Benefits of Prune Juice: A Powerful Constipation Reliever

You may have heard about prune juice for babies or older adults, but this purple-colored drink is breaking old stereotypes and gaining a whole new following. Don’t be mistaken, the health benefits of prune juice still include constipation relief, but that is not all it can offer. Made from prunes (also known as dried plums), prune juice is packed full of beneficial nutrients, antioxidants, and phytochemicals that can support your health from head to toe.

If you are looking for natural ways to support healthy digestion, bone growth, colon function, heart health, and more, then you need to give prune juice a chance. Below, we will explore all the health benefits of prune juice, who should drink it, and how to make your own organic prune juice at home.

What Are Prunes?

Prunes are dried plums. Today’s prune farmers carefully select different plum varieties based on their unique potential for being dried and juiced. In the United States, there are only a handful of plum varieties that make their way into mass-produced prune juices, the most popular being Prunus domestica, sometimes called the European plum.

In my opinion, prunes should be flying off the shelves. However, they have experienced a popularity crisis over the years as many assume prunes are only for the very young or very old. Sometime around 2001, prune producers started to rebrand their prunes as “dried plums.” While they are the same thing, when selecting the best prune juice you should stick to the ones labeled “prune.” Making this choice helps ensure the distinct color, flavor, and nutrition that prune juice offers. Select certified organic options whenever available.

How Is Prune Juice Made?

Once the plums are harvested and dried, the juicing process begins. First, the prunes are placed in boiling water and soaked until the juice starts to release and the fruit starts to disintegrate. Next, the mixture is separated and filtered. What remains is a delicious juice that is high in dietary fiber and other health-promoting compounds.

What Vitamins & Minerals Are Found in Prune Juice?

There are lots of naturally occurring nutrients found in prune juice. Every glass contains an ample blend of vitamins, minerals, and polyphenols that have helped support wellness for centuries. Prunes also contain some lesser-known trace minerals like iodine and boron and provide significant amounts of the nerve-boosting mineral, potassium.

Below is the nutritional breakdown for one cup of prune juice according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Nutrient Database.

Nutrient Value Per 100 g
Protein 0.61 g
Carbohydrates 17.45 g
Fat 0.03 g
Fiber 1.0 g
Sugars 16.45 g
Calcium 12 mg
Iron 1.18 mg
Magnesium 14 mg
Manganese 0.15 mg
Phosphorus 25 mg
Potassium 276 mg
Selenium 0.6 µg
Sodium 4 mg
Zinc 0.21 mg
Vitamin C 4.1 mg
Thiamin 0.016 mg
Riboflavin 0.07 mg
Niacin 0.785 mg
Vitamin B-6 0.218 mg
Vitamin A 3 IU
Vitamin E 0.12 mg
Vitamin K 3.4 µg

The Top 7 Health Benefits of Prune Juice

While some health benefits of prune juice are well-known, others may surprise you. Here are the top seven health benefits of drinking prune juice.

1. Constipation Relief

Yes, prune juice can help you poop—it’s no joke! Prune juice has naturally occurring insoluble and soluble fiber as well as a natural compound called sorbitol. Together, these compounds can help reduce the occurrence and the effects of constipation.

Prunes and prune juice are among the best natural ways to add fiber to your diet. Fiber is critical for those looking to put a stop to constipation. Insoluble fiber in prune juice helps add bulk and weight to your stool, helping it move through your digestive system more quickly.

Sorbitol is found in prunes and many other healthy fruits, including apples, cherries, and peaches. It is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol, which acts as a sweetener in prune juice. Sorbitol is also an effective laxative. It works by pulling in water to soften the stool, making going to the bathroom much easier for most people.

2. Supports Strong Bones

Bone density and strength is a growing concern among older Americans. Often, someone won’t even know there is an issue until a break or significant bone loss occurs. Luckily, there are some fruits and vegetables anyone can add to their diet to help support their nutrition and normal bone health.

Healthy bones are always in a steady cycle of deterioration and regrowth. However, people with high free radical counts may experience bone loss at a rate that outpaces new growth. This imbalance can lead to painful fractures and breaks. Antioxidant consumption through fruits and vegetables, like prunes, may help keep free radicals in check and encourage healthy bone growth and strength.

Prunes are also a rich source of vitamins and minerals that are known to support healthy bones, including boron, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin K.

