Lima beans are one of the most ancient beans cultivated globally today. They are fond by many for it starchy and delicate flavor. Lima beans (Phaseolus lunatus) are also popularly known as butter beans, for its buttery texture. Field beans, fava beans, Carolina bean, sieva bean, Rangoon/burma bean, madagascar bean are other common English names of lima beans. In local languages, it is known as Mochai (Tamil), Amarapayar (Malayalam), Chikkudukaya (Telugu), Pavta, Dalimbi, vaal (Marathi), Dara dambala (Sinhalese), Patani (Thai), Kacang S’rinding (Malay), Shiro-ingen(Japanese).
Lima beans are believed to have originated from Central America and were then cultivated by Mayans and Aztecs more than 7000 years ago. Colonial Europeans introduced it to other parts of Asia, Europe and Africa. Tropical weather of Asia and Africa helped the cultivation of lima beans, where it has flourished today. You would find its widespread use in Asian recipes.
While green lima beans are used in making vegetable stews, the cream coloured mature oval shaped bean is used as lentil. A pod of lima bean is distinct, flat and slightly curved. Each bean pod has about 4-5 flat kidney shaped bean. Dried lima beans are mostly soaked and then cooked and has starchy and buttery flavor.
Lima beans nutrition facts
Like other legumes, Lima beans are good source of fibers and protein. They are important source of protein in vegetarian diet. Mature cooked lima beans offer about 1.1 calories per gram. Lima beans calories are mostly from carbohydrates and protein present in them.
Lima seeds contains ample amount of dietary fibers. A cup of raw mature seeds have sufficient dietary fiber to meet your daily dietary requirement. 20% of the lima bean by weight would be protein, making it protein dense food. It offers body with vital dose of Vitamin C (raw beans), folate, Manganese, iron, Molybdenum, phosphorus, potassium, copper, Thiamin and Vitamin B6. It is also food source of zinc, selenium, Riboflavin and other vitamins.
Health benefits of lima bean
Much of the health benefits of lima beans come from the nutrients present in them. Research is active in area of phytochemicals in lima beans and benefits it offers to body. Some of the health benefits of lima bean are discussed here.
Lima bean for diabetes
In our article, natural food for diabetes, we discussed how protein is important in diabetes treatment. They increase insulin response and diabetes patients are advised to have a protein intake of 1 g/kg of body weight. High amount of dietary fibers and proteins in beans offer to reduce glycemic index and control blood sugar.
Lima beans have high dietary fiber content. They help in lowering glycemic index of food. They slows down absorption of blood sugar in body and thus helpful for diabetes. While no direct scientific study is available in use of lima bean or its extracts for treatment of diabetes, some scientific studies have been conducted with its cousin bean Phaseolus vulgaris. Water extract of these beans was found to reduce blood sugar in drug induced diabetoic rats. It is also believed that antioxidant properties of phytochemicals in lima beans offer to protect pancreas and liver and reduce risk of type II diabetes.
Lima bean for healthy heart
Blood pressure and body cholesterol are often indicators of heart risks. Dietary fibers in lima beans helps prevent absorption of bad cholesterol in intestine. Consumption of dietary fibers aids in reduction of bad cholesterol in body and lima beans is good source of dietary fiber to body. Presence of plant sterols like ß-sitosterol in lima beans also helps lower cholesterol in body. Studies point out that consumption of legumes like lima beans helps in reduction of death by heart disorders.
Lima beans also works for healthy heart through its supply of folate and mangnesium. Together they help lower blood pressure and incidence of heart disorders. Amino acid – Homocysteine is associated with risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular diseases. Folic acid and magnesium keeps check on homocysteine. Magnesium supply from lima beans causes blood vessels to relax and regulates blood pressure.
Lima bean an excellent source of molybdenum
Molybdenum is a trace mineral required by our body. Lima beans offer ample supply of molybdenum, in fact a serving of lima beans would provide necessary daily molybdenum required by our body. Molybdenum is part of enzyme sulfite oxidase, which removes oxidizing sulfites from body. Processed foods often use sulfites as food preservative and needs to be eliminated from body to prevent oxidation of body cells. Similarly molybdenum is part of other antioxidant enzyme xanthine oxidae and aldehye oxidase in body. Molybdenum in supplement forms is used as anti-inflammatory agent and treatment of copper toxicosis and Wilson’s disease.
Antioxidant action of lima bean
Lima beans contain minerals like Zinc, magnesium, manganese and selenium which have strong antioxidant action. It also offers body with antioxidant vitamins like vitamin A and vitamin C. Together with other phytonutrients, lima beans help in removal of free radicals from body causing oxidation of body cells. Free radical scavenging action of lima beans has been studied in labs, demonstrating relatively high antioxidant action.
Lima beans aids digestion
While protein plays important role in body metabolism, it is the high dietary fibers which aids in digestion. It results in lowering of glycemic index and reducing sugar absorption. Fibers block various harmful toxins from getting absorbed in body. Dietary fibers from lima beans also assist bowel movements which are helpful in preventing constipation and treating irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulitis.
