Young green soybeans, easy to find and prepare, make a delcious way to add soy to your diet.
Credit: Randy Mayor

The Japanese have long snacked on edamame (eh-dah-MAH-meh), or fresh soybeans. But Americans are catching on to their charms. Not least among their merits is a buttery, nutty flavor and wonderfully crisp texture that makes edamame a fun snack food that’s addictive to eat. You simply use your teeth to squeeze the beans out of the salted pods, which are picked while young and look like large, fuzzy sugar snap peas. The beans themselves are similar in color to fresh fava or lima beans.

Thanks to edamame’s new-found popularity, the beans―which are sold frozen as well as fully cooked and ready to eat, in or out of the pods―are now available at many grocery stores. This "super bean" has been appearing on the menus of top restaurants for years, featured in dishes ranging from Edamame-Avocado Soup to Edamame-Garlic Puree, which is like a French pureed potato or a delicious and healthful spin on traditional mashed potatoes.

A Super Food

Edamame are as addictive as peanuts but with far less fat―only 3 grams per ½ cup, all of which is the heart-healthy mono- and polyunsaturated kind. Because they are high in protein (8 grams per ½ cup), they make an ideal choice for getting your 25 grams of soy protein daily, which can help reduce cholesterol when part of a low-fat diet. Edamame also provide 4 grams of fiber per ½ cup.

All of this makes edamame one of the most nutritious soy products. “Tofu is considered the classic health food, but it’s highly processed,” says Mark Messina, soy expert and adjunct nutrition professor at Loma Linda University in California. When tofu’s processed, all the fiber gets tossed out, Messina says, but “edamame is the whole bean, which means it has all the fiber.”