All About Edamame

This story originally appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of Cincinnati Health & Life Magazine

Perfect for healthy snacking, this fuzzy little green bean is a healthy handful - and fun to eat too.

If you've ever eaten at a Japanese restaurant, you've likely sampled edamame (pronounced eh-dah-MA-may). These young green soybeans are typically served in their fuzzy pod, steamed and sprinkled with coarse salt, and are eaten by dragging the pod between the teeth, releasing the beans. The nutty, buttery flavor and somewhat crunchy texture make edamame a popular snack or appetizer, but the beans are also low in calories, high in protein and fiber, and incredibly easy to prepare at home.

Power Up

One cup of unshelled edamame rings in at just 190 calories and yields a hefty eight grams of fiber. Edamame are a complete protein (meaning they contain all nine essential amino acids), boasting 17 grams a cup-about as much as three eggs. They also offer plenty of folate, manganese and vitamin K, and are a good source of copper, phosphorous, magnesium, thiamin and iron. And, per the American Institute for Cancer Research, edamame contain a healthy variety of phytochemicals that may be beneficial in preventing and fighting cancer. So munch away!

Buy/Store/Serve

Edamame can be purchased fresh, frozen and dry-roasted with various seasonings (sea salt, wasabi) for snacking right out of the bag. The fresh variety lasts only a day or two in the fridge. Once cooked, the pods can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a few days. Frozen edamame, on the other hand, will keep in the freezer for about a year. To prepare, boil fresh pods for four to five minutes, drain and immerse in an ice bath to stop the cooking. (You don't want them to get mushy!) Frozen pods have been pre-cooked and only need to be reheated by boiling for two to three minutes. Sprinkle pods with coarse salt and, if you'd like, other spices such as garlic or cayenne. Another alternative: Remove the beans from the pods (gently squeeze with your fingers to release them) and incorporate into your favorite dips, salads and stir-fries. Some folks prefer to steam edamame, which is the way they are prepared in many Asian restaurants-purists argue this method retains more nutrients. To steam, place a steamer basket into a large saucepan and fill the pan with about an inch of water, making certain that the water does not touch the basket. Bring the water to a boil and place the edamame in the basket. Cover with a lid and steam until tender, about two minutes for frozen edamame and four minutes for fresh.

Another option: Edamame can be shelled and roasted (350°F for 30 to 40 minutes) with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Did You Know?

The word Edamame comes from the Japanese words eda (branch or stem) and mame (beans), translating to "beans on a branch" or "stem beans" (the beans were often sold while still attached to their stems). Although edamame have been enjoyed in East Asian countries for more than seven centuries, they didn't become popular in the United States until the 1980s when a TV miniseries, Shogun, brought about a boom in Japanese food and culture, according to the book History of Edamame, Green Vegetable Soybeans, and Vegetable-Type Soybeans. And the word edamame didn't appear in the Merriam-Webster dictionary until 2008.

Tags: Healthy Eating, Nutrition and Eating

Last Updated: April 21, 2017