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Lima Beans: A Delicious Bean for a Healthy Self

Lima beans are a type of legume of central American origin. The word “Lima” comes from the capital of Peru, Lima. People know them by names like butter bean, sieva bean, double bean, Madagascar bean, chad bean, or wax bean. They can grow both on a bush or vine. The plant’s name “Lunatus” means “half-moon,” referring to the shape of the bean that grows on it. It grows perennially in the tropics and as an annual yield everywhere else. However, they grow as a major crop in California for a long season and prefer warmer weather for their growth.

Lima beans are consumed only after cooking and never eaten raw. Linamarin is a compound in raw lima beans that becomes cyanide when consumed. Cutting and boiling food reduces cyanide content by over 90% because heat destroys the enzymes that release cyanide. That’s why it’s essential to cook them thoroughly before consumption. The amount of Lineraium also depends on where you buy them from. However, research shows that lima beans in the U.S. tend to have lower levels of cyanide.

Lima beans have a rich nutrient profile. As a result, they have abundant health benefits, including lower cholesterol, weight control, stabilising blood sugar, improving gut health, etc. Consuming beans can also reduce the risk of developing heart disease.

Lima beans are not only healthy, but they are also hearty, with versatile flavour. They have a smooth, buttery taste, creamy texture, and mild flavour. Therefore they are often called “butter beans” in America. They can add texture and flavour to enhance the quality of any dish. Lima beans come in three varieties: large, small, and dwarf. Each variety has slight variations in flavour, therefore preferred for different dishes. Research shows they also have a higher shelf life because they exhibit increased resistance to swelling and rupture.

As per USDA data, 100 grams of cooked lima beans serving contains:

Energy: 115 kcalWater: 69.8 gFat: 0.38 gProtein: 7.8 g Carbohydrate: 20.9 gFibre: 7 gSugars: 2.9 gCalcium: 17 mgIron: 2.39 mg

Health Benefits of Lima Beans

Weight Loss

Legumes, in general, top the list in terms of fibre content. And lima beans, like other beans, are rich in dietary fibre. Since fibre keeps you satiated for longer, it prevents excess calorie consumption. Lima beans are also nearly fat-free and rich in plant-based protein. Protein-rich foods also help you lose weight because digestion and protein metabolism can help burn calories. Studies also prove that consuming dietary pulses (including beans) leads to weight loss.

Research indicates that phytates and phenolic compounds in dietary pulses (including beans) interfere with glucose absorption, which could contribute to satiety and delay the return of hunger.

Improves Digestive System

According to studies, lima beans are rich in fibre, essential for intestinal health and the prevention of digestive disorders. Its insoluble fibre content makes it easy to digest. In addition, insoluble fibre can help move food through the digestive tract and prevent constipation. 

Lima beans are also rich in protein. Research suggests plant-based proteins help produce healthy gut bacteria, which helps protect your intestine lining. In addition, it is gluten-free and thus easily digestible by people with gluten allergies. 

Lima bean flour can substitute for people with celiac disease and even help overcome protein deficiency. Moreover, since lima bean flour has lower total phenolic content, it can increase protein digestibility.

Lowers Cholesterol Levels

Lima beans are rich in dietary fibre, which can help reduce blood cholesterol levels. Fibres decrease the reabsorption of cholesterol-binding bile acids in the colon. Investigations suggest high fibre diets reduce total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Fibre-rich food also decreases HDL cholesterol significantly. They also possess plant sterols that help lower the body’s cholesterol levels.

According to research, consuming plant sterols reduces low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels by 5-15%.

Regulates Blood Sugar Levels

Lima beans’ soluble fibre content helps stabilise blood sugar levels. It slows down the absorption of sugars into the bloodstream. They also have a low glycemic index, which has a negligible effect on the blood glucose level. Lima beans are also rich in magnesium, improving blood glucose control by decreasing insulin resistance and controlling high blood pressure in diabetic patients.

Research shows that diabetes is often associated with magnesium deficiency. Low dietary magnesium intake may result in the development of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Conversely, magnesium supplementation on the metabolic profile of diabetes patients shows significant positive results. Thus, lima beans are suitable for people with diabetes.

Improves Blood Pressure

Lima beans are rich in potassium. There is 508 mg potassium per 100 g of lima beans. According to research, a potassium-rich diet reduces the risks of strokes, heart failure, and coronary heart diseases. In addition, increased potassium intake decreases the risk of hypertension, a significant factor for heart-related problems.

