An edamame is a soybean that is harvested when it's immature and still tender green. While edamame beans are typically eaten as a fresh steamed vegetable, soybeans are left to mature and harden. Although from the same family, soybeans and edamame have some differences in their use and nutrition.
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Difference Between Edamame and Soybeans
Soybeans, a member of the legume family, are traditionally eaten in Asia and have now become popular in Western countries as well. Soy beans look like green beans, except they are flatter and are a duller shade of green, with fine hairs on the pods.
The difference between edamame and soybeans is that edamame beans are harvested when they are young and served fresh, often steamed while still encased in their pod. You eat them shelled. The tender green soft seeds make a nutritious snack or main vegetable.
Soybeans that are left to ripen turn into hard dry beans, which are typically yellow but can be black or brown. Mature soybeans cannot be eaten raw and must be cooked or fermented.
Soybeans are mostly used for oil in many processed foods such as salad dressing, margarines and baked goods. They are also used to make soy products such as tofu, soy flour, soy sauce, miso, soy milk and soy burgers. Whole soybeans can also be soaked and dry roasted for a soy-nut snack or cooked for addition to soups, sauces and stews.
Nutritional Content: Edamame vs. Soybeans
Soy offers many health benefits — most important, it's a complete source of protein. This means that soybeans contain all of the essential amino acids needed to produce the protein necessary for your body to function properly. This makes edamame beans and soybeans a cornerstone of many vegetarians' and vegans' diets to fulfill their protein requirements.
The USDA's Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that you eat a 5 1/2-ounce equivalent of protein each day from foods, including soybean products, as part of a 2,000 calorie diet. Edamame provides 18.2 grams of protein, which is 36 percent of your daily value per 100 grams, or about half a cup. For comparison, 100 grams of mature raw soybeans contains 36.5 grams or 73 percent DV for protein.
A 1/2 cup serving of boiled edamame beans is low in calories, with 172 calories or 9 percent DV. For comparison, the same amount of roasted soy nuts vs soybeans each contain 449 calories, or 22 percent DV, according to USDA.
Edamame and soybeans have a low carbohydrate count. If you are on a low-carb diet, edamame beans contain only 8.4 grams of carbs, or 3 percent DV, per 100 grams. Dry roasted soy nuts and whole raw soybeans contain more carbohydrates — about 30 grams or 10 percent DV.
Soybeans and edamame contain important omega-3 fats but are low in saturated fat and have no cholesterol. Per 100 grams, edamame has 9 grams of total fat; raw mature soybeans have 19.9 grams.
Of the total fat content, 100 grams of edamame beans contain 1,981 milligrams of monounsaturated fat and 5,064 milligrams of healthy polyunsaturated fat; whole raw soybeans contain 4,404 and 11,255 milligrams respectively.
Read more: How Much Protein Is Right For You?
Supplies Essential Minerals and Vitamins
Mature raw soybeans generally contain a higher amount of minerals than the same amount of edamame beans. Per 100 grams, the comparisons are:
- Calcium — soybeans: 21 percent DV; edamame: 8 percent
- Iron—soybeans: 87 percent DV; edamame: 29 percent
- Potassium — soybeans: 38 percent DV; edamame: 11 percent
- Magnesium — soybeans: 67 percent DV; edamame: 20 percent
- Zinc — soybeans: 44 percent DV; edamame: 10 percent
- Copper — soybeans: 184 percent DV; edamame: 45 percent
- Manganese — soybeans: 109 percent DV; edamame: 36 percent
- Phosphorus — soybeans: 56 percent DV; edamame: 20 percent DV
- Selenium — soybeans: 32 percent DV; edamame: 13 percent
Both forms of soy are nutrient dense in their vitamin-B content. Again, 100 grams of mature soybeans are a better source of the B vitamins than the green boiled edamame. B-vitamins profiles include:
- Thiamin — soybeans: 73 percent DV; edamame: 13 percent
- Riboflavin — soybeans: 67 percent DV; edamame: 22 percent
- Vitamin B5 — soybeans: 15 percent DV; edamame: 4 percent
- Vitamin B6 — soybeans: 22 percent DV; edamame: 14 percent
- Folate — soybeans: 94 percent DV; edamame: 14 percent
In addition, soybeans and edamame contain small amounts of vitamins A, E and K.
