With a low calorie count per serving, edamame are unlikely to be fattening — unless you regularly eat a large amount. Eat them in moderation and you'll also reap the other edamame benefits, including high fiber, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals.
Edamame make a healthy snack that is not fattening when consumed in moderation.
Assessing Edamame Calories
A fattening food is typically high in calories. Calories are your body's energy source and a certain amount are required to support physiological function and daily activities, but if you eat too many your body can't use it all and stores them as fat.
One serving, or one-half cup, of edamame only has 110 calories, per USDA data. Most adults need between 1,500 and 2,000 calories daily, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. Therefore, one serving of edamame calories constitutes 5.5 to 7.3 percent of most people's daily energy needs.
Theoretically, if you ate a large amount of edamame, you could gain weight, if your total daily calorie intake exceeds your calorie needs. Any food, if it causes you to go over your calorie budget, can cause you to gain weight. But the likely culprits when it comes to overeating are refined grains, fried foods and sugary foods — not beans.
Edamame also contains some fat, but that doesn't mean it's fattening. Fats do provide more calories — 9 per gram — than protein and carbs, which have 4 calories per gram, according to the USDA. But the 3.5 grams of fats in a serving of edamame only account for 31.5, or around 30 percent of the total calories.
Read more: 19 High-Fiber Foods — Some May Surprise You!
Get Good Fats and Fiber
The unsaturated fats in edamame are considered good fats, unlike the saturated fats in animal foods. Saturated fats can increase levels of unhealthy LDL cholesterol in your blood, too much of which can contribute to heart disease and stroke, according to the American Heart Association. On the other hand, when consumed in place of saturated fats, the unsaturated fats in edamame can help improve your cholesterol levels.
The Children's Hospital at Montefiore reports that edamame are also a rich source of fiber, particularly soluble fiber. This type of fiber forms a gel-like substance when it comes into contact with fluid in your digestive system. In this state, it can bind with cholesterol-containing bile and carry it out of your body, explains the Cleveland Clinic.
If you're worried about gaining weight, adding more fiber to your diet can help. According to a review article published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism in January 2019, fiber can help people reduce their calorie intake by increasing feelings of satiety after a meal. With 5 grams of fiber, one serving of edamame makes up 13 and 20 percent of the recommended daily intakes of fiber for men and women respectively, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Eat Your Edamame
Edamame are also a good source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, calcium and iron. In addition, soy beans are the richest source of plant chemicals known as isoflavones in the human diet, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. Although more research is still needed on isoflavones, they may offer benefits for disease prevention when consumed through foods, not supplements, and in moderation.
As they're low-energy-dense foods, eating beans in general can help you manage your weight, according to a study in Journal of Research and Medical Sciences in May 2016. This is especially true if you eat them instead of more caloric foods. If you normally snack on chips, crackers or other foods that are lower in nutrients and higher in calories, eating edamame instead can help you save calories and add extra nutrients to your diet.
There is one downside of edamame to be careful about. Edamame are often served Japanese-style, with salt sprinkled on top. You suck the beans out of the pods, and consume the salt at the same time. Eating too much salt can raise your blood pressure and increase your risk of heart disease, warns the American Heart Association. So enjoy your favorite edamame recipe, but pass on the salt, especially if you are already at risk of heart disease.
- USDA: "Edamame"
- American Academy of Family Physicians: "Nutrition for Athletes"
- USDA: "How Many Calories Are in One Gram of Fat, Carbohydrate, or Protein?"
- American Heart Association: "Saturated Fats"
- The Children's Hospital at Montefiore: "Eat Soybeans NOT Soy"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Heart Healthy Eating to Help Lower Cholesterol Levels"
- Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism: "The Role of Fiber in Energy Balance"
- Mayo Clinic: "Dietary Fiber: Essential For a Healthy Diet"
- Linus Pauling Institute: "Soy Isoflavones"
- Journal of Research and Medical Sciences: "Low Energy Density Diet, Weight Loss Maintenance, and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease Following a Recent Weight Reduction Program: A Randomized Control Trial"
- American Heart Association: "Get the Scoop on Sodium and Salt"