Fava Beans (Broad Beans): Benefits, Nutrition, Side Effects, Information

Fava Beans (Broad Beans): Benefits, Nutrition, Side Effects and Information

Fava beans, also known as Vicia fabas, broad beans, field beans, bell beans, pigeon beans, windsor beans, horse beans or tic beans, are one of the oldest plants under cultivation, and they were eaten in ancient Greece and Rome. Despite the name, fava beans are a member of the pea family. They are popular in Mediterranean cuisine, with many summer dishes celebrating the seasonal bean, although they are also dried for winter use. Fava beans have a distinct flavor and creamy texture that makes them a great addition to a wide variety of dishes.

When intended for consumption, fava beans are planted in February and March to mature through the summer, with their peak coming in July. The beans grow on bushy plants with tapering leaves, yielding anywhere from 25 to 50 pods per plant. The pods resemble pea pods in shape, although they are much larger and lined with a pillowy white material that protects the seeds inside.

Fava beans are also used as a cover crop to protect delicate soil, because they grow quickly and produce a great deal of lush foliage. In addition, like most legumes, fava beans are nitrogen fixers, and they replenish the soil with this vital nutrient. Many farmers plant fava beans and plow them back into the field after the growth has peaked for mulch.

They grow best in warm climates, although they also tolerate cooler weather. They do not tolerate extremely hot temperatures well, however, and should be planted in an area of the garden that will protect them from direct sunlight. If sprouted in the greenhouse, the seedlings should be planted 8 to 10 inches (20 to 25 cm) apart, as they will grow into large bushes later. If planting the seeds directly, they should be buried approximately 3 inches (7 cm) below ground, and thined after they sprout in seven to 14 days. In four to six months, the beans will have matured for harvest and eating.

Fava beans should be shelled and peeled before eating. The outer peel on the beans, while technically edible, is very woody in texture and detracts from the buttery feel of the inner bean. In addition, fava beans should be cooked before serving because of favism (enzyme deficiency in the blood), a rare and dangerous reaction to fava beans found among people of Mediterranean descent. Little risk has been found from eating cooked beans, but some diners may have an allergic reaction to raw or unpeeled favas.

Fava beans are great steamed and served with olive oil, salt, and lemon. They can also be added to soups and pastas, ground into purees, grilled, or enjoyed in artichoke risotto. The fresh beans can be found in Italian markets beginning in late May, and they will be tasty through August.

Fava Beans Nutrition Facts

Apart from their taste, these beans are also known for their high protein and fiber content. They are among the rare sources of naturally occurring L-dopa, which is one of the significant chemicals used for treating Parkinson'

Amount of Fava Beans: 170 g (1 cup)




12.9 g


122 g


1.4 g


9.2 g


Total Fat

0.7 g

Saturated Fat

0.1 g

Monounsaturated Fat

0.1 g

Polyunsaturated Fat

0.3 g


Total Calories

783 KJ

From Carbohydrate

569 KJ

From Fat

23.9 kJ

From Protein

188 KJ

Fatty Acids

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

20.4 mg

Omega-6 Fatty Acids

258 mg


Total Carbohydrates

33.4 g

Dietary Fiber

9.2 g


3.1 g


Vitamin A IU

25.5 IU

Vitamin A (retinol activity equiv)

1.7 mcg

Beta Carotene

15.3 mcg


0.2 mg


1.2 mg


0.2 mg

Vitamin B6

0.1 mg


177 mcg

Vitamin K

4.9 mcg

Dietary Folate Equivalents

177 mcg

Vitamin C

0.5 mg

Pantothenic Acid

0.3 mg


52 mg



61.2 mg


2.5 mg


73.1 mg


212 mg


456 mg


1.7 mg


0.4 mg


4.4 mcg


8.5 mg

Benefits of Fava Beans

As mentioned earlier, fava beans are rich sources of L-dopa (Levodopa), which is basically a chemical substance used in medicines for treating Parkinson's disease. According to some studies, consumption of fava beans can help to reduce the symptoms of Parkinson's disease. But some people have found no effects on the symptoms of Parkinson's disease even after the consumption of fava beans.

Like all other legumes, fava beans are high in fiber and protein and provide a number of health benefits. They also contain high amounts of minerals like iron, phosphorus, magnesium and potassium. All these minerals play an important role in the overall development of our body. Phosphorus is required for the formation of healthy bones and teeth. The good amount of potassium in fava beans helps the body maintain blood pressure and regulate heart function. The bean is low in calories and fat and has no cholesterol, thus they are healthy foods that can help to lose or maintain weight, hence making it ideal for health conscious individuals. It is rich in fiber, which is required by the body to move food through the digestive system. It serves as a rich source of thiamin, which is essential to maintain normal nerve function. In addition, it also helps the body utilize vitamins. Fava beans are rich sources of vitamin A and C; vitamin A is required for good vision, skin, growth and bone development, while vitamin C is necessary for boosting the immune system.

In addition to being an excellent source of nutrients that support cardiovascular health, fava beans are high in dietary fiber, providing 9 g per 1/4 cup. Legumes such as lima beans are a source of both types of dietary fiber, soluble and insoluble, but are particularly rich in soluble fiber. Cconsuming soluble, fiber-rich foods may help improve your blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Soluble fiber is particularly effective at lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels, commonly referred to as "bad" cholesterol.

Fava Beans Side Effects

Though there are so many significant health benefits of fava beans, there are some health concerns that should be kept in mind. "Favism" is a hereditary health ailment that causes allergic symptoms due to consumption of fava beans. Inhaling the pollen can also cause the disease. These allergic reactions are due to the deficiency of glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD). The symptoms are bloody urine, dizziness, vomiting or even jaundice. This condition is called favism, occurring on the basis of congenital defect and should be treated in time. Though this deficiency is very rare, one should consult a physician if he/she notices any allergic reactions on consuming fava beans. Also note that, fava beans contain high amount of complex carbohydrates and hence excess consumption can cause pain in abdomen and gastric problems.

Fava beans are rich in tyramine, and thus should be avoided by those taking monoamine oxidase (MAOI) inhibitors.

Levodopa interferes with your body's ability to metabolize vitamin B6. The high amounts of levodopa contained in fava beans can result in a vitamin B6 deficiency. A deficiency in vitamin B6 may lead to depression because vitamin B6 aids in the production of serotonin and norepinephrine. Consuming fava beans may increase depressive symptoms due to a vitamin B6 deficiency.

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