Healthy Snack: Edamame
Eda-Whaha? Edamame, the humble green soybean that is a staple appetizer at Japanese restaurants, packs a nutritional punch with loads of fiber, vegetable protein, vitamins and minerals, and healthy Omega-3 fats. This green legume may not yet be a fixture in the North American diet, but perhaps it ought to be.
Even if you aren’t convinced that soybeans are a miracle food as some claim, there’s no denying the nutritional value of edamame. These unripe soybeans are picked before they harden at the point of maturity, and are often served simply boiled in their fuzzy green pods and salted.
Edamame are low in calories, but one cup contains 16% of your daily value of Vitamin C, 121% of folate, 20% of iron, 52% Vitamin K, and high levels of Vitamin B. In terms of minerals, one cup contains 20% of your recommended daily intake of iron and potassium, 10% of calcium, about 25% of magnesium, phosphorus and copper and a whopping 79% of manganese. It also contains omega-3 fatty acids, the so-called “good” cholesterol that can help to lower the amount of unhealthy cholesterol in your body, and is a good source of dietary fiber (NutritionData.com).
Soy and soy products are particularly suitable for people on a vegan or vegetarian diet, as soybeans are considered to be a source of complete protein — it contains all the essential amino acids that our bodies need to ingest in order to stay healthy. That is why tofu and soy products have so long been a mainstay of vegetarian diets.
There are many possible benefits to adding moderate amounts of soy to your diet, even if you aren’t vegetarian. Some studies have shown that they have a significant effect on lowering cholesterol levels and reducing hypertension, as well as helping to treat fatty liver, kidney damage, and insulin resistance in diabetics. Some studies have also shown that soy has a mild anti-inflammatory effect, making it a healthy choice for those with heart problems.
Edamame are sold frozen in most grocery stores, either shelled or unshelled. They are usually pre-cooked, and you just need to heat the soybeans before enjoying them. Not only are edamame delicious on their own as a snack, but they are also easily incorporated into soups, stir-fries, dips, pastas and salads. Unlike most other legumes, they have a light, fresh flavor that helps it to marry well with Asian flavors and light vegetable and pasta dishes, while being surprisingly filling and satisfying. Organic edamame is increasingly available at farmers’ markets and for direct purchase from local farmers.