3. Promotes Colon Health

Thousands of Americans die each year due to complications with their colon. As science looks for preventative solutions, some studies have turned to prunes as a possible answer. While more research is needed, one of these studies did demonstrate that prune juice encouraged healthy growth and function of colon cells, which may help support long-term colon health.

4. Boosts Gut Health

So many health concerns stem from an unhealthy gut. Your best bet for long-term health should focus on promoting proper gut health with the right balance of probiotics. If this is your goal, then prunes can help. Healthy guts rely on a collection of good bacteria that form the gut flora, otherwise known as your microbiota. To thrive, the healthy bacteria in your gut must receive nutrients known as prebiotics. The fiber found in prune juice provides prebiotics and can help contribute to a happy, balanced gut.

5. Helps Maintain Normal Heart Health

Prune juice has the potential to help your body maintain a healthy heart in several different ways. Prunes can have a positive effect on cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and even plaque buildup.

One study followed participants who consumed prunes every day for a year. Total cholesterol levels were lowered by up to 8% at the end of the experiment. Another study conducted over a much shorter period still showed lowering effects for those with high cholesterol. Participants consumed 12 prunes a day for the eight-week study and significantly lowered their LDL cholesterol—otherwise known as bad cholesterol.

Like cholesterol, blood pressure is a concern for those looking to maintain optimal heart health. Prunes have a long history of use for blood pressure in countries like India and Pakistan, and modern research is confirming some of these potential benefits. Several animal studies have shown that prune extracts contributed to lower blood pressure in mice.

Prunes may also help prevent some common heart concerns such as plaque buildup on arterial walls, and promote long-term heart health through their abundance of antioxidants, potassium, and vitamin K.

6. May Support Weight Management

Anyone who has ever tried a new diet knows that snacks play a vital role in the success or failure of your weight loss goals. Some research has shown that prunes may be a good choice for some dieters because they can lower total energy intake. In other words, prunes can help you eat less.

Blood sugar can also be a concern for those looking to manage their weight or who have complications with diabetes. Some studies suggest that eating prunes will not immediately increase your glucose level, while others have used prunes as a way to lower blood sugar levels. More conclusive research is needed to determine exactly how prunes affect blood sugar, but substances in prunes like sorbitol are used in some diabetic-friendly candy as a sugar alternative.

7. Encourages Normal Liver Function

Prunes contain nutrients that may help promote normal liver function. One clinical trial studied the effects of prunes on 166 healthy participants. Each person was given prune juice or whole, dried prunes daily over an eight-week period. Blood samples were taken at the beginning and the end of the study. Researchers concluded prunes may promote a healthy liver and could prevent some liver-related health concerns.

Who Should Drink Prune juice?

Daily consumption of prune juice really could benefit almost anyone. However, those that are more prone to constipation, such as pregnant women, may especially benefit from a daily serving of prune juice. Prune juice has a mild laxative effect and complete lack of serious side effects that have solidified it among the most popular home remedies for children with constipation as well.

Ways to Add Prune Juice to Your Diet

There are a lot of different ways you can start consuming more prune juice. Drinking one to two cups a day should be enough to feel a difference. Many people find it convenient to drink it with their breakfast each morning.

If you don’t care for the juice, then eating the whole, dried prune can be a great alternative. Some parents even like mixing in prunes with nuts and other healthy snacks to make a healthier version of trail mix.

How to Make Organic Prune Juice at Home

If you can’t find organic prune juice at your local supermarket, or you just want an option without any preservatives or additives, then making prune juice at home is a healthy alternative. All you need is some time and two ingredients—prunes and water.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup organic prunes
  • 5 cups distilled or filtered water

Directions

  1. Make sure all of the pits have been removed from the prunes.
  2. Place the 5 cups of distilled or filtered water into a non-toxic saucepan.
  3. Turn heat to high and bring water to a rolling boil.
  4. While the water is heating, place your cup of pitted prunes in a non-toxic, heat-proof glass container.
  5. Once the water has been at a rolling boil for 2 to 5 minutes, carefully pour the water into your glass jar until the prunes are covered completely. This should be about 1 cup of hot water.
  6. Place the extra water aside for later, and leave the prunes to soak for 24 hours.
  7. After the prunes are properly soaked, blend the prunes and water mixture using a blender or immersion blender. Blend until there is a smooth consistency.
  8. Use a sieve or cheesecloth to filter out any large chunks from the blended mixture.
  9. Combine the remaining water that you set aside earlier with the blended prunes.
  10. Stir until combined, and then chill the juice in the fridge.
  11. If your prune juice is not sweet enough, then there are some organic sweetener options. Try adding some organic pear juice, honey, or some monk fruit to taste for a subtle sweet flavor.

