Phaseolus lunatus, commonly called lima beans or butter beans, are popular legumes that are known for their meaty texture and mild buttery flavor. They are widely used in countries like Central America; Latin America Asia, Caribbean and Africa. In fact, the legume has become an important ingredient in many traditional Native American dishes. The pod of the bean is slightly curved, flat and oblong in appearance, with an average length of about 3 inches. Enclosed within the pod are 3 to 4 flat kidney-shaped seeds that are the actual lima beans. They are generally cream or green in color and have a starchy, potato-like taste. You may also find seeds that feature different colors, like red, purple, white, brown or black. Although the beans are commonly available in their dried and canned forms, fresh varieties are also not hard to find, especially when they are in season (summer and fall). These highly nutritious beans provide protection against a number of diseases and ailments and are particularly beneficial for the cardio-vascular system and the digestive system. Read on to know more about the diverse health benefits of lima beans.
Health Benefits Of Eating Lima Beans
- Lima beans are a good source of protein and provide all the eight essential amino acids required for maintaining a healthy life. It is estimated that a single cup of uncooked lima beans provides around 85% of the daily protein requirement.
- Certain nutrients required for the detoxification process are present in these beans. Thus, they help reduce the occurrence of certain inflammatory, degenerative and cardiovascular diseases. Also, they help promote optimal health of the human body.
- Lima beans are excellent sources of natural antioxidants called anthocyanins. Studies have indicated that the darker the outer skin color of the beans, the higher would be the concentration of these antioxidants in them.
- These beans prove to be a good source of both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber. It is a known fact that bile acids present in the intestines are required for the synthesis of cholesterol in the body. The prime action of these dietary fibers is to bind with the bile acids and slow down the metabolism of carbohydrates. This way, the blood cholesterol levels in the body are reduced.
- The soluble fiber in lima beans absorbs water from the intestines and produces a gel-like substance. This substance lowers the metabolism of carbohydrates in the human body. As a result, these sugars are absorbed slowly from the intestines, preventing the sudden spike of blood sugar level after meals. Hence, regular intake of lima beans is very beneficial, especially for people suffering from diabetes (insulin resistance).
- The folic acid presents in lima beans helps reduce the levels of homocysteine in the body. This compound is an intermediate metabolite produced during the process of protein metabolism and is known to promote conditions like atherosclerosis, by interfering with the integrity of the blood vessel walls and the formation of collagen. Hence, regular intake of lima beans is important to prevent conditions like stroke, heart attack and PVD (Peripheral Vascular Disease).
- The iron present in these beans helps in the process of respiration at the cellular level. This is done by the synthesis of hemoglobin, which helps carry oxygen to the cells.
- A good source of magnesium, lima beans helps relieve fatigue, by promoting the relaxation of muscles, nerves and blood vessels. This is very essential for relieving the symptoms of asthma, muscle soreness & even migraine headaches.
- The beans also have high levels of the trace mineral, copper. Copper is essential to reduce the risk of inflammatory conditions like RA (Rheumatoid Arthritis) and promotes certain enzymatic actions as well, which are required to maintain the elasticity of blood vessels, ligaments and joints.
- A good source of molybdenum, lima beans help in the process of detoxification of sulfites from the blood.
- Lima beans have considerable amounts of the naturally occurring substances called purines. Excessive intake of these legumes can cause health problems in persons susceptible to purine-related problems.
- People suffering from conditions like gout and kidney stones should avoid the regular intake of lima beans, as the purine present in them breaks down in the body to form uric acid.
- Before cooking, lima beans should be cleaned properly and thoroughly. First and foremost, remove any stones, debris or damaged beans present. This can be done by spreading them on a light colored plate and checking for the damaged particles. Once this is done, place the beans in a strainer and rinse them properly, under cool running water.
- Pre-soaking of lima beans is very important to help in the process of their digestion. There are two methods of pre-soaking. In both the processes, you have to place the beans in a saucepan containing two to three cups of water per cup of beans.
- In the first method of soaking lime beans, they have to be boiled in the saucepan for about 2 minutes and then allowed to stand for about 2 hours. The second method involves simply soaking the beans in the water for a period of about 8 to 9 hours. However, prior to cooking, remove the existing water and use fresh water to rinse the beans.
- Lima beans can be cooked either in a pressure cooker or in a simple pot. However, the process of cooking them in a pot will take a little longer than cooking them in the cooker.