Can I Give My Cat Edamame?
Back in the day, most of us reached for granola bars, celery sticks, or trail mix when we wanted a healthy, portable snack. Today, however, we are a little more creative. For those of us who want all the protein of a granola bar plus the vitamin-packed properties of a vegetable, edamame has become the perfect snack. These crunchy little soybeans are delicious, easy to prepare, and resilient enough to survive in your backpack or the inside zipper compartment of your favorite purse. They also make a fantastic addition to many dinnertime staples, like salads and stir fries. For those who cook with beans regularly, edamame can be a fantastic way to shake things up.
For pet owners, however, the ideal snack has to be more than delicious and nutritious—it’s got to be pet-friendly. So, how does that apply to edamame? Can cats have edamame?
The answer: technically, cats can consume edamame, but it is not recommended. Though the rampant anti-soy hysteria that has made its rounds through the media may suggest otherwise, soy does not appear to be poisonous to humans, dogs, or even cats. However, because cats are obligate carnivores, the number of plant foods that are considered beneficial to their health is rather limited. So, if your cat loves edamame and seems to be able to eat it without getting an upset stomach, feel free to toss a couple beans their way from time to time. You should not, however, use edamame (or any soy foods) as a staple in the feline diet.
Health Benefits of Feeding Your Cat Edamame
There have not been too many studies on the effects of soy on feline health, but based on studies performed on humans and other animals, it is possible that minimally processed soy foods like edamame may offer some small health benefits. In human studies, soy foods have been found to have a powerful healing effect on the cardiovascular system—humans who ate soy foods saw improvement in their cholesterol levels. They also found that soy foods may help correct hyperlipidemia.
Though we often think of heart disease, high cholesterol, and hyperlipidemia as strictly human ailments, unfortunately, they can affect our feline friends, too. Cats who are overweight, suffering from underlying conditions, or eating a poor diet are more likely to struggle with these problems. However, there has been no research on treating felines suffering from these diseases with soy foods. It is possible that the healing effects of soy may not apply to our cats.
Edamame has one component that can definitely benefit your cat’s health: fiber. Cats should not consume nearly the quantity of dietary fiber that we do on a daily basis, but small amounts of plant foods may help regulate digestion and decrease their risk of chronic disease. Dietary fiber, which is indigestible, becomes a slippery, jelly-like substance once it absorbs water. This can help soften dry, hard stool, which will help speed its journey through the intestines.
Many pet owners find that incorporating small amounts of plant foods into their cats’ diets alleviates their digestive problems. However, all plant foods contain fiber, and there are probably better options than edamame.
The scientific consensus is that soy foods are safe and healthy for humans—they contain healthy fats, a fair amount of fiber, and a substantial amount of the protein we need to build and maintain muscle. Unfortunately, soy foods cannot meet many of our cats’ dietary needs. Unlike us, cats are obligate carnivores. Our housecats come from a long line of meat-munching, prey-snatching wild cats who lived solely on the flesh of the animals they hunted. As such, they have evolved to require a vastly different balance of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
Things to Consider
In conclusion, giving your cat small amounts of edamame is not likely to harm them, but it is not recommended as a dietary staple. Edamame does contain some fiber and antioxidants, which may have small health benefits for your cat, but there are better, lower-calorie sources of both of these things. Cats are obligate carnivores who can only meet their nutritional needs by eating meat products. Your cat should spend their calories eating foods that will fulfill their dietary needs, and edamame is not one of those foods.