Spiced Beef Burger With Shaved Cucumber and Beet Salad

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Edamame isn’t just a side dish at sushi restaurants. Widely available in both fresh and frozen varieties, edamame—an immature soybean still in its pod—is a nutritional powerhouse that’s good for you and makes a delicious addition to any meal.

Find them shelled or in the shell and toss these tiny green soybeans into everything from soups to stir-fries to your grazing board during cocktail hour (steam then sprinkle with flaky sea salt for perfection). You can even find freeze-dried edamame to munch on when you need a healthy, crunchy snack. Here are all the nutritious reasons to keep a bag (or two) in the freezer at all times.

5 Key Edamame Nutrition Facts

Excellent Source of Protein

For one, edamame is a complete protein source. “This means that it contains all nine essential amino acids, which is great for vegetarians and vegans, as it can be difficult to find plant-based options that are complete protein sources,” says Emma Newell, RD, LDN, a registered dietitian with NourishRX based in Salem, Mass. Edamame contains about 18 grams of protein per cup.

Contains Fiber

In addition to protein, edamame is also a great source of fiber, with 8 grams per cup—about one-third of the daily recommended fiber for women, says Newell.

Has Heart-Healthy Fats

Edamame also contains both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids (6 grams and 0.6. grams per cup, respectively), about the same amount you’d get from eating 1 ounce of walnuts.

Balances Macronutrients

One of the main factors that makes edamame so good for you is its undeniable nutrient density. That means it packs in a lot of incredible nutrients relative to its size and calorie amount, without any (or much) unhealthy stuff (added sugar, saturated fats, sodium, and so on). The macronutrient balance of edamame—meaning the balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat—is also ideal. This helps to aid in satiety and satisfaction throughout the day, says Newell.

Includes Iron, Magnesium, and Copper

Micronutrients of edamame nutrition shouldn’t be overlooked, however. “Edamame is packed with micronutrients such as thiamine, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, vitamin K, folate, and manganese, which are all vital to maintaining metabolism and overall balance in our bodies,” adds Newell.

Should I Be Worried About Soy in Edamame?

Edamame is a form of soy, which is an isoflavone that contains phytoestrogen, a plant compound that has the ability to exert estrogen-like effects. “Because of this, people have been skeptical to include soy in their diet,” Newell says.

However, you needn’t worry about soy-related effects, says Newell. For one, early studies showing that exposure to high doses of isoflavones led to a higher risk of breast cancer were done on rats, which process soy differently than humans. Also, multiple new epidemiological studies have followed women for years and shown no association between consumption of soy and breast cancer, says Newell. “In fact, [newer] studies show that consuming soy products, like edamame, may even have a preventative effect against cancers,” she adds.

Additionally, the American Institute for Cancer Research asserts that soy intake does not increase cancer risk. So, you can add edamame to your plate without concern.

How to Eat More Edamame

There are so many ways to work edamame into a healthy, balanced diet. You can purchase the pods fresh when they’re in season (in summer) or frozen (shelled or unshelled) in the freezer section of your local grocery store.

A classic way to cook edamame is to boil, steam, or microwave the pods, then sprinkle with a little sea salt (or seasoning of your choice) and enjoy. Newell says edamame is also perfect for adding to stir-fries, salads, and tacos, or you can even make your own hummus using shelled edamame.

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