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Is Edamame Good For You?

Is Edamame Good For You

Is Edamame Good For You?

People often ask me if edamame is a healthy snack, and it’s an all natural plant food after all, right?

Here are the answers on soy and edamame that you’re looking for, from Dr. Kaayla Daniel’s blog Q & A:

1. What is edamame? Is it soy? — Al

Edamame is the Japanese word for sweet, green vegetable soybeans. They are harvested at the point when the beans are well developed but still soft and green. Boiled or steamed in the pod for up to 20 minutes, they are salted, removed from the pod and served chilled. In Japanese restaurants, I’ve seen them offered as an appetizer, green vegetable or an ingredient in salads. Americans, however, have found a whole new way to eat edamame – snacking on big bags of it in front of TV. This practice has taken off to such an extent that Whole Foods, Costco and other food emporia now dedicate whole freezer cases to edamame. It’s rare to find fresh edamame in such stores.

Most is sold frozen either with or without the pods. Historically, edamame was unpopular because of the time-consuming challenge of hulling it. Dr. John Harvey Kellogg was frustrated for years because he wanted to can edamame but found it uneconomical. That changed for him in 1935 when Henry Ford’s Edison Institute came up with a reliable mechanical process. Kellogg would be amazed today to find so many snackers who find the shelling to be part of the attraction.

2. Do you say “The edamame is delicious?” Or do you you say “The edamame are delicious?” — Stickler

Dear Stickler, Would I call edamame delicious? Probably not. I mean it’s okay as a lima bean substitute…, but please bring back the old fordhooks. But I digress. You really want to know if the word edamame is singular or plural, don’t you? As I understand it, its meaning can be either singular or plural in Japanese, but is typically used as a collective. So what I’d say is “Edamame is on the menu but so is ikura (salmon roe). Given the choice between cholesterol and chlorophyll, I’ll opt for cholesterol every time.”

3. I thought edamame was so good for you! Really, seriously, it’s not? I mean it’s a natural bean still in its shell, how can it not be good for you? — Ariel

Dear Ariel, A little once in awhile, as in the small quantities served as an appetizer in many Japanese restaurants is fine for most people. No worries unless you are allergic. The problem today is, a lot of people are noshing on edamame like its popcorn. And doing so night after night. Bottom line is the quantities of antinutrients and toxins in the edamame collective add up quickly. Edamame can thus put you at risk for digestive distress, thyroid disorders, immune system breakdown, reproductive problems, etc. I’d also suggest it is “really, seriously” naive to think “natural” is always “safe” and “good for you.” Raw or undercooked “natural beans in their shells” are notorious producers of gas and other digestive distress. And if that doesn’t convince you that there are some hazards to beans, you might want to Google “favism.”

4. Please elaborate on edamame. I like to give it to my children. I’m confused because I thought it was a good and healthy raw health food – Edda Mama

Dear Edda Mama, You don’t want to eat edamame raw. Ever. It must be cooked. Even then, it will retain some antinutrients, toxins and phytoestrogens. These will add up, putting you and your children at risk, if not sooner, later. Risk is not certainty, but for the reasons noted above, please don’t let your children overindulge.

5. I have got a bag of frozen green soya beans in my freezer and wanted to have these in a salad. Your website is making me believe this may not be a good idea. Would it be best to sprout them first? I have a seed sprouter in my cupboard and could do this quite easily. What is the effect of sprouting soya beans on their toxins and so on? — Ingrid.

Dear Ingrid, If you put a few edamame beans on your salad once in awhile I would not worry about it, unless, of course, you are allergic to soy. No reason to throw out the bag but also no reason to buy more. I would not recommend sprouting soybeans as it concentrates the toxins. Long-term fermentation neutralizes them, but short-term sprouting concentrates them.