Benefits to Digestive Health
Soybeans and edamame are both excellent sources of fiber, with a 1/2 cup of raw soybeans containing 37 percent of your daily value, and edamame beans contributing 24 percent in the same-sized serving. Fiber is beneficial to your digestion and can help keep you regular.
Because the fiber in soy beans cannot be digested, it remains intact, traveling through your intestines and colon adding bulk and water to your digested food. By softening your stool and keeping your digestive system working properly, fiber may help alleviate constipation, hemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis and other gastrointestinal disorders, including reducing the risk of colon cancer.
Soybeans for Heart Health
The high-fiber content in soybean products and edamame beans may contribute to lowering cholesterol, important for the health of your cardiovascular system. Fiber can reduce the absorption of circulating cholesterol into your bloodstream. Mayo Clinic suggests that 5 to 10 grams or more of soluble fiber a day may decrease your LDL cholesterol, so a 1/2 cup of soybeans will set you on the right track with its 10.3 grams.
In addition to fiber, many other beneficial compounds in soybeans, including edamame, may have protective effects on your heart, such as antioxidants like vitamin C and E, isoflavones, lecithins and saponins. A report in the journal Nutrients in April 2017 emphasized that increased consumption of legumes should be part of your cardioprotective diet, due to the associated improvement in weight management, blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
According to a June 2019 meta-analysis of 46 controlled trials, men and women given soy protein experienced a decrease in LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol after six weeks. The conclusion, published in the Journal of Nutrition, reported that soy protein significantly reduced LDL cholesterol by approximately 3 to 4 percent in adults. Researchers support the recommendation to increase plant protein intake for heart health.
Soybeans for Bone Health
Soybeans and edamame beans are superstars in their content of important minerals needed for the health of your bones and skeletal structure. Although calcium is most often associated with bone health, other minerals in soy that play a part in bone development and maintenance are:
- Copper — for collagen maturation needed to hold bones together
- Iron — low levels of iron may lead to lower bone strength
- Magnesium — keeps calcium dissolved in your blood
- Phosphorus — essential for bone growth in the form of calcium phosphate
- Potassium — potassium salts neutralize bone-destroying acids in your body
- Zinc — for collagen synthesis
Read more: Is Eating Soy Actually Bad for Your Health?
Soy isoflavones have demonstrated potentially positive bone effects in some studies. A systematic review on osteoporotic bone loss in relation to soy intake was published in the Journal of Medical Food in January 2016.
Evidence from reported studies supports the possible effect of soy in bone loss by decreasing bone resorption and stimulating bone formation. However, other studies have inconclusive results so, overall, the recommendation is for further well-designed studies to evaluate the effects of soy on osteoporosis in humans.
- NC Soybean Producers Association: "Uses of Soybeans"
- Health.gov: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans: Chapter 1. Key Elements of Healthy Eating Patterns: Food Groups: Protein"
- MyFoodData: "Nutrition Comparison of Soybeans Mature Seeds Raw, Dry-Roasted Soybeans, and Boiled Soybeans (Edamame)"
- International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders: "Dietary Fiber"
- Mayo Clinic Q and A: "Diet, Lifestyle Choices Can Lower Risk of Diverticulosis Developing Into Diverticulitis"
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "Dietary Fiber Intake and Risk of Colorectal Cancer and Incident and Recurrent Adenoma in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial"
- Mayo Clinic: "Cholesterol: Top Foods to Improve Your Numbers"
- Nutrients: "Beyond the Cholesterol-Lowering Effect of Soy Protein: A Review of the Effects of Dietary Soy and Its Constituents on Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease"
- Journal of Nutrition: "A Meta-Analysis of 46 Studies Identified by the FDA Demonstrates that Soy Protein Decreases Circulating LDL and Total Cholesterol Concentrations in Adults"
- Journal of Medicinal Food: "Soy Isoflavones and Osteoporotic Bone Loss: A Review With an Emphasis on Modulation of Bone Remodeling"