"Edamame" is something I've heard of, but honestly up until the conversation with my sister, hadn't tried?! (Apparently my 1 year old niece can't get enough of this amazing soybean!)
The slightly "hairy" bean may seem a bit intimidating...but once you remove those delicious beans from their pod, you'll experience why people of ALL ages love these beans!! (Very good stuff, and has "star quality" nutrition to boot!) You do not want to eat the outer pod because it is very tough and fibrous. It is very much worth the effort to remove the beans prior to eating- they are very tender, and slightly sweet with a nutty taste. So good on their own- all you need is a bit of salt!
Similar to quinoa, this is yet another food that has some incredible health benefits, has also been around since "ancient" times, and is primarily grown on the other side of the world! Edamame, (Japanese for twig- bean, and called mao dou in China), is a young/immature green soybean that hails from Asia- particularly China and Japan. Historically, it has been grown in China and used for medicinal purposes since about 200BC , and known to be grown in Japan since 927AD. I think what's most interesting is that this "vegetable" is more well known as a "snack", (consumed like peanuts), then a key role for meals! Although it was first introduced to the U.S. in the state of California in the 1980's, (primarily served in Sushi bars as a "snack" with Japanese beers), it has taken this long for edamame to become more available in markets and grocers, and for Americans to even know what it is!
So, besides the awesome taste, what's so great about it? Well, it has much of the same benefits as any "soy" product. However, compared to other soy products, edamame has a higher content of protein, sucrose, and a plant hormone called abscisic acid.
1) Considered a "complete" source of protein, (one of the few plant foods containing all of the essential amino acids), which is excellent for heart health and maintaining muscle mass.
2) Contains a significant amount of necessary dietary fiber for aiding in digestion, lowering cholesterol, and healthy for the cardiovascular system.
3) Contains antioxidents.
4) Contains the "good fats"- the omega-3's and omega-6 fatty acids, which also helps to lower cholesterol, and prevent heart disease.
5) High in calcium- is excellent for preventing osteoporosis, maintains bone density, and an excellent calcium source for infants and children that are lactose intolerant or have severe dairy allergies!
6) High in Folate, Vitamin C, and Vitamin K
7) Aids in preventing "hot flashes" in menopausal women, improves memory, prevents and treats those with Type 2 Diabetes and nerve problems associated with diabetes, and aids in reducing the risk of breast cancer.
Edamame is great cold or hot on it's own, (once cooked), or a wonderful addition as a vegetable with most any meal, in soups/ stews, salads, rice or pasta dishes, dips or spreads, and the Japanese even enjoy them in desserts!
In my neck of the woods, it's harder to find, but Target sells it in the freezer section as the "Simply Balanced" brand for $1.99/bag- about the average price you'd pay for any frozen veggies. If you live in a bigger city, Trader Joe's also carries several edamame products! (Including dark chocolate covered edamame.)
Go get yourself some of these super "Ninja beans" today! (Seriously, they actually have edamame toys and "Edamame Ninja art" in Japan and China!!)