Lima beans (Phaseolus lunatus L.) are sometimes called “butter beans” primarily because of the starchy, buttery texture. The beans have a subtle flavor that compliments different dishes. Lima beans have a flat, oval-shaped, whitish, or greenish appearance. They can be easily found in almost every grocery store. Although most of us might not have eaten lima beans as kids, they are a great food that can be added to any meal. Lima beans are easy to prepare, budget-friendly, and rich in many valuable nutrients.
Lima beans are native to Peru but have been grown in South and North American for centuries. The beans are packed with fiber, protein, and many other nutrients, making them a superfood. Some health benefits you get from lima beans include diabetes control, digestive health, and promote heart health. Read on to learn more about the history, varieties, and nutrition facts. We’ve also expounded on the many health benefits you can get from this delicious bean variety.
Nutrition researchers have studied legumes such as lima beans for many years. Lima beans are widely consumed across the globe. Studies show that increased intake of lima beans offers numerous health benefits.
Aids With Weight Control
The evaluation of legumes’ nutritional value published in the Obesity Reviews journal found that replacing energy-dense foods with legumes has many beneficial effects on the management and prevention of obesity and other related disorders like metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. The authors recommended replacing high fat and high-calorie meaty foods like sausage and burgers with beans.[i]
Promotes Brain Health
The lima beans are a great source of manganese. Manganese is essential for a healthy brain and nervous system.[ii]
Stabilizes Blood Sugar
Another comprehensive review of studies showed that increased intake of lentils, peas, and beans helps people with and without diabetes improve long-term GI control in all their diets.[iii]
The inclusion of lima beans in your diet might help reduce LDL cholesterol in the body.[iv]
Lima beans are low in calories but also full of many healthy complex carbohydrates. One serving comprises three types of carbohydrates.
- Sugar – lima beans contain small amounts of sugars
- Fiber – lima beans contain fiber. Fiber plays a significant role in helping improve digestive health, boost satiety and stabilize blood sugar.
- Starch – over half of the carbs in lima beans is starch. These carbs provide your body with quick energy.
Lima beans have a GI (Glycemic Index) of 46. In essence, foods with a glycemic index of less than 55 are considered low GI foods. On the other hand, the glycemic load (GL) of 100 grams serving lima beans is 7. The GI load considers the serving size of any food when estimating the effect of food on blood sugar. A GL of less than ten has an insignificant effect on blood glucose levels.
One cup of Lima beans contains around 1g of fat, which means they are low-fat food. Furthermore, most of the fat in lima beans is polyunsaturated fat, often considered by health experts as good fat.
Every serving of lima beans offers about 1g of protein, which is more than other kinds of beans. However, lima beans can’t be said to be a complete protein. This is because complete proteins provide the body with all essential amino acids that aren’t made in the body and can only be eaten in foods.
Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamins found in lima beans usually include folate (approximately 34mcg, about 4% of the recommended daily intake). Also, you get to benefit from B vitamins and thiamin, alongside vitamins E and K. Minerals present in lima beans include iron, phosphorous, magnesium, copper, potassium, and manganese.[vi]
Lima Beans Adverse effects
Compounds known to interfere with the absorption of nutrients are called “antinutrients”. Nevertheless, this term could be misleading because this interference only happens when compounds are over consumed. Based on the number of beans you are likely to eat, these effects are insignificant.
A study evaluated antinutrients present in lima beans. The researchers found that toasting, cooking, and rinsing the beans significantly reduced antinutrients in lima beans.[vii]
Although you may not have an autoclave in your home kitchen, you possibly don’t have to worry about the antinutrients in legumes and grains. According to nutritionists, appropriate cooking and soaking practices deactivates these substances. Therefore, unless you suffer from any health condition like iron deficiency anemia, which might be affected by these nutrients, you don’t have to worry. If you have any concerns about antinutrients or a condition like anemia, consult a professional dietician or nutritionist before applying this diet.
While allergic reactions to lima beans are rare, they are still possible. Also, allergies to other legumes like lentils, soybeans, and peanuts are more common. People who have experienced allergic reactions to one legume might also be sensitive or react to others. If you suspect any allergic reactions to legumes, the best thing you can do is contact a health professional.[viii]
There are several varieties of lima beans. Cream colored and pale green are the most popular lima bean varieties. The bigger ones are also called butter beans, whereas the small ones are referred to as baby limas.