Lima beans for strong bones
Lima beans offer nutrients which are essential for healthy and strong bones. These include ample supply of magnesium, manganese and phosphorus. Together they assist in making bones dense and preventing osteoporosis. We discussed natural foods for making your kids grow tall. Lima beans offer very similar nutrient profile – proteins, magnesium and phosphorus.
Lima beans and anemia
Folic acid and iron are nutrients required to ensure sufficient oxygen supply to our body cells. Lima beans offer body with good amounts of both nutrients and reduce risk of anemia. Lima beans ensure that your body has enough iron in blood hemoglobin so as to transport oxygen form lungs to vital organs.
Lima beans for hair growth
Lima beans offer body with nutrients like proteins, iron, zinc, selenium and vitamins which are required for hair growth and health. Diet containing lima bean would aid in hair growth. Including beans like lima beans in diet is good way to prevent hair loss.
Lima bean benefits to woman
Women body is different and requirement for nutrients is very different. Menstruation results in loss of iron and folic acid form body, resulting risk of anemia. Lima beans supply with these vital nutrients to woman. Studies also reveal that lima bean contains phytonutrients which have properties like female hormone estrogen. Lima bean thus helps in regulating menstruation and relieving premenstrual syndromes.
Anti-microbial action of lima beans
Recent studies have identified Lunatusin, an anti-microbial protein present in lima beans. Lab results show strong antifungal action towards common food fungus. In rats, lunatusin has inhibited action activity of HIV virus. More studies shall help in pin pointing anti-microbial benefits of lima beans and its extract which can be used for therapeutic purpose.
Cancer Cure and lima bean
Dry beans, cousins of lima beans have been well researched for their benefits over cancer. Research of anticancer benefits of Lima beans is limited. In ten year old study, amino acid lectin was isolated from lima bean for its ability to prevent growth of human cells. Lima bean, further with its dietary fibers prevent absorption of cancer causing toxins in intestine, thus reduces risk of colic cancer. Studies point out to its estrogen like action and ability to prevent breast cancers. We can expect more studies in this area and potential use of lima beans for curing cancer in future.
Lima bean and weight loss
Dry bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) with very much similar profile as lima beans, prevents obesity and reduces body fat. With good amount of dietary fibers, high protein and low calories, lima beans are good candidates for weight loss. However there is no scientific evidence to use of lima bean extract as weight loss supplement. Cooked lima beans can be very well used with your weight loss diet including salads and other recipes.
Side effects of lima beans
Legumes are believed to have cyanogens and lima bean has the highest concentration of cyanogens of all legumes. Uncooked lima beans may lead to release of cyanides in body which has toxic impact on body cells. Consumption of uncooked raw lima beans should be avoided.
Lima beans and other legumes have fibers – oligosaccharides which are associated with flatulence, stomach cramping and diarrhea. Many people have complained of gas problems due to lima beans. To ensure that lima beans do not cause flatulence, soak lima beans for 4-5 hrs before cooking and eat them slowly with proper chewing.
Lima beans also contain naturally occurring purines which break into uric acid in body. People with kidney disorders should avoid excessive intake of lima beans.
Culinary uses of lima bean
Dried lima beans along with green lima beans are popularly used in culinary dishes. Fresh pale green lima beans are shelled and used as vegetables in making stir fries, stews, salads and other vegetable side dishes. Lima beans, just like potatoes complements with other food items. Cooking lima beans is simpler and faster if they are soaked well.
In India, its use is widespread and key ingredient in popular recipes Vangi ani val (Maharashtra), Walor muthia nu shaak (Gujarati), Tittori dal (Parsi), Mochai Kuzhambu (Tamil), Amara payar Thoran (Malayalam) and Chikkudukaya Koora (Telugu). Relatively inexpensive thanksgiving dish – Succotash, contains primarily corn and lima beans and popular in US and Europe. Tempeh kara is fermented recipe from japan using lima beans. Sprouted lima beans is mostly used in Chinese recipes. Habas salads uses lima beans in Central and South America. Lima bean paste is also used in part of Asia. In Egypt, Syria and other Arabian countries, Ful medames is a breakfast meal which uses lima beans. Try out some lima beans healthy recipes
- How to cook fresh lima beans – Try out this recipe from Gayatri Vantillu, made with fresh lima beans, Bengal gram, black gram and other spices.
- Tittori dal – Sprouted lima beans seeds with onion, ginger, garlic and other spices! Satisfy your taste buds with this super simple recipe from chef – Tarla Dalal.
- Lima bean soup recipe – Lima bean and ham soup is quite a popular soup. Some people just allow lima beans to simmer along with ham bone to make exciting soup. Experiment with boiling soaked lima beans in chicken stock, ham bone and herbs like thyme, garlic, and oregano. Add parsley and carrot for some colorful delight.