Edamame – Immature Green Soybeans

May 2, 2017 in Diabetic Menu Item, Food Economics, Health, Nutrition, Uncategorized, Weight Management by Joyce Bunderson

Many of you are striving to increase the frequency of consuming plant-based menus. For some it is a matter of protecting the environment; for others it is based upon health decisions and for a third group, it’s both the environment and health. One food that is probably not being fully utilized by any of these groups is edamame. Although it is the second most popular soy food in America (after soymilk) it is still an underutilized food.

Most frequently, edamame is found frozen and still in their tough, hairy pods - ready to be steamed or popped into the microwave. Usually they are lightly salted and eaten by applying gentle pressure on the pods - the beans just pop out.

If you want to take advantage of the nutritional benefits of soy protein, and haven’t tasted edamame, you’ll be glad to discover that the texture and flavor is quite pleasant. I realize that some of you out there have eaten tofu with less than thrilling results. Tofu is made from mature soybeans.

Small digression on tofu: I wish I could cook tofu for you. I’ve served tofu to quite a few people and they usually say something flattering about what they thought was “the chicken”; part of their compliment probably comes from the fact that I’ve used herbs and spices. I’ve tried many different ways of making tofu; most of them were fairly time-consuming. But my go-to quick tofu now is this: Drain a block of extra firm tofu; crush it into a skillet with some olive oil, till it’s crumbled up; season it with herbs and spices depending upon how you’re going to serve it; cook it until the moisture is gone and it is becoming golden brown. Some of the ways to use this ‘crumbled’ tofu are: taco fillings; soups; stews; stir-fries; pasta sauces; casseroles; burritos; pilafs; enchiladas; in filling for stuffed peppers; filling for lettuce wraps; in beans and greens; in quinoa salads; cabbage rolls and to replace chicken or turkey in rice bowls. In addition, to the versatility of tofu, you may be happy to learn how it can positively impact your food budget.

Let me remind you of some of the nutritional benefits of soy before I go farther. There are not many foods as low in calories and as high in protein and fiber as edamame. The really great thing about edamame is that it has all nine of the essential amino acids. Like quinoa, a grain, edamame has the distinction of being a plant that offers complete protein. One cup of edamame provides approximately one-third of the daily value (DV) of both protein and fiber for less than 200 calories; and does it without the saturated fat that comes with animal protein. Not only are the calories low, but also the calories are well balanced. About a third of the calories come from each of the macronutrients: fat, protein and carbohydrates.

All that fiber helps you to be satisfied and remain full longer than simple carbohydrates. It’s also loaded with vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. When soybeans were discovered to be a rich source of isoflavones some researchers set to work to discover if isoflavones (phytoestrogen – A plant estrogen-like chemical capable of producing estrogen-like effects) could increase breast cancer. Fortunately, quite a body of research has been done and has shown that soy, including edamame is a food that fights cancer. Unfortunately, there is still some old miss-information out there, so some people are nervous without good reason to be.

If you’re trying to get more soy foods into your family, you may want to consider beginning with edamame. Edamame has a nice sweetness; because of the simple sugars in the immature beans; that makes them very appetizing.

One of the best things about edamame is that it’s such fun to eat from the pods. In addition to the sweet taste, kids like to pop them out of the pods into their mouths. Maybe this is the answer to your need to have something different (and healthy) to offer for a snack.

Like cooking with tofu, using edamame is only limited by your imagination. When you’re ready to move past snacks, maybe start by sprinkling edamame on salads; a great way to increase the protein and nutrients of your salad; then you may be ready to peruse the section of the EatingWell website devoted to edamame recipes. You may discover that you’ve forgotten whether you set out to eat healthier or protect the environment when you get started into these delicious healthy recipes.