Broad beans: benefits, properties, uses

Fresh or dried, beans are rich in nutrients, especially protein, iron and fiber. Let’s see what are the benefits of beans and the contraindications to pay attention to.

Broad beans are legumes from an annual herbaceous plant belonging to the legume family and called Vicia Faba, native to Asia. Currently the areas of greatest cultivation in the world are Italy, Germany and China.

The broad bean plant produces pods that contain the beans inside. There are several varieties, which are distinguished either by the size of the beans, which can be larger or smaller, or by color, which can be green, purple or reddish.

Common broad beans have a medium size and green color. The beans are harvested in spring, a time of year in which they can also be eaten raw, especially the more tender ones. The rest of the year you can eat dried broad beans, after having rehydrated them, or frozen broad beans.

Broad beans: calories and nutritional values

Broad beans are rich in nutritional properties and low in calories, about 80 kilocalories per 100 grams, and in fat. They have a good protein content and an excellent fiber content, around 7 grams per 100 grams. Fiber helps keep the intestines clean of both feces and toxins. Let’s see in detail the nutritional values ​​of fresh beans.

Nutritional values ​​per 100g of fresh broad beans:

  • Kilocalories: 88
  • Waterfall: 72.6 gr
  • Proteins: 7.92 gr
  • Fat: 0.73 gr
  • Carbohydrates: 17.63 gr
  • Of which sugars: 9.21 gr
  • Fibers: 7.5 gr
  • Soccer: 37 mg
  • Iron: 1.55 mg
  • Phosphorus: 129 mg
  • Potassium: 332 mg
  • Magnesium: 33 mg
  • Vitamin C or ascorbic acid: 3.7 mg
  • Vitamin A: 333
  • IU Folate: 148 µg
  • Vitamin K: 40.9 µg
  • Glycemic index: 40

Broad beans: nutritional properties

Broad beans are a source of various nutrients, including minerals such as phosphorus, potassium and iron and vitamins such as vitamin A, folate and vitamin K. Let’s see what their functions are.

  • Phosphorus: 129 mg of phosphorus are present in the beans. This mineral participates in numerous processes such as cell repair, the activation of vitamins and is part of the structure of various enzymes. We also find it in the structure of bones and teeth, together with calcium;
  • Iron: iron stimulates the immune system and the production of red blood cells. It is part of hemoglobin, the protein that carries oxygen to tissues. In beans it is present in quantities of 1.55 mg per 100 grams. To facilitate their absorption, it is best to accompany the broad beans to a source of vitamin C such as oranges, lemons, kiwis or red fruits;
  • Potassium: potassium is very present in beans, with 332 mg per 100 grams. It is essential for lowering blood pressure and for regulating heart rate. Furthermore, potassium participates in the mechanisms of the transmission of nerve impulses and the contraction of muscle fibers;
  • Vitamin A: this vitamin, which we find in beans, is involved in various fundamental processes in the body such as cell repair and growth. Its precursor present in plants is beta-carotene;
  • Folate: 148 µg of folate are present in the beans. Folate is the precursor to folic acid or vitamin B9, which is essential for growth and reproduction and also for the development of the nervous system. For this reason, it must necessarily be integrated in pregnancy, as its deficiency could lead to fetal malformations such as spina bifida;
  • Vitamin K: this vitamin is involved in the blood clotting process. In addition, it prevents bone fractures and improves insulin sensitivity. The beans contain 40.9 µg of vitamin K per 100 grams.

Broad beans: health benefits

The richness of nutrients present gives the beans beneficial properties for health. In short, broad beans are good for the heart as they lower cholesterol, stabilize blood sugar, are useful in pregnancy due to the folic acid contained and help you lose weight, but not only. So let’s see in detail what are the benefits that the beans bring.

✓ They help to lose weight

Broad beans are a low- calorie food, low in fat and rich in water, therefore suitable for those who need to lose weight and keep fit. Furthermore, they help to stimulate the sense of satiety, thanks to the presence of fibers and proteins. Also thanks to the fibers, beans help to counteract constipation. To be a single dish, they must be accompanied by a plate of cereals.

✓ Useful against Parkinson’s

The consumption of broad beans would help to counteract the symptoms present in Parkinson’s patients, namely tremors, difficulty and stiffness in movements. In fact, in a study, it was shown that the continuous consumption of beans in subjects with Parkinson’s disease increased plasma levels of L-DOPA, a precursor of dopamine, a neurotransmitter used as a drug of excellence in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. The subjects involved in the study also had an improvement in motor performance.