6. How can edamame be a problem. It’s simple, natural and been eaten in Asia for at least 5,000 years. – Peter

Dear Peter, Edamame is a definitely a low-tech soy product. Common sense would suggest it’s been around for a long time. But historian William Shurtleff of the Soyfoods Center in Lafayette, CA, knows of no early references to green vegetable soybeans in China. An herbal guide from 1406 (Ming Dynasty) indicates the whole pods of young soybeans could be eaten or ground for use with flour, but it recommended such uses only during times of famine. A Materia Medica from 1620 recommends edamame, but only for the medicinal purpose of killing “bad or evil chi.” By 1929, however, edamame was definitely on some menus. William Morse of the USDA reported on a field trip to China that “as early as May, small bundles of plants with full grown pods were seen on the market. At the present time the market is virtually flooded with bundles of plants with full grown pods, the seeds of which are also full grown. The pods are boiled in salt water and the beans eaten from the pods.” As for your dateline, many people talk about soy being eaten by Asians for 5,000 or even 10,000 years or “since time immemorial.” Anthropology and history texts do not support this idea. The oldest soyfoods, miso and tofu date back only about 2,500 years. Contrary to popular belief, soy was not eaten as a food 5,000 years ago, but it was highly regarded for its role in crop rotation.

Reprinted with permission from Dr. Kaayla Daniel

Kaayla T. Daniel, PhD, CCN, is The Naughty Nutritionist (TM) because of her ability to outrageously and humorously debunk nutritional myths. A popular guest on radio and television, she has appeared on The Dr Oz Show, ABC’s View from the Bay, NPR’s People’s Pharmacy and numerous other shows. Her own radio show, “Naughty Nutrition with Dr. Kaayla Daniel,” launches April 2011 on World of Women Radio. Dr Daniel is the author of The Whole Soy Story: The Dark Side of America’s Favorite Health Food, a popular speaker at Wise Traditions and other conferences, a Board Member of the Weston A. Price Foundation and recipient of its 2005 Integrity in Science Award. Her website is and she can be reached at



  1. While reading this article, I was just thinking about fava beans, which are cooked very little and eaten green (and very delicious, I might add! I would have been eating more of them if not for their cost). Then I saw the word “favism” mentioned in the article, googled it, and was amazed that in all the times I’ve googled fava beans I never saw mention of favism! I had planned to ask about fava beans; now I don’t even need to.

  2. Excellent article. I avoid soy because it messes with my hormones and makes me crazy and anxious. Years ago my friend and I were shopping at a local international market, another shopper was reading labels and getting frustrated. Label after label after label then she finally yelled out…”SOY IS POISON!”


    • That other shopper could have been me :) From 1978 until 2006 I ate lots of soy…started with Shaklee Soy Protein shakes for breakfast and lots of soy nuts, fake soy meals, and finally learned about Weston Price in 2006. Sadly, in 2004 my thyroid was removed. Looking back, I now know that I was hypothyroid from about 1980 until I went Hyper in 2004.

      It’s really too bad cause I loved snacking on edamame. :(

  3. We drove past fields and fields of soy yesterday as we were bringing someone their farm order (pastured meat). I’d been really hoping to see some peaches or blueberries or something, but sadly, no. Just soy, with a little corn mixed in. I was trying to explain to my 3.5 YO daughter what it was and why we don’t eat it. She is very curious about “good food” vs. “junk food” or even “poison.” It was interesting to explain….

  4. If sprouting edamame concentrates toxins, I’m guessing tofu made from sprouted soybeans would be chock full of them, then? I ask because I almost bought a product like this recently, thinking the phytic acid would be eliminated through sprouting.

  5. Well tofu is a quickly processed soy and is also not good for you. Fermented soy products like miso and proper tamari are cultured with bacteria and given sufficient time break down all the toxins and phytonutrients. What is good for this bacteria, however is not good for you. Read Dr. Daniel’s book “The Whole Soy Story”. It’s actually a fun read as she is engaging and punny but it is science based and she has the credentials to back it up. It is a solid scientific read that is not too hard to read. It is important to know the facts because so many people assume it is healthy for you and you need to be prepared when people offer it to you or your kids.

  6. Great article! I have wondered – but sine it was non fermented soy, I just automatically crossed it off my list. Scary that it’s now sold in MICROWAVABLE bags…there is no UGH big enough!

  7. Funny how so many people here can be so misinformed. Ex. Promoting the idea that soy is bad…soy is poison…soy
    there have been NO conclusive studies proving with 100% certainty that soy foods are bad/poison/cause hormone imbalance.