Prune Juice Side Effects & Precautions

Prune juice has no serious recorded side effects. However, some people do have a plum and prune allergy. Parents should be cautious and follow their pediatrician’s advice before giving dried prunes or prune juice to their children. Because prune juice has a mild laxative effect, overconsumption may cause unwanted gas or mild diarrhea. Drinking only one to two cups of prune juice a day should avoid any of these complications in healthy adults. While prune juice is not as acidic as other fruit juices, it does have a low level of acids that may trigger acid reflux for sensitive individuals.

Safe & Natural Colon Cleanser

Constipation can sometimes be a sign of more complicated issues affecting your digestive system. Far too often, these symptoms arise due to toxins in your diet or environment. If you are experiencing occasional constipation, then a colon cleanse may help eliminate the underlying cause. Oxy-Powder® is a scientifically formulated, all-natural oxygen colon cleanser that safely relieves the bloating, irritation, and occasional constipation associated with a toxic colon.

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Omega-3 May Keep Gut Microbiota Diverse and Healthy

A new study published in the journal Scientific Reports finds that people who eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids have more bacterial diversity in the gut, which promotes better overall health.

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids, which means that although we need them to stay healthy, the human body cannot produce them on its own – so we have to get them from food.

The benefits of a diet rich in omega-3s are well known. The fatty acids seem to lower the “bad” kind of cholesterol, lower high blood pressure and improve overall cardiovascular health.

Some studies have also suggested that omega-3 can reduce symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and improve bone strength, as well as protect against age-related cognitive decline and dementia.

And now, researchers from the University of Nottingham’s School of Medicine, in collaboration with scientists from King’s College London – both in the United Kingdom – add to the long list of omega-3’s benefits.

The new study – led by Dr. Ana Valdes, an associate professor, and reader at the University of Nottingham – suggests that the compound can improve the biodiversity of the gut.

A gut with rich and diverse bacteria is key to our overall health. As we explain in one of our articles, the 38 trillion bacteria that live inside our guts keep our immune systems healthy and ready to fight.

Conversely, losing microbial diversity has been associated with irritable bowel syndrome and bowel cancer, to name just a few conditions.

“The human gut is receiving a lot of attention in medical research as it is increasingly linked to a wide variety of health issues,” explains Dr. Valdes.

“Our digestive systems are home to trillions of microbes, most of which are beneficial in that they play a vital role in our digestion, immune system, and even regulate our weight,” she says.

So, Dr. Valdes and colleagues set out to examine the link between omega-3 intake and the diversity of the gut’s bacteria in middle aged and senior women.

How Omega-3 may improve gut health

The researchers analyzed levels of DHA, which is a type of omega-3 fatty acid, as well as total Omega-3 serum levels and microbiome data from 876 twins.

“This cohort of 876 volunteer women had previously been used to investigate the human genetic contribution to the gut microbiome in relation to weight gain and disease,” says Dr. Valdes.

Microbiome data was analyzed using the 16S ribosomal ribonucleic acid sequencing technique. Omega-3 food intake was assessed using a food frequency questionnaire.

Dr. Valdes summarizes the findings, saying, “We […] found [that omega-3 intake], together with […] serum levels of omega-3, were strongly associated with the diversity and number of species of healthy bacteria in the gut.”

The association was independent of whether or not the participants also had a diet rich in fiber.

First study author Dr. Cristina Menni, of King’s College London, adds, “We also found that specific bacteria that have been linked to lower inflammation and lower risk of obesity are increased in people who have a higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids.”

In an attempt to understand the mechanism behind this association, the researchers performed further tests and found that “high levels of omega-3 in blood […] correlated with high levels of a compound called N-carbamyl-glutamate (NCG) in the gut.”

[NCG] has been shown in animals to reduce oxidative stress in the gut. We believe that some of the good effects of omega-3 in the gut may be due to the fact that omega-3 induces bacteria to produce this substance.”

Dr. Cristina Menni

“Our study is the largest to date to examine the relationship between omega-3 fatty acids and the composition of the gut microbiome,” says Dr. Valdes.

10 Natural Remedies for Gas

Intestinal gas is an embarrassing and annoying situation that many people experience on a regular basis. Gas and bloating are, perhaps, one of the main health concerns that human beings living in the Western world complain of.