Lima Beans are Good for Endocrine System

Lima beans are a great source of phosphorus, essential for kidney function and eliminating toxins from your body. To balance the levels of uric acid, sodium, water, and fat in the body, the kidneys and other digestive organs depend on electrolytes such as phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium. They are also rich in magnesium which is vital for liver function. According to research, a magnesium-rich diet reduces the progression of liver diseases.

Improves Cognitive Performance

Lima beans are rich in potassium which is vital for brain function. Potassium is instrumental in the functioning of brain cells. Research shows that increased potassium intake can improve cognitive brain function and attenuated histopathological markers in patients with Alzheimer’s.

Prevent Iron Deficiency

Lima beans are rich in iron and are particularly good for menstruating women. Absorbing iron from lima beans is much easier than from other iron sources, like red meat.

May Benefit the Bones

Potassium is associated with bone health. Organic potassium salts decrease urinary calcium excretion, improving calcium retention. In addition, potassium reduces bone turnover and increases bone mass. 

A study in Korea found that dietary potassium may neutralise acid load and reduce calcium loss from the bone, leading to beneficial effects on bone mineral density.

The HealthifyMe Note

Lima beans offer multiple health benefits because they are a good source of fibre, protein, B vitamins, magnesium, iron, and dietary fibre. The rich protein content makes them nearly fat-free. In addition, lima beans are abundant in potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and calcium. As a result, they improve heart and gut health and can lead to healthy weight loss. 

How to Include Lima Beans in Your Diet

Lima beans are buttery and creamy, but they vary in taste depending on their types. Smaller lima beans are milder and less starchy than large lima beans with their earthy flavour. Dwarf limas have a more delicate flavour, making them perfect for curries and sausage stews.

You can put lima beans in your salad to make an energy-boosting salad.You can also substitute chickpea with lima beans to make hummus with herbs.If you add lima beans to your soup, The buttery flavour of lima beans will enhance the taste of your butter soup.You can roast them with sesame oil and ground pumpkin seeds for a healthy snack.Put lima beans in your stew for a luxurious texture.

Preparation Tips

Shell the fresh lima beans before eating. You can use scissors to cut open the pod and remove the beans by hand.For dry lima beans, soak them overnight to decrease the cooking time. After soaking, drain them to prepare them for cooking. Drier beans take longer to cook.Bring a pot of water to boil (for every cup of lima beans, there should be four cups of water). Add lima beans and continue to boil until they are soft. Then, drain the water.You can also cook them in a pressure cooker.

Healthy Recipes Using Lima Beans

Lemon-Garlic Lima Beans Salad

Servings: 6

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Cooking Time: 1¼ hours

Ingredients

Dried Lima Beans: 1 pound (28 g)Bay Leaves: 2Extra Virgin Olive Oil: 3 tbspChopped onion: 1 medium Thinly sliced garlic cloves: 4 Fresh chopped parsley: ¼ cupLemon juice: 2 tbspChopped fresh oregano: 1 tbspGrated lemon zest: 2 tspSalt: ½ tspPepper: ¼ tspChopped fresh parsley

Method

Rinse and soak the beans for 6-8 hours or overnight. Drain the water.Take a large saucepan and put beans, bay leaves, and water to cover the beans. Cook till the beans are tender. Drain the liquid.In a medium saucepan, add 3¾ cups of almond milk. Add the cracked Kamut and ½ tsp of kosher salt to the saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat.Take a large skillet and heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until it’s tender. Add garlic and cook for around a minute.Add parsley, oregano, lemon juice, zest, salt, and pepper. Stir in the drained beans and sprinkle freshly chopped parsley on top. You can eat it as a warm salad or blend the mixture in your food processor to make a hummus-style dip.

Lima Beans Curry

Servings: 2

Preparation Time: 5 minutes

Cooking Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

Oil: 1 tbsp Cardamom: 1Clove: 1Cinnamon stick: ¼ inChopped onions: ½ cupGinger garlic paste: 2 tspCoriander powder: 1 tspChilli powder: 1½ tspSalt: 1 tsp.Turmeric: ¼ tspTomatoes: ½ cupFrozen lima beans: 1 cupMasala powder: As per tasteCilantro leaves: For garnishing

Ingredients for the Gravy

Coconut flakes: 1 tbspCashews: 2Cumin powder: ¼ tspBlack pepper: ¼ tspBalsamic vinegar: 2 tbspExtra virgin olive oil: 3 tbsp

Method

Take the ingredients listed under gravy and grind them to make masala powder.Heat oil in a pan. Add cardamom, clove, cinnamon stick, and toast until it turns fragrant.Add onions and saute till they turn soft. Next, add ginger-garlic paste and saute until the raw smell disappears.Add coriander powder, chilli powder, turmeric, and salt. Add tomatoes to the mixture and mix it. Heat until they turn soft. Add lima beans and stir.Add the masala powder and water and mix. Cover the pan and cook until the beans turn soft.Check the consistency, salt, and spice. Serve with brown rice or multigrain chapati.