✓ They are useful in pregnancy

The consumption of broad beans, both before and during pregnancy, counteracts the lack of folic acid, of which they are rich. This is important to avoid certain fetal malformations, such as spina bifida. In fact, as we have seen, folic acid is essential in pregnancy for growth and neuronal development, so its deficiency predisposes to the risk of irreversible malformations in the fetus.

✓ Lower cholesterol and blood glucose

The presence of fiber in the beans decreases the absorption of cholesterol and therefore the benefits extend to the entire cardiovascular system, preventing the formation of atherosclerotic plaques and, consequently, removing the risk of pathologies such as heart attacks and strokes. Fiber also helps stabilize blood sugar levels, preventing post-meal glycemic spikes, so their consumption is useful (albeit to a moderate extent) in people with insulin resistance.

✓ Promote diuresis

The good potassium content of the beans allows to counteract water retention, favoring diuresis. This has a positive effect both for those suffering from high blood pressure, as, by eliminating excess water, the pressure lowers, and for those with cellulite blemishes, caused above all by an excessive tendency to accumulate liquids. To facilitate the disposal of liquids, it is necessary to drink lots of water, favoring a diet rich in vegetables and low in fat.

How many beans can you eat

Broad beans belong to the legume family, therefore the recommended portion is comparable to that of other legumes and corresponds to 50g if using dried broad beans or 150g if using fresh or frozen broad beans. The energy intake of a portion of broad beans varies from 170 kcal, in the case of dried broad beans, to about 130 kcal for fresh broad beans. Every week you should take 3 portions of legumes, therefore, it is possible to alternate with the most known and used legumes also a portion of beans.

Fresh or dried broad beans: nutritional differences and which ones to choose

Fresh broad beans can be eaten both raw and cooked, while dried broad beans necessarily need soaking and cooking before consumption.

The main nutritional difference between fresh and dried broad beans concerns the water content: fresh broad beans have a higher water content than dried broad beans. Therefore, for the same weight, dried beans will have a higher content of proteins, carbohydrates, fats and fiber since the nutrients are more concentrated than fresh beans. Another difference concerns the vitamin content, in particular, vitamin C and vitamin A are higher in fresh beans than in dried beans.

The choice between fresh and dried broad beans depends on seasonality as well as their use in the kitchen. In spring, when fresh beans are in season, it is advisable to eat them raw, especially when the beans are small and tender, in order to preserve their vitamin content. If you want to use broad beans to prepare soups, it is advisable to use dried broad beans or alternatively larger fresh broad beans. In both cases it is preferable to eliminate the external skin or use dried peeled broad beans, since the external part is not very digestible.

Broad beans: some usage tips

As we have said, broad beans can be tasted raw or cooked, fresh or dried. Fresh raw beans must be purchased when the pod is fresh, i.e. it has a vivid color and is ‘crunchy’ to the touch. Once purchased, they can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days, but become hard if left too long, so it is advisable to consume them as soon as possible.

They can be eaten with pasta or with other cereals such as wholemeal spelled or rice. They can be eaten as soup or cold in salads. Smoothies can be used to prepare vegetable burgers or vegetable meatballs or soups. The bean puree is also excellent, instead of the classic potato puree. An excellent appetizer known to most people is the one with broad beans and pecorino: the cheese is cut into cubes and combined with the shelled broad beans. Then season with oil, salt and pepper. Finally, raw broad beans can also be eaten as a hunger-breaker “snack”.

The dried beans, on the other hand, can be eaten throughout the year. Before cooking them they must be kept soaking. If they have the peel, the soaking times are quite long and are generally 18/20 hours, while if they do not have the peel, the soaking times are reduced to 7/8 hours. Once the soaking is finished, they should be cooked for about 2 hours in water.

With broad beans it is also possible to create a flour, simply by toasting and then mincing them. Bean flour is a naturally gluten-free product and can be used in bread or pasta dough mixed with other flours (to the extent of 10-15%).

Broad beans: contraindications and potential negative effects

Broad beans have some contraindications. In particular, they cannot be absolutely consumed by those suffering from favism, a genetic defect of the enzyme glucose 6-phosphate dehydrogenase, usually present in red blood cells. The subject with a deficiency of this enzyme, when ingesting broad beans, has a sudden destruction of red blood cells, and therefore there is haemolytic anemia with a yellowish discoloration of the skin. The consumption of broad beans is forbidden for those who are allergic and not recommended for those suffering from diarrhea, given the laxative effect of these legumes. In case of diabetes, the consumption of broad beans should be limited and always taken as part of a varied and controlled diet.


Leave a Comment