Estimates show we expel gas at least 14 times a day. That adds up to almost 4 pints of air! But, while these statistics may be the “norm,” it is certainly not a healthy balance. What can we do about all this excess air? Below is a list of a few of my favorite remedies for gas and bloating.

1. Organic Ginger

Drinking ginger tea and eating fresh ginger root are two of the best remedies for gas. Add small amounts of ginger (dried or fresh) to your food, as desired. You can also take a teaspoon of freshly grated ginger before meals for gas relief.

2. Organic Caraway Seeds

Caraway seeds help ease gas, indigestion and cramping, all while stimulating proper digestion. Try adding more of this spice to your meals, particularly if they are the foods that are known to cause gas.

3. Organic Garlic

This hot bulb is a great home remedy for gas because you probably have a small jar of this spice in your kitchen right now. However, for best results, using fresh garlic is recommended.

4. Organic Dandelion Tea

A common weed, dandelion has numerous health benefits, one of which is relieving gas. Drink as a tea or add it dried as a spice to your meals.

5. Organic Parsley

Parsley

Adding more fresh parsley to your diet is another great remedy for gas. Either freshly minced or as a dried spice, add parsley to foods that may contribute to intestinal gas to help prevent the problem.

6. Activated Charcoal

Charcoal has an intense absorption capacity. You can try taking a charcoal supplement before eating, this can help relieve gas and bloating before it starts.

7. Perform a Colon Cleanse

Performing a colon cleanse is a great first step at improving your overall colon health, which in turn may provide gas relief. I recommend performing a 6-day colon cleanse, and then continue taking an oxygen colon cleanser 2-3x weekly, to help aid the body in ridding itself of toxins and gas.

8. Consider a Harmful Organism Cleanse

A large portion of the world’s population has some sort of harmful organism living inside their body. Taking an herbal supplement, such as Paratrex®, will help aid the body in getting rid of these gas-causing invaders.

9. Take a Probiotic Supplement

Taking a probiotic supplement or eating foods with probiotics in them is a great way to get rid of the most common symptoms of gas. In fact, probiotics have many health benefits. Consuming more beneficial bacteria supports healthy colon function.

10. Incorporate Proper Eating Habits Into Your Life

Avoid foods that are known to cause gas and indigestion. This includes fried foods, processed foods and other processed forms of sugar. You may also want to explore your sensitivities to the common foods that cause gas, including wheat products, milk, and high-fat foods. Other foods that can lead to gas include beans, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, onions, apples, corn, oats, potatoes, most dairy products, pears, prunes, peaches and ice cream.

6 Causes of Flatulence

Just as everyone goes to the bathroom, everyone also passes gas; it’s simply a biological reality. Your body is able to absorb a limited amount of the gas it ingests or produces. The rest has to come out somewhere. Even though flatulence is normal, its presence can cause anxiety and panic- both for the person releasing the gas, and those who may be in the vicinity. For this reason, reducing flatulence is of interest to many people, especially if they feel like their body is producing an excessive amount. However, it’s difficult to remedy a situation without understanding what’s causing it, so let’s take a look at six common causes of flatulence.

1. Intestinal Bacteria

Most of the flatulence your body produces is due to intestinal bacteria, which create methane, and other gases, as a byproduct of digestion. Imbalances between unhealthy bacteria and healthy probiotic colonies can influence how much intestinal gas a person may produce. Persons with healthier intestinal colonies typically experience less flatulence; persons with unhealthy imbalances experience more. This is one reason why experts encourage the maintenance of healthy intestinal flora by taking a probiotic supplement. According to the Department of Medicine at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, flatulence and bloating tend to improve when intestinal flora is balanced.

2. Low-Digestible Carbohydrates

You may have seen candy or snacks that are advertised as “having a low impact on blood sugar” but contains 15 grams of “sugar alcohols” on the nutritional label. Sugar alcohols are an example of low-digestible carbohydrates (LDCs). LDCs are carbohydrates that may be added for flavoring purposes but are not absorbed by the small intestine and don’t provide much nutritional effect. This may be desirable for persons hoping to manage their blood sugar or caloric intake. However, even though digestive enzymes do not break down these carbohydrates, they’re not exactly a freebie. The University of Minnesota Department of Food Science and Nutrition warns that LDCs may produce diarrhea and flatulence. One sugar alcohol specifically, Sorbitol, has even been implicated as the source of phenomena dubbed, “Halloween Diarrhea.”

