Properties and Benefits of Fava Beans: Broad beans, faba beans and fava beans are all denominations referring to a variety of beans highly appreciated in the Mediterranean as well as Asian cuisines and culture: Vicia faba. Fava beans are one of the oldest crops in the world and historical documents suggest the beans were extensively cultivated since ancient times. They are extremely rich in vitamins, minerals and other phytpchemicals and the high concentration of nutrients is responsible for the amazing properties and health benefits of fava beans.
But despite this truly wonderful supply of vitamins and minerals, fava beans can cause a potentially fatal condition called ‘favism’. This article will tell you all you need to know about fava beans and how this legume influences your health. Fava beans or broad beans are similar in appearance to any other bean variety: a small, long pod enclosing 4-10 tiny, slightly round beans of bright green color. When ripe, the pod turn a brownish color. If left to dry, the beans too turn brown. Fava beans are relatively easy to grow and can easily thrive in one’s back garden.
The plant can reach outstanding heights of up to 6 meters and gets its first flowers 5 months after having been sowed. Fava beans are famous for their somewhat nutty, not so sweet, pea-like flavor. Green fava beans are more tender, but the dry variety makes for some incredible dishes as well.
Fava beans are an excellent source of protein: 100 g of fresh broad beans provides a little over 25 g of protein. A helping of slowly simmered fava beans with parsley, lemon juice, a pinch of salt and olive oil can be an excellent way of supplying the body with the proteins required as part of a healthy, balanced diet. Plus, it’s delicious!
Even more, fava beans are rich in fiber which promotes regular bowel movements, thus providing an easy, natural remedy against constipation. In addition to this, fiber rich foods such as walnuts, almonds, white beans, kidney beans, peas, fava beans and other legumes help reduce cholesterol levels by preventing the absorption of fat at the intestinal level, which also promotes weight loss.
Like all legumes, fava beans contain great amounts of fiber, in this case 25 g of fiber/100 g of raw beans. When consumed in moderate amounts, fiber is good for the body and its slightly laxative effect helps maintain the health of both our intestines and colon. Additionally, eating fiber-rich foods such as fava beans is believed to reduce the risks of colon cancer by reducing the time our colon is exposed to waste material. But remember: an extremely high intake of fiber can have bad effects on human health as well because it may limit the absorption of vitamins and minerals.
Fava beans bring important health benefits due to their unique plant sterols content. Numerous scientific studies confirm the fact that plant sterols, natural compounds found in plants, efficiently lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. Cholesterol in the blood can be reduced on average by 7% to 10.5% if a person consumes 1.5 to 2.4 grams of plant sterols [and stanols], states the European Food Safety Authority in a publication from 31 July 2009. Even more, consuming fruits, vegetables, nuts, cereals and legumes such as fava beans continuously can help maintain LDL cholesterol levels low.
Fava beans also contain genistein and daidzein. These two isoflavones appear to regulate hormone metabolism and lower the incidence of breast, ovarian and prostate cancer. However, the Shanghai Breast Cancer Survival Study suggests that a moderately high intake of isoflavones appears to have significantly reduced breast cancer risks in Asian women and men alone. Some studies have advanced conflicting results, stating that genistein and daidzein may promote breast tumor growth when paired with tamoxifen, a medicine used in both breast cancer therapy treatments and prevention
Although eating legumes on a regular basis will not likely provoke any major hormone imbalances, I believe it is only right that you know every little thing there is to know about the foods you are eating. It seems only fair. Although I keep eating legumes on a regular basis, I was very interested to find out more about what I put into my body.
Fresh fava beans are an unbelievably rich source of folate (or vitamin B9). Folate is recommended during conception and pregnancy to prevent neural tube defects in newborns. In addition to this, folate is essential for cell DNA synthesis, cell repair and division. Approximately 100 g of raw fava beans provide 106% of the RDA of folate (or vitamin B9). Fava beans are also an excellent source of thiamin, riboflavin and pyridoxine, B vitamins which help coordinate muscle and nerve activity (thiamin), promote healthy skin (riboflavin) and support the production of amino acids.
As you can see in the table above, fava beans contain generous amounts of calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, potassium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium and zinc. Iron (84%) supports the production of red blood cells and prevents anemia. Copper (91%) prevents premature graying. Manganese (71%) has powerful antioxidant effects. Potassium regulates heart pressure and magnesium supports the activity of every muscle in the body, including the heart. For more information on vitamins and minerals, you can refer to this page.
Overall, fava beans boast a high vitamin and mineral content, as well as numerous other phytochemicals with outstanding properties and health benefits. Need to read: fava beans can be fatal to a small part of the population suffering from glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency, a medical condition now known as favism.
Basically, favism means that the body is predisposed to hemolytic anemia (destruction of red blood cells) as a reaction to certain foods, fava beans included, or malaria medication. The condition is usually accompanied by jaundice. Interesting enough, although favism is a potentially fatal condition, it appears to offer protection and, sometimes, total immunity against malaria. If you have never eaten fava beans (or broad beans) ever before, my advice is to act with caution.