    I have eaten tofu, edamame and other forms of soy since I was a baby and I do not have any health.
    Probably it is because most health read that soy can be a nice addition to their diet. Then they go become EXTREMIST and eat it everyday in EXCESSIVE amounts.
    Now anything in EXCESS is bad for you…for example water. Too much? You drown and die. Too little? You dehydrate and die.
    You can say the same thing about soy..or anything else in life.
    You need to find a balance – moderation is key.
    So what the bottom line is…Soy is NOT BAD if eaten in balance. Always gather information from several sources. This article sounds like it is written with bias…it lacks a neutral tone and i don’t advise you to use this as your single source of information.

    Matt C

    • I agree with you 100% THIS ARTICLE IS A JOKE! People eat sooo much crap, there are soo many “toxins” in dairy and meat, and just about everything else. My advice to all of you, is if it is green and fresh, EAT IT. Everything is good in moderation, except the chemical filled foods that you eat on a daily baises, oh goody, it’s on the food pyramid. I kid you not, people who write these articles probably endorse all these crap filled foods without even realizing it. I am so sick of the ignorance in this society! PEOPLE OPEN YOUR EYES! EDAMAME IS THE LEAST OF YOUR WORRIES.I eat beans and Edamame almost daily! I weigh my food and count my calories, but I don’t seem to have any digestive problems. I am healthy, fit and I feel amazing. (newly frustrated vegan)

  8. I found an article that actually has some medical studies to back it up. It suggests what one of the commenters said. Soy is good if eaten in moderation, and only in whole form, not processed.

  9. This article is rediculous. While it may be true that there could be some negative side affects of having to much edamame, the benifits largely outweigh any risk that may be involved in having Edamame. What we have here is an individual trying to gain popularity by creating a culture shock and going against the grain of overwhelming scientific evidence. Lets take a looks at the straight facts:

    Here’s what you’ll find in a half-cup serving of shelled edamame (or 1 1/8 cup edamame in the pods):

    120 calories
    9 grams fiber
    2.5 grams fat
    1.5 grams polyunsaturated fat (0.3 grams plant omega-3 fatty acids)
    0.5 gram monounsaturated fat
    11 grams protein
    13 grams carbohydrate
    15 mg sodium
    10% of the Daily Value for vitamin C
    10% Daily Value for iron
    8% Daily Value for vitamin A
    4% Daily Value for calcium

    Do your research Dr. D. Showing up on “Dr. Oz” hardly makes you credible. To the contrary.

    • The toxins, anti nutrients & phytoestrogens are enough to discourage me from eating them, personally. I can get the good stuff you mentioned in plenty of other foods that taste better, too.


      • if you are concerned with phytoestrogens then you better mark off a whole slew of plants from your diet. Sweet potatoes, eggplant, garlic, flax seed, almonds, chestnuts, pistachios, sesame seeds, green beans, dried apricots, alfalfa, dried dates, hummus, and multigrain bread.

        i’d be more concerned with the real estrogens in cow’s milk and other dairy products.

  10. I agree that this article is ridiculous. What is happening here is a blogger learned specific terms regarding the chemical makeup of soybeans, also learned that not all of those chemicals are 100% beneficial for a body in every situation all the time and took it to the extreme. Phytoestrogens are not bad for you, they help your cholesterol. The anti-nutrients in edamame are part of the package; you’re not supposed to look at food from nature like vitamin supplements.

    Take kale for example. Kale is one of the best vegetables you can possibly put in your body; it’s been ranked as a superfood many times up there with Collard Greens and cantaloupe. Yet, do a Google search an you’ll find plenty of links linking Kale to thyroid dysfunction, and you can find plenty of people writing blogs about how kale attributed to their health issues. When you take any one food and let it saturate your system for a long period of time (like eating/drinking soybeans or kale every day) then eventually negative effects will start to surface.