3. Surgery

There have been a lot of surgical advances made over the years and some procedures can be performed in very minimally invasive ways. Some cannot, and even routine surgery can result in anatomical reconstruction. Some patients who have had surgery for gastro esophageal reflux have reported experiencing increased bloating and flatulence afterward.

4. Beans

Also known as the musical fruit, many people believe eating legumes will cause intestinal gas or flatulence due to high fiber content. Researchers at the School of Nutrition and Health Promotion at Arizona State University evaluated the outcomes of several studies that examined the link between beans and flatulence. Although it was deduced that increased fiber intake can produce intestinal gas, they were also quick to mention that concerns about excessive flatulence from eating beans have been slightly exaggerated.

5. Intestinal Disorders

Intestinal disorders are common and produce a range of problems. IBD is a source of constant discomfort for many people. Some estimate that up to 85% of persons with Crohn’s disease suffer from malnutrition. Lactose intolerance, which is widespread among otherwise healthy persons, can also cause diarrhea and bloat. According to the Department of Gastroenterology at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust in London, flatulence is a symptom shared by many intestinal disorders.

6. Harmful Organisms

Like intestinal disorders, harmful organisms disrupt the body and disturb the digestive system. Researchers at the Department of Tropical Medicine at Egypt’s Ahmed Maher Teaching Hospital evaluated stool samples from patients suffering from diarrhea and flatulence and found that harmful organisms infected over 60% of those evaluated.

3 Ways to Reduce and Neutralize Flatulence

Have you ever heard of a rectal catheter? It’s exactly what you imagine it to be. Did you know that several years ago, researchers at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield England used rectal catheters to measure and evaluate the flatulence released by ten volunteers? (I appreciate the thrill of discovery but I’m not sure I’d want to be a technician for that program.) Over a 24-hour period of observation, several facts about flatulence were determined.

  • Women and men produce relatively equal amounts of gas
  • More gas is produced after meals
  • On average, people produce around 700ml of gas per day
  • Reducing fiber intake can reduce gas production

A flatulence fact not recorded in the study is that not every time is a good time to be flatulent. Certain social situations and environments are appropriate, others are not appropriate. Some people, however, are more flatulent than others and regularly experience, or inflict, the misery, horror, and distress associated with excessive flatulence. If this a problem that affects you, you will be happy to discover that methods do exist that can help you neutralize flatulence.

1. Take a Probiotic Supplement

There are a lot of advertising dollars being spent right now to stress (sell) the importance of maintaining healthy intestinal flora. Healthy probiotic colonies in the gut encourage and support healthy digestion. Unhealthy bacterial overgrowth hinders digestion and increases flatulence. This is especially true for persons with intestinal disorders like IBS or Crohn’s disease. If you believe or have been told that you’re too flatulent, try incorporating more probiotic foods into your diet and add a solid probiotic supplement to your nutritional regime.

Due to the recent surge in interest, the probiotic market is currently saturated with products of varying quality. Be sure to read reviews and look for a product from a trusted company with a stellar reputation. I recommend Floratrex™, a superior blend of 23 probiotic species that work to optimize digestion and intestinal function. The basic formula includes 25 billion colony-forming units (CFUs), or you can try the 50 billion CFU advanced formula for the ultimate in probiotic support.

2. Herbal Remedies

For hundreds of years, herbal remedies have been used to support an endless list of ailments.  In France alone, nearly forty plants have been identified as traditional remedies for indigestion. Peppermint and ginger are two of the most popular. Multiple clinical studies have confirmed that taking peppermint after a meal can help reduce the number of intestinal maladies, including flatulence. If you need a solution that’s doubly effective, add some ginger to the mix. A randomized clinical trial conducted at Thailand’s Siriraj Hospital found that consuming a ginger and water solution produced an anti-flatulent effect.

3. Charcoal Filters

Let’s face it, we’ve all been in closed quarters with mixed company and felt the very identifiable pressure of flatulent gases.  The polite, socially acceptable response is to wait until you’re in a private or designated area before unleashing the beast.  Sometimes, however, the pressure is strong and the wait can be long and unbearable.  If you’re on an eight-hour international flight, how long can you really hold it?