Precautions

Allergies

Although allergy to lima beans is uncommon, someone allergic to other legumes like peanuts, soybeans, etc., can be sensitive to lima beans. In that case, you should avoid lima beans.

Contain Antinutrients

Lima beans, like other beans, contain antinutrients/lectins, which reduce the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. Lectins can also bind to your intestinal wall and exacerbate symptoms of the leaky gut syndrome. If you are taking any medication, consult with your doctor.

Toxic When Consumed Raw

Lima beans contain linamarin, which is a cyanogenic compound. However, heat reduces the cyanide content by 90%. Thus, you should only consume them after boiling. 

Medications

Lima beans contain phytic acid, which is safe to consume in moderation. However, high phytic acid consumption can harm health due to their ability to produce chemical complexes with minerals, particularly iron and zinc, reducing their absorption through the diet. Check with your doctor about possible drug interactions.

Summary

Lima beans are legumes abundant in proteins, fibre, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. They are a great energy source and have health benefits like weight loss, promoting gut health, boosting brain function, reducing blood pressure and blood sugar levels, etc. However, it would help if you did not consume them raw since they contain linamarin and cyanogen. You should only eat them after boiling properly to reduce the cyanide content. 

Lima beans’ rich buttery flavour and creamy texture make them suitable to add to several sweet and savoury dishes. You can use different kinds of lima beans for different dishes to enhance their flavour. They have a versatile palette and are easy to combine with salad, curry or pie.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. Are lima beans good for you?

A. Yes, lima beans can be great for your health. They are loaded with nutrients and have several benefits, including decreasing blood pressure and blood sugar, aiding weight loss, improving digestion, boosting cognitive health, etc. However, you should never consume raw lima beans as they can be toxic.

Q. Are lima beans a vegetable or protein?

A. Botanically, lima beans are fruits, but they have been used as vegetables in meals due to their savoury flavour. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) considers beans part of the vegetable and protein groups.

Q. Are lima beans good for your diet?

A. Yes, lima beans are packed with proteins, fibre, vitamins, and minerals and would be a great addition to your diet. They help you lose weight, boost energy levels, relieve hypertension, etc. Mix them in your salad bowl to fulfil your daily protein and fibre requirement.

Q. What happens if you eat too many lima beans?

A. Lima beans are rich in nutrition. But consuming them in excess may be harmful since they contain linamarin and antinutrients. They are also high in phytic acid, which may react with other minerals and decrease their absorption.

Q. Are lima beans hard to digest?

A. Lima beans are rich in fibre and protein, making them easier to digest. They are also gluten-free, making them easier to digest for people with wheat allergies. However, make sure you do not consume it raw. 

Q. Are lima beans good for the liver?

A. Yes, lima beans are rich in minerals such as magnesium, iron, and vitamin B complexes, which are good for your liver. A high intake of magnesium reduces the progression of certain liver diseases. Studies also suggest that a magnesium-rich diet reduces the risks of fatty liver disease and prediabetes.

Q. Are lima beans high in carbohydrates?

A. Lima beans have a good amount of carbohydrates. According to USDA, there are 27.6 grams of carbohydrates per 100 g of lima beans. They are low in calories and virtually fat-free but full of healthy complex carbohydrates.

Q. Can diabetics eat lima beans?

A. Yes, patients with diabetes can eat lima beans because they are healthy for people with diabetes. They have a low glycemic index, meaning they have a negligible effect on blood glucose levels. They are also rich in fibre and magnesium, suitable for regulating blood sugar levels. 

Q. What is the lowest carb bean?

A. Green beans and black soybeans are among the lowest carb beans, along with black-eyed peas and lima beans. Lima beans generally have a good amount of carbs but fewer than other beans.

Q. Do lima beans cause gas?

A. Beans contain raffinose, a carbohydrate that is harder to digest. Bacteria in the large intestine break down raffinose which may cause gas and bloat. Soak them overnight before cooking to leach out the sugars responsible for gas production.

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