    There is nothing wrong with edamame. Pig out on a bowl when you feel the craving, it’s good for you. It’s when you choke it down as part of a ‘daily health routine’ that you get messed up

  11. The article is ridiculous. The problem with the ill-informed or those with an agenda is that they will take half-truths and accentuate the so-called problems when in fact the benefits far outweigh any possible issues. The same tactic is used by the anti-carb crowd (which very often are also the anti-soy crowd). Gary Taubes uses this tactic as well to push his agenda. Anything to sell a book I guess. Personally, I look at healthy populations and observe their diets. The Okinawans are the biggest consumers of soy (mostly in the form of tofu) amongst Asians. I don’t know if this blogger has an agenda or is simply misinformed and is simply repeating the same bad information that others from the anti-soy movement are saying.

      • Neither, although my diet is highly plant-based. I do include small servings of fish, chicken but consume a lot of legumes, quinoa and non-fat dairy (skim milk and Greek yogurt) for protein.

              • Why? Because saturated fat raises my cholesterol. Its no fluke. If I want to raise my cholesterol all I have to do is eat a high fat diet. Saturated fats are the worst. Butter is one of the most atherogenic foods you can eat. My highest cholesterol was measured after having followed a low-carb diet. When you eat a high fat meal and you start to feel a tingling sensation in your fingers, hands and chest you don’t need a PhD to know this isn’t good. So, when I read comments from your readers stating that saturated fat doesn’t raise cholesterol levels I have to laugh and shake my head. By the way, when I went to a more plant-based, low-fat diet my total cholesterol dropped from 236 to 180.

                • If you have high cholesterol issues, you have inflammation in your body that the cholesterol is trying to fix… find the issue for the inflammation, one of which is stress… and from ready your replies you have a lot of that! Time to start reading on the diets of yesterday….

                  • I wouldn’t call them issues. My cholesterol is considered to be in the high-normal range. The desired range as defined in Canada is <5.20 mmol/L or <200 mg/dl using the US system of measurement. I get copies of my blood work and have about 13 years worth so I can easily see how diet affects my cholesterol and other things. My cholesterol is typically around 5 mmol/L. It was up to 6.12 mmol/L (236 mg/dl) a few years ago but an improved diet brought those numbers down as I mentioned in an earlier post. What stress are you referring to?

  12. I read all the comments pro and con for edamame and I agree with Kelly. But, for those of you who are singing it’s praises, are you aware that most of the soybean crops in the USA is GMO?

    • So what? Its hype and little else.

      I’d be more worried about pesticides on fruits and vegetables and the antibiotics and hormones from meat.

      Btw, if I want to buy soy products like tofu or soy milk and don’t want GMO, I can get non-GMO here in Canada. But the whole GMO scare is just hype from the usual uninformed alarmists. They are likely same people that refer to contrails as chemtrails.

      • Well, I was going to chat with you more about how cholesterol is actually *protective* and a sign that something else is going on that’s causing inflammation, but then you totally lost me on the GMO issue, so I know there’s no use discussing more with you.

        Have a good one!

        • How did I lose you on the GMO issue? I thought it was quite clear. I provided a link and I could also have included the WHO opinion on the safety of GMO foods. As far as cholesterol is concerned, yes it is protective but you don’t need to cram it down your throat at every meal or at all for that matter. Most cholesterol, as you know, is produced by your liver. If you never, for the rest of your life, consumed another milligram of cholesterol from your diet your liver would still produce what your body requires to function normally. Would you be suggesting that if some cholesterol is good then the more the better? Those links you provided talked a lot about lipid-lowering drugs. I would never take a lipid lowering drug unless I was hypercholesterolemic. The drugs are over-prescribed and the side effects aren’t worth the trouble. My cholesterol tends to be in the high-normal range. I can control it through diet. Experience has shown me that when I limit saturated fat, my TC and LDL goes down. Increasing saturated fat creates the opposite effect. In my case this is true 100% of the time. So I eat the leanest meats I can find and consume non/low-fat diary. Do I ever cheat? Of course but only occasionally. Its what you do day in and day out that affects your health.

          • Yes, you may be able to non-gmo soy in Canada (was that just tofu? Can’t remember). But, how many other things do you find soy in. When I look at products in the store, I look for the word soy in the ingredient list. I find it in just about every food item I pick up that isn’t fresh, Tuna (in the can) is one of the big ones. It’s called vegetable broth. Oh, I looked a beef and bean burritos in the frozen section. It has texturized vegetable protein (i.e. Soy) in it. Also, the Artificial bacon bits are TVP. Most of the things I’m looking at probably have GMO, but since the USDA doesn’t require labeling stating it is GMO, then it probably is. In Canada, I don’t know, but it is a possibility. I try to not eat anything that I know is GMO, but my husband is set in his ways and has 1/2 can of tuna everyday, except the weekends. Other than than, it’s up to me to prepare real food for him.