Earlier this year, researchers at Herlev Hospital in Copenhagen explored that very question and warned what most of us know: holding it in for long periods of time on an airplane is extremely uncomfortable and difficult. Furthermore, air pressure changes are a part of air travel and that can make flatulence even worse.  The authors recommended embedding charcoal filters into every airplane seat cushion. Charcoal filters, which are able to absorb odors, would allow passengers to release gas without disturbing the nasal sensitivities of their flight neighbor. No mention was made if the filters have sound-suppression capabilities.

3 Signs Your Flatulence is Not Serious

Digestive complaints are a common problem among adults. Gas, bloating, and indigestion: we’ve all experienced all of them and most of the time their presence is temporary. Flatulence, which is perhaps the most popular of gastrointestinal struggles, may occasionally be the result of a serious health problem but is often simply the result of diet or other benign situation. Although you should always be courteous and mindful of those nearby, here are three occasions when you definitely do not need to worry about being flatulent.

1. When It’s a Sign of Recovery

Since flatulence is produced during digestion, by some measures, being flatulent is actually an indication of good health. In some situations, flatulence can even be the sign of recovery.

The anatomical disruption of pregnancy or surgery will often produce a temporary condition known as postoperative ileus, which is a loss of gastrointestinal motion. The presence of flatulence and other bowel noises is an indication the condition has passed. Throughout much of the 1900’s, it was a common task for nurses to monitor and listen for the return of bowel noises in patients with postoperative ileus.

2. When It’s Fake

Whoopee cushions, beloved for their comedic effect, are a source of artificial flatulence… but they’re not what I’m referring to.

Some people describe a colonoscopy as a pleasurable and enjoyable experience, most do not. One of the reasons for the discomfort, or amusement, is because, during a colonoscopy, it’s common to inflate the intestinal tract with air. Yep, just like a balloon. The procedure, which improves visualization, is also known to produce wall-shaking flatulence afterward when the air is released. Both patients and technicians may be relieved to learn that new developments suggest using carbon dioxide instead of “room air” may lessen the amount of flatulence released.

3. When It’s High Altitude Induced

The air inside your body can be affected by altitude and air pressure. Air pressure changes with altitude and it’s common to be more flatulent at higher altitudes, especially for people who do not live in a high altitude area. Some estimates have figured that acute mountain sickness affects over 80% of hikers, mountain climbers, and other short-term high altitude visitors. One of the most common symptoms of acute mountain sickness? Flatulence.

Not All Flatulence is a Joke

Flatulence isn’t always a laughing matter and can actually be indicative of more serious health concerns. The University of Washington’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology has warned that flatulence, along with bloating, pelvic pain, and difficulty eating, are the most common indications of ovarian cancer.

However, don’t freak out because you passed gas. Your body will usually let you know if it’s experiencing a disturbance, so listen to it and listen to it honestly. If you notice changes in the flatulence your body produces or other digestive effects that are different from YOUR norm, don’t ignore it! Take inventory of your life and determine the cause. Has your diet changed? Has your activity level increased or decreased? Are you taking medications or supplements? Be aware of your own health and when you’re in doubt or experiencing discomfort, consult your healthcare provider.

Edamame: Health Benefits, Nutritional Information

Edamame is the perfect little pick-me-up snack. You may have had it as an appetizer at a Japanese restaurant, tucked away in their fuzzy little pods and sprinkled with salt. But what exactly are those little green bean-looking things?

Edamame is a young soybean that has been harvested before the beans have had a chance to harden. You can buy them shelled or in the pod, fresh or frozen.

Edamame is naturally gluten-free and low calorie contains no cholesterol and is an excellent source of protein, iron, and calcium. It is an especially important source of protein for those who follow a plant-based diet.

Possible health benefits of consuming edamame

Edamame
Edamame is a young soybean that has been harvested before the beans have had a chance to harden.

Consuming fruits and vegetables of all kinds has long been associated with a reduced risk of many lifestyle-related health conditions. Many studies have suggested that increasing consumption of plant foods like edamame decreases the risk of obesity and overall mortality, diabetes, heart disease and promotes a healthy complexion and hair, increased energy, overall lower weight.

The isoflavones (a type of compound called phytoestrogens) in soy foods have been linked to a decreased risk for osteoporosis, while the calcium and magnesium in soy may help to lessen PMS symptoms, regulate blood sugar and prevent migraine headaches. Soyfood consumption has been associated with a lower risk of several specific age and lifestyle-related conditions and improving overall general health.

1) Age-related brain diseases

Based on geographic epidemiological findings, it has been observed that populations that consume greater amounts of soy have, in general, less incidence of age-related mental disorders.

