In the next 20 years, nearly 40 million people will transition into menopause, the life stage characterized by reduced female hormones and the cessation of menstruation. The menopausal symptoms that develop due to the reduction in estrogen include vaginal atrophy, reduced bone density, night sweats and hot flashes. Edamame are immature soybeans that provide a type of plant compound that mimics estrogen in the human body. Isoflavones, as they are called, improve estrogen balance in some menopausal cases.
Edamame is a young soybean that growers harvest when green in color, before it matures and turns white. Manufacturers sell it in markets in the pod or shelled, typically pre-packaged in the frozen foods department. Preparation involves steaming the pods or beans on a stove top or in a microwave and seasoning them with salt or additional seasonings.
Soy isoflavones, the phytochemicals similar to estrogen in edamame, are complex because in the body they attach to estrogen and either enhance it or inhibit it, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. The dichotomy puts many researchers on the fence regarding supporting isoflavones as a treatment for menopause. The North American Menopause Society recommends that women consume soy foods, including edamame, for reducing menopausal symptoms.
Researchers often cite the low quantity of hormone-related cancer cases among Asian women who eat an abundant quantity of soy foods compared with American women. The accompanying factors, such as low meat consumption and an emphasis on plant-based foods prevent researchers from concluding that soy foods are responsible for the low cancer rate. In a 2008 epidemiological review, researchers from the University of Southern California emphasized that the correlation between Asian women consuming 10 milligrams of soy foods daily with a 16 percent reduced risk of hormone-related cancer. Similar studies of Western women are not available because most women consume fewer than 1 mg of soy-based foods each day.
Dosage and Preparation Recommendations
Consuming 25 grams daily of soy-based protein provides the isoflavones necessary to reduce the risk of women developing hormone-related cancer, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. A one-and-a-half cup serving of prepared edamame beans provides approximately the recommended amount. Options for preparing edamame include processing it with olive oil and garlic as a hummus-like spread, combining it with seaweed, vegetables and salad greens and eating it plain as a snack.
- "American Nurse Today"; Can Soyfoods Relieve Postmenopausal Symptoms?; Virginia L. Messina, M.P.H., R.D.; May 2011
- MedlinePlus; Menopause; September 2010
- USDA: Nutrient Data Laboratory: Edamame, Frozen, Prepared
- "British Journal of Cancer"; Epidemiology of Soy Exposures and Breast Cancer Risk; A.H. Wu, et al.; January 2008