The small, pale green lima beans are also called sivvy, sewee, civet, Caroline beans, sieve beans, and baby limas. The baby limas are considered less starchy and milder than the large lima beans. The large lima beans have an earthy taste.
Lima beans leaves are trifoliate and alternate with ovate leaflets. The leaves are edible and can be consumed as vegetables. The leaves left after harvest can be used as fodder or made into silage or hay.
The inflorescences are about 15cm long and produce 24 violet bisexual flowers.
It’s believed that lima beans have been grown in Peru for over 7,000 years. However, some historians think that lima beans might be native to Guatemala. As a result, it’s not clear where the beans originated. Lima beans were being grown by 1301 states and eventually spread to northern America.
After Spanish travelers discovered America, they found different types of lima beans growing in the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. Later, lima beans were introduced to Asia and Europe. Lima beans were introduced to Africa by Portuguese explorers. It’s lima bean’s ability to withstand the humid tropical weather than other types of beans made it a great crop in Asia and Africa.
Lima beans were introduced to the US with large-scale production in California. On the other hand, the Sieva kinds of beans found in southern parts of the United States are called butter beans. Here, the butter beans and lima beans are considered as two different types of beans.
Packed with minerals, vitamins, and fiber, Lima beans are considered one of the most nutritious beans across the globe. An all-time favorite in South America, lima beans, is named after ‘lima’ Peru’s capital city. Lima beans are so important to the Peruvian culture to the extent that they appear on the Moche people’s pottery. Besides promoting heart health, digestive health, and removing bad cholesterol, lima beans provide many health benefits.
How To Prepare
Before cooking lima beans, the first thing you should do is to shell them by opening every pod and removing your beans. Rinse lima beans before cooking. To prepare fresh lima beans, add the beans to the boiling salted water and cook until they are tender. The buttery taste of lima beans makes them an easy dish that pairs perfectly with grains, poultry, meat, or fish. Lima beans can also be added to a dip recipe, a bean mash, casseroles, salads, and soups.
Storage Tips And Food Safety
The mode of storage you choose depends on how you purchase lima beans: unshelled or shelled. Both shelled, and unshelled beans should be refrigerated. However, unshelled lima beans remain fresh for approximately seven days. But if you purchase shelled lima beans, you can blanch and store them in your freezer, where they can remain for up to 3 months.
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- [i] Rebello CJ, Greenway FL, Finley JW. A review of the nutritional value of legumes and their effects on obesity and its related co-morbidities. Obes Rev. 2014;15(5):392-407. doi:10.1111/obr.12144
- [ii] Horning KJ, Caito SW, Tipps KG, Bowman AB, Aschner M. Manganese is essential for neuronal health. Annu Rev Nutr. 2015;35(1)71-108. doi:10.1146/annurev-nutr-071714-034419
- [iii] Sievenpiper JL, Kendall CW, Esfahani A, et al. Effect of non-oil-seed pulses on glycaemic control: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled experimental trials in people with and without diabetes. Diabetologia. 2009;52(8):1479-95. doi:10.1007/s00125-009-1395-7
- [iv] Abeysekara S, Chilibeck PD, Vatanparast H, Zello GA. A pulse-based diet is effective for reducing total and LDL-cholesterol in older adults. Br J Nutr. 2012;108 Suppl 1:S103-10. doi:10.1017/S0007114512000748
- [v] Lima beans, immature seeds, raw. FoodData Central. U.S Department of Agriculture. Published April 1, 2019.
- [vi] Trinidad TP, Mallillin AC, Loyola AS, Sagum RS, Encabo RR. The potential health benefits of legumes as a good source of dietary fibre. Br J Nutr. 2010;103(4):569-74. doi:10.1017/S0007114509992157
- [vii] Adeparusi EO. Effect of processing on the nutrients and anti-nutrients of lima bean (Phaseolus lunatus L.) flour. Nahrung. 2001;45(2):94-6. doi:10.1002/1521-3803(20010401)45:2<94::AID-FOOD94>3.0.CO;2-E
- [viii] Verma AK, Kumar S, Das M, Dwivedi PD. A comprehensive review of legume allergy. Clin Rev Allergy Immunol. 2013;45(1):30-46. doi:10.1007/s12016-012-8310-6