2) Cardiovascular disease

Consuming soy protein as an alternative to animal protein lowers levels of LDL cholesterol, which in turn decreases the risk of atherosclerosis and high-blood pressure.3

3) Breast and prostate cancer

Genistein, the predominant isoflavone in soy, contains antioxidant properties that inhibit the growth of cancer cells.4 Moderate amounts of soy foods do not affect tumor growth or a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. In fact, at least 10mg of soy per day can decrease breast cancer recurrence by 25%.

4) Depression

The folate in edamame may help with depression by preventing an excess of homocysteine from forming in the body, which can prevent blood and other nutrients from reaching the brain. Excess homocysteine interferes with the production of the feel-good hormones serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which regulate not only mood but sleep and appetite as well.

5) Diabetes

People who suffer from type 2 diabetes often experience kidney disease, causing the body to excrete an excessive amount of protein in the urine. Evidence from a recent study has indicated that those who consumed only soy protein in their diet excreted less protein than those that consumed only animal protein.

6) Fertility

For women of child-bearing age, consuming more iron from plant sources such as edamame, spinach, beans, pumpkin, tomatoes, and beets appear to promote fertility, according to Harvard Medical School’s Harvard Health Publications. Also of note, adequate folic acid intake is essential for pregnant women to protect against neural tube defects in infants. One cup of edamame per day provides 121% of daily folate needs.

7) Energy levels

Not getting enough iron in your diet can also affect how efficiently your body uses energy. Edamame is a great non-heme source of iron, along with lentils, spinach, and eggs.

8) Inflammation

Choline is a very important and versatile nutrient in edamame that aids our bodies in sleep, muscle movement, learning, and memory. Choline also helps to maintain the structure of cellular membranes, aids in the transmission of nerve impulses, assists in the absorption of fat and reduces chronic inflammation.

9) Osteoporosis

Soy isoflavones are known to decrease bone loss and increase bone mineral density during menopause and have also been reported to reduce other menopausal symptoms.

Nutritional breakdown of edamame

Edamame is a complete source of dietary protein; meaning that like meat and dairy, it provides all of the essential amino acids needed in the diet that humans cannot make themselves.

The little beans are also high in healthy polyunsaturated fats, especially omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid.

According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, one cup (155 grams) of frozen, prepared edamame contains 189 calories, 8 grams of fat (1 gram saturated, 16 grams of total carbohydrate (8 grams of fiber and 3 grams of sugar) and a whopping 17 grams of protein.

A one-cup serving of edamame provides 10% of calcium needs, 16% of vitamin C, 20% of iron, 52% of vitamin K and 121% of your daily needs for folate.

Edamame also contains vitamin E, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, B-6, pantothenic acid, choline, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, and manganese.

How to incorporate more edamame into your diet

You can find fresh edamame in the produce section, often still in the pod, but you can also find it already shelled. You can also buy shelled or in-pod frozen edamame as well. If buying frozen, make sure there are no additives in the ingredients, only edamame.

Edamame with salt
The most common way to enjoy edamame is straight from the pod, sprinkle (while still in the pod) with sea salt.

Edamame has a mild, buttery flavor that pairs well with many dishes. You can add it to soups, stews, salads, rice dishes or casseroles in place of or in combination with other beans.

The most common way to enjoy edamame is straight from the pod, after boiling for 5 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle (while still in the pod) with sea salt, then pop and snack away. You can also substitute edamame when a recipe calls, for peas.

Try some of these delicious and healthy recipes with edamame:

Potential health risks of consuming edamame

Possible risks in consuming soy foods have been heavily debated recently, especially those pertaining to the topic of breast cancer. There is not enough evidence from human clinical trials to substantiate the claim that the isoflavones in soy contribute to breast cancer risk.

The soy and cancer study that started the controversy concerned only those with a specific type breast cancer (estrogen receptor positive). Some early studies suggested possible increased tumor growth in rats with a high intake of soy. As more advanced research was done, scientists found that rats metabolize soy completely different from humans, making the earlier studies invalid.

Now we know that moderate amounts of soy foods do not affect tumor growth or a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. In fact, at least 10mg of soy per day can decrease breast cancer recurrence by 25%.

Findings from animal models have also suggested there is a positive correlation between tumor growth and the degree to which an isoflavone-containing product has been processed. Therefore, it is better to consume tofu and other soy foods that have undergone minimal amounts of processing.3

According to the National Soybean Research Laboratory, unlike the popular genetically engineered soybean, all edamame is non-GMO.

