Baby Soybeans aka Edamame

by David Mendosa Patient Advocate

Another name for baby soybeans, whether fresh or frozen, is edamame. Most people call them edamame, but that Japanese word was hard for me to learn. And I do like babies of all sorts.

Edamame, usually pronounced in English as something like ed-a MA may, by whatever name you call them is one of the most nutritious vegetables on the planet. Unfortunately, however, it's not a food that most of us who have diabetes know well enough.

For the past few years I've run across them from time to time at farmers markets. Generally, they have been available in the pod from which we can squeeze out the beans. I know that some people prefer to buy them in the pod because it slows them down.

That never attracted me. But recently I've found them shelled at all the supermarkets and natural foods stores. For me that has made all the difference.

Nutrition is one thing and good taste is another. When I started eating fresh shelled baby soybeans, I discovered a new favorite vegetable. I find them to be delicious as well as healthy.

Farmers harvest these baby soybeans at the peak of ripening right before they reach the hardening time. People in East Asian have been using them for thousands of years as a major source of protein. Here in the West people usually eat them as a snack or as a vegetable dish or in soups.

I didn't know that when I started to eat baby soybeans regularly. So I made the "mistake" of added them to my salad, where they work well indeed. Now I've learned and also enjoy them as a snack.

Baby Soybeans Ready to Eat Edamame is "a soybean that can be eaten fresh and is best known as a snack with a nutritional punch," says an article that the U.S. Department of Agriculture published. Soybeans generally have lots of protein, but these baby soybeans have even higher levels, according to the Wikipedia article about them.

And unlike most vegetable protein, the protein in baby soybeans is close to being complete. Its protein quality is 93 percent, according to NutritionData.

Baby soybeans are also low in calories. One-half cup of them has only 95 calories, according to the most authoritative source, the USDA National Nutrient Database.

Beans in general are also low glycemic, and one bean in particular, chana dal, has an incredibly low glycemic index. But when I started eating very low-carb in 2007, I began to avoid beans because the amount of carbohydrates most of them have.

Soybeans, however, have a lot fewer carbs and more protein than other beans. Lowest in net carbs, if we can trust the label, are cans of Eden Organic Black Soy Beans with 8 grams of total carbohydrate of which 7 grams are fiber in a 1/2 cup serving. That's one gram of net carbs per serving.

In the paragraph just above I wondered if we could trust the Eden label. Since the USDA doesn't seem to have written anything about black soybeans and I don't know of any other black soybeans brands, I just have questions.

But most of the "nutrition facts" statements on the labels of edamame brands that I've discovered are simply not credible. Inaccurate label information is one of my pet peeves, but I usually cut them some slack because manufacturing processes may differ. For example, I trusted the label on the Voskos Greek Style Yogurt until I noticed quite different nutrition facts for the same product on the company's website.

With baby soybeans or edamame, on the other hand, we're talking about an unprocessed crop that can't differ as much as the labels would indicate. Here in Boulder the two supermarket chains and the one large natural foods chain carry a total of six brands. In net carbs they would range from 2 grams for the Birds Eye and Private Selection brands to 7 grams for the Taki and the Whole Foods 365 brands in the same 1/2 cup serving.

In that serving size the amount of protein supposedly varied from 8 grams in the Taki brand to 13 grams in the 365 brand. The labels would indicate that the amount of fat varied from 2.5 grams in the Safeway Selection brand to 4.5 grams in Birds Eye, Private Selection, and Melissa's brands.

So I'll follow the USDA numbers, thank you. One-half cup of frozen prepared edamame has 4.03 grams of fat, 8.43 grams of protein, and 7.7 grams of carbohydrates of which 4 grams is fiber.

Of the six brands available locally four are frozen. Only the Taki brand at one of the two main Whole Foods stores and the Melissa's brand at Safeway are refrigerated and fresh.

Of all six brands Melissa's is my favorite. Not only does it have the best taste but it also is the only brand that carries the USDA Organic label. In addition, it is the only one that carries the claim that it comes from non-GMO soybeans.

However, I had to make a trade off. The Melissa's brand is a bit more expensive than each of the other five brands of baby soybeans. I will just have to defer buying the yacht of my dreams.

David Mendosa
Meet Our Writer
David Mendosa

David Mendosa was a journalist who learned in 1994 that he had type 2 diabetes, which he wrote about exclusively. He died in May 2017 after a short illness unrelated to diabetes. He wrote thousands of diabetes articles, two books about it, created one of the first diabetes websites, and published a monthly newsletter, “Diabetes Update.” His very low-carbohydrate diet, A1C level of 5.3, and BMI of 19.8 kept his diabetes in remission without any drugs until his death.