            This is “buyer beware” in really big letters!

            • Didn’t realize tuna had soybean oil in it! I buy mostly produce so very little of what I get comes in a box. Yes, soybean oil is ubiquitous.

  13. Sounds to me like the soy producers have hired a few trolls to promote the joys of soybeans. Seems funny to me that they use similar language in their comments like calling the article “ridiculous” and “benefits outweigh the risks”. Name calling and personal criticism are shoddy ways to make an argument.

    • Apparently opposing opinions are distasteful to you. So simply writing off all opposing views on this topic as “trolls” and “soy industry shills” is your argument? Talk about shoddy ways to make an argument. Btw, I’m not promoting the “joys of soybeans”, I’m suggesting the fear of soybeans is not justified. If healthy, long-lived populations such as the Okinawans can do well on a diet that includes soy do you think I’m going to listen to book-selling charlatans like Gary Taubes, et al? I find it rather amusing, if not pathetic, when a country of fat, sick people try to pick apart the food choices of healthy populations.

  14. I have to agree that he sounds like a plant. But – on the other hand, after trying to tell people about good nutrition and hitting a similar wall, I’m happy to let people eat what they want, get sick and go from there. I’m here to help people who want help. Like everything else, people usually have to bottom out before they will listen.

    • And it takes about three minutes on this site to see the Paleo propoganda. My goodness…someone comes here and tries to address all the myth-making about the dangers of soy and they are “corporate shills.”

      This site is not scientifice and to refer to soy beans, as poor substitutes for “lima beans” is just naive.

      Some science here. Not a lick of it convincing.

  15. I don’t bother to try and convince anyone of anything. I’ll part with information, but I believe in letting people live or die with their own choices and insist on letting me do the same thing.

  16. He may come around- most people discover the real way of eating when they are forced to because of health reasons and dr. Advice fails them. Just four years ago, my husband and I were shaking our heads too. Now we know! And every medical problem we had has been resolved with the paleo diet.

  17. I read the book, The Okinawan Diet. Back in the day indigenous people of the Ryukyu Islands ate soybeans and made fermented soybean curd (tofu) It was not GMO ..The study was done before GMO proliferation and it serves as a good reference. They also ate rice, fresh homegrown veggies..seaweed and seafood and had a shamanistic belief system based on Koshinto. There are many unique things about the Okinawans that the troll failed to include in his summation. Organic homegrown edamame is good for you and one should not fear eating it.

  18. I read the book, The Okinawan Diet. Back in the day indigenous people of the Ryukyu Islands ate soybeans and made fermented soybean curd (tofu) It was not GMO ..The study was done before GMO proliferation and it serves as a good reference. They also ate rice, fresh homegrown veggies..seaweed and seafood and had a shamanistic belief system based on Koshinto. There are many unique things about the Okinawans that the troll failed to include in his summation. Organic homegrown edamame is good for you and one should not fear eating it.

  19. His head would probably explode since I was eating 2 whole organic eggs smashed up with real butter lol

    • Sorry, my head didn’t explode. You can eat whatever you want. I know what works for me and I’ll stay with it.

      Btw, my wife eats more like what you’re describing.

  20. I don’t agree with him on the GMO thing but if what he’s eating works for him, hey, that’s great! I got high cholesterol too when I was cooking everything in coconut oil. I stopped and my levels went back to normal. Everybody’s different, some people do well with soy consumption, others do not. That’s just the way it is. There’s no such thing as a diet fits all…

  21. Rob, you are basing your argument on one population. Have you never heard of the Weston A. Price Foundation? Their information is based on traditional diets of many cultures, not just one. Here is an example of their info on soy: Notice how little soy the Asians are consuming. Americans are consuming more and more soy. It’s in everything.
    Oh and the article you linked to from Forbes, both the writers are members of the Genetic Literacy Project. They are hardly an unbiased source to talk about GMO’s, their whole website is pro-GMO.