If you have a concern regarding consuming other genetically modified soy foods, go organic. The USDA National Organic Standards prohibit the use of GMOs. You can also look for products with the Non-GMO Project Verified seal. Some brands with this seal include Silk, Amy’s, Back to Nature and WestSoy. For a complete list of products with the verified seal, visit nongmoproject.org.

Keep in mind that it is the total diet or overall eating pattern that is most important for disease prevention and achieving good health. It is better to aim to eat a diet with a variety than to rely on individual foods as the key to good health.

Medical Experts: The Cardiometabolic Health Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet

Plant-based eating patterns continue to soar in popularity and a group of nutrition researchers outlines the science behind this sustainable trend in a review paper, entitled “Cardiometabolic benefits of plant-based diets,” which appears as an online advance in Nutrients. The review will publish in a future special edition, entitled “The Science of Vegetarian Nutrition and Health.”

The review outlines how a plant-based diet, which is naturally low in calories, saturated fat, and cholesterol, and rich in nutrients, like fiber and antioxidants, could be one tool, in addition to adopting a healthful lifestyle, used to improve nutrition intake and reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.

The authors, Hana Kahleova, M.D., Ph.D., Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., and Neal Barnard, M.D., F.A.C.C., analyzed clinical research studies and reviews published until May 2017. Their research finds a plant-based diet, built around vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes, can improve nutrient intake and help manage body weight and glycemic control, improve cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and reverse atherosclerosis or the narrowing of the arteries caused by the accumulation of arterial plaque.

“The future of health care starts on our plates,” says Dr. Kahleova, the lead study author and the director of clinical research at the nonprofit Physicians Committee. “The science clearly shows food is medicine, which is a powerful message for physicians to pass on to their patients and for policymakers to consider as they propose modifications for health care reform and discuss the potential amendment to the 2018 Farm Bill.”

To understand the health benefits of a plant-based diet, the researchers analyze its structure:

Fiber

Fiber contributes to bulk in the diet without adding digestible calories, thus leading to satiety and weight loss. Additionally, soluble fiber binds with bile acids in the small intestines, which helps reduce cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar.

Plant-Based Rx: Aim to eat at least 35 grams of dietary fiber a day. The average American consumes 16 grams of dietary fiber each day.

Fats

Plant-based diets are lower in saturated fat and dietary cholesterol. Replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats can decrease insulin sensitivity, a risk factor for metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.

Plant-Based Rx: Swap meat and dairy products, oils, and high-fat processed foods for smaller portions of plant staples, like a few avocado slices or a small handful of nuts and seeds, which are rich in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.

Plant Protein

Vegetable proteins reduce the concentrations of blood lipids, reduce the risk of obesity and cardiovascular disease, and may have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects.

Plant-Based Rx: Legumes, or lentils, beans, and peas are naturally rich in protein and fiber. Try topping leafy green salads with lentils, black beans, edamame, or chickpeas.

Plant Sterols

Plant sterols that have a structure similar to that of cholesterol reduce cardiovascular disease risk and mortality, have anti-inflammatory effects, and positively affect coagulation, platelet function and endothelial function, which helps reduce blood clots, increases blood flow, and stabilizes glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes.

Plant-Based Rx: Consume a high intake of antioxidants and micronutrients, including plant sterols, from whole plant foods, like vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, beans, and seeds. A plant-based diet supports cardio-metabolic benefits through several independent mechanisms. The synergistic effect of whole plant foods may be greater than a mere additional effect of eating isolated nutrients.

“To make significant health changes, we have to make significant diet changes,” concludes Dr. Kahleova. “A colorful plant-based diet works well for anyone, whether you’re an athlete looking to boost energy, performance, and recovery by enabling a higher efficiency of blood flow, which equates to oxygen conversion, or if you’re a physician who wants to help patients lose extra weight, lower blood pressure, and improve their cholesterol.”

Dr. Kahleova and the study authors recommend using a plant-based diet as an effective tool to treat and prevent cardiometabolic disease, which they would like to see promoted through future dietary guidelines and nutrition policy recommendations.

Article: Cardio-Metabolic Benefits of Plant-Based Diets, Hana Kahleova, Susan Levin and Neal Barnard, Nutrients, doi: 10.3390/nu9080848, published 9 August 2017.