The versatile soybean

Healthy and easy to use, these beans are breaking out of their shells

Whole soybeans, enjoyed in Japan for centuries, have been going incognito in this country for a long time. In Japanese restaurants, as you pore over the sushi list, a bowl of warm, slightly fuzzy pods―called edamame―arrives. You squeeze open the shell and pop out two or three bright green beans with a fresh, nutty flavor―irresistible.

It's hard to stop eating soybeans, so it's a good thing they're good for you. High in fiber, protein, and isoflavones (hormonelike chemicals), they contain no cholesterol and virtually no saturated fat. Studies suggest that they may help reduce the risk of heart disease.

With so much going for them, soybeans can't stay under wraps forever. Fortunately, they're already widely available, cooked in the pod for an instant appetizer or cooked and shelled to use in soups, salads, stir-fries, stews, and pasta dishes. You'll find soybeans in the refrigerator or freezer case in well-stocked supermarkets, as well as in Asian grocery stores. April―national soy month―is the perfect time to start trying them, and here are some recipes that will make converts of us all.

Recipes:

Linguine with Soybeans and Sausage

Spicy Shrimp and Soybean Stir-fry

Spicy Tofu and Soybean Stir-fry

Soybean and Carrot Salad

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