

Edamame is the word (from the Japanese) for fresh young soybeans, picked before the bean matures and dries into those familiar yellowish-white beans. Edamame pods aren’t edible—they’re tough and fibrous. But the inside bean is delicious.  

Where to Find Edamame

Edamame is not commonly available in supermarket produce sections. Luckily the frozen kind are very good. I’ve only had fresh once in my life—actually I picked them right from the field at a co-op farm. I have to say they weren’t that different from frozen, so I’m happy with frozen. 

Edamame come either in the pod or already shelled. Trader Joe’s sells “ready to eat” shelled edamame, already cooked. 

How to Eat Edamame

Many people eat edamame in only one way: in the pod as an appetizer at an Asian restaurant. They’re seasoned simply, just with salt. You open the pod with your mouth or fingers and eat the beans inside.

You can use edamame in lots of recipes. Shelled edamame are great added to a stir fry. There are lots of recipes on the internet for edamame hummus and for glazes that you can stir into cooked in-the-pod edamame, so that when you put the pod in your mouth to get to the beans, you get a tangy or garlicky boost. You can throw some cooked shelled edamame beans into practically any salad. 

I’ve create three edamame-centric recipes so far, both delicious!

How to Cook Edamame

Edamame beans are fast-cooking. They can go from perfectly tender and bright green to mushy and olive green in a flash. I don’t use the Instant Pot for edamame except for soup. 

To cook shelled edamame on the stovetop, boil the water, then add the edamame and boil for 4 minutes. If they’re not tender enough for you, let them boil a minute or so longer. Or you can cook them in the microwave for 4 minutes with a couple tablespoons of water. 

For in-the-pod edamame, boil the water, add the pods, then boil till they float, then let them boil another 30-60 seconds. Or use the same microwave technique as for shelled edamame (4 minutes with a couple tablespoons water). 

Edamame is a Champ When it Comes to Nutrition

Edamame (and all soybeans) are incredibly nutritious. One cup of shelled edamame gives you 18 grams of fiber and 22 grams of protein -- with only 240 calories. That’s about 70%of the daily fiber recommendation (25 grams) and 50% of the daily protein requirement for women and 40% for men. 

Soybean Controversies

There have been a number of controversies related to soybeans. I’ll touch on three of them below. I recommend Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s article on soybean myths for further reading. 

The most controversial aspect of soybeans is a compound they contain called isoflavones. Isoflavones are a type of phytoestrogen, which are plant-derived compounds with estrogenic activity.For a while, many experts claimed that these phytoestrogens had the same effect as the hormone estrogen in the human body. 

  1. Some claimed that phytoestrogens could have feminizing effects on men. This claim has now been shown in a number of studies to be false at reasonable levels of intake. Evidently one man who’d been drinking three quarts of soy milk every day for over six months developed breast swelling. But once he stopped, the issue was resolved.  

  2. Another controversy relates to breast cancer in women. Since the human hormone estrogen can stimulate breast cancer cell growth, there was an early theory that there might be a link between soy foods and breast cancer. Hundreds of studies followed. No studies in humans have suggested an increase in breast cancer risk; most show a decrease. And in Asian countries, where soy is a staple food, breast cancer rates are much lower than those in the United States.

  3. Do soybeans help decrease hot flashes? Unfortunately, taken together, research studies have not yet established a reliable connection between dietary soy intake and occurrence of hot flashes. However, there is much less occurrence of hot flashes among women living in Asian countries where soybeans are a key part of most people’s diet. 

Five or fewer servings of soybeans a day are very good for you, and there appears to be no harmful effects at all. So eat!

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