    • Are we still talking about soy? Yes, I’m basing my argument on Asian populations obviously because they are the populations that have been consuming soy the longest of any other. Okinawans consume the most soy of all amongst the Asian populations. As far as the side argument on high fat diets, I’ll use any long-lived, healthy population including the the Sardinians, the Hunza, the Okinawans, etc. There are no low-carb populations that come close to their level of health. The closest would be the Icelandic diet, which is low-carb-ish, I suppose.

  22. No, soy is not a good thing; I found that out the hard way, by using it and having my thyroid condition worsen over the two years that I drank soy milk. Considering it was the only change I made, I know it was the soy. Once I found out that most soy is gmo anyway, I stopped ingesting it and it took at least 2-3 years to recover. Now I will only eat organic, feremented soy products now and then.

  23. Another great example of the effects of starving your brain by limiting fat consumption. Poor guy….

  24. While I agree with Kelly, I do feel it is not helpful to disparage the opposing party on this debate. I, too, find these discussions very frustrating. I have come to the conclusion that one cannot influence another by argument. It has been said that people would sooner change their religion than the way they eat. I try to keep mum, which is hard, since most of my friends are very health-conscious and talk about diet, cholesterol and how awful meat is for you at every meal. The HC – SAD diet is everywhere in my set and they think I’m a total wing nut if I disagree, because ALL their doctors are still spouting Ancil Keys. Makes me want to not break bread with my friends, which is sad. I have just come from a six-day workshop where 7-8 of use took three meals a day together, so maybe I’m
    just on overload right now. But I do want to say that ending a discussion that you are not winning with disparaging remarks (“he’ll be sorry”, “limiting fat is starving his brain”, etc) is extremely counter-productive.

  25. Incredible. There’s no reasoning with some people. But the bottom line is each of us will ultimately reap the result of what we choose to eat…for better or worse. Kelly, your posts have been a great inspiration to me in my journey toward a healthier diet. Keep up the good work!… And thanks!

  26. hi there
    i am aware of the problems with all sorts of non-fermented soy and/or processed soy so im not questioning that.
    what is nagging at me is the favism you threw in the answer of question number 3.
    favism is not something people get when they eat too much beans, favism is something people that have a “disorder” get when they eat beans. it’s like you dont get “celiac” from eating too much gluten… beans as well as gluten will only affect people with a genetic predisposition.
    i d appreciate it if you d take the time to clarify that on your answer, because at the moment it sounds very dubious, to say the least,

  27. @MD Robinson

    could i just suggest that before you post the nutritional alleged value of any food you actually do a little research on micronutrient absorption?
    phytates are antinutrients that do not allow for the absorption of micronutrients such as calcium and iron amongst others. due to that fact, you wont absorb the aforementioned nutrients from any unfermented soy product. also, protein absorption is not optimal.
    like i said, it would be good for you to do some research on antinutrients, you will probably be surprised by what you find. this is not something exclusive to soy but soy is notoriously one of the most controversial “beans” that exist because of the high amounts of antinutrients and toxins it has.
    the big issue here is that besides the phytates, soy also has big amounts of goitrogens (which mess up your iodine uptake) and isoflavones (which in excess mess up with your hormones and even give men what is informally known as “moobs”). and on top of that it also has enzyme inhibitors .
    i dont have any agenda here, im a veggie so i used to eat a lot of soy and i used to think it was great, but now i only eat it occasionally and i make sure its fermented. fermented non-processed soy is indeed good for you when eaten in moderation, just like kale, cabbage or spinach are also good for you when eaten in moderation.
    by the way, sodium is not good for you at any rate so i didnt really get why you listed that as well.

  28. Your opinion would of been a lot better if you had given links to actual quality studies of edamame beans and it’s affect on health. Just saying. Probably why a lot of people were quick to criticize this article. Like I said just your opinion.

    From the studies I’ve seen soy and it’s affect on our health is inconclusive. I feel like if there was a problem we’d already be hearing about it from Asia, and I haven’t heard any huge health risks over in Asia from soy consumption.

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