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Fava Beans Health Benefits, Nutrition and Culinary Uses Broad Beans

Updated on November 15, 2016
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Dr John applies his scientific skills (PhD) to research and review the health benefits, nutrition of foods, ingredients. Quality references.

Broad beans, or Fava beans as they are also known, are unique vegetables. These beans are easy to grow in the home garden and easy to pick and prepare for cooking. A variety of dishes can be made from fresh beans extracted from the pods, or using dried fava beans.

Broad beans are an excellent source of dietary fiber and protein. Broad beans are also rich in both folate and B group vitamins.

Fava beans are one of the oldest cultivated crops and probably originated in Mediterranean region or Asia Minor. The plant is a small annual herb with erect stems and pink-white flowers that grow to a height of up to 6 feet.

The vegetation makes excellent green mulch. The large light green, fruit pods contain 6-10 flat, broad, thick irregularly oval-shaped beans. The thick indigestible cover on the beans is easy to extract and the shelled beans have a wide variety of uses.

This article summarizes the healthy benefits and nutrition facts for Fava bean in comparison with Lima Beans, Green Beans, Green Peas, and Yard Long beans.

It summarizes the culinary uses of fava beans and provides three recipes to highlight how they can be used and enjoyed.

Broad beans (Fava Beans) are a delight steam or boiled straight from the pods
Broad beans (Fava Beans) are a delight steam or boiled straight from the pods | Source
Broad bean pods ready to be harvested
Broad bean pods ready to be harvested | Source
Couscous with vegetables and Fava Beans
Couscous with vegetables and Fava Beans | Source
Broad Beans go well with most vegetables in a wide variety of dishes
Broad Beans go well with most vegetables in a wide variety of dishes | Source

Health Benefits and Nutrition Data for Broad (Fava) Beans

Fava beans have high levels of protein and fiber, and are packed with healthy nutrients, but their energy and fat content are high, as occurs in most other beans and lentils.

100 g of fava beans contains about 341 calories per 100 g, much more than the other foods listed in the table below. Lima beans have 338 calories per 100g, Green Beans 31calories, green peas 81 calories and yard long beans 47 calories.

Fava beans have low levels of fat, with 1.53 g per 100g serving. But this level is twice of three times higher than in the other beans listed,

Broad beans are very rich source of dietary fiber (100 g contains 25g which is 66% of the recommended daily allowance). Dietary fiber has a wide range of benefits for the digestive system and aids in adding bulk to food eaten and so helps to control hunger. Dietary fiber has also been shown to play a role in reducing blood cholesterol levels. It appears to lower the absorption of cholesterol from food passing through the colon.

Broad beans are relatively rich in phyto-nutrients such as plant-sterols and isoflavone, which have antioxidant properties.

Fresh fava beans are an excellent source of folates and the B-group vitamins. A serving of 100 g of broad beans provide 423 mcg of folates, which is the full daily allowance.

Broad beans are also an excellent source of vitamin-B6 (pyridoxine), riboflavin, thiamine (vitamin B-1) and niacin. These vitamins function have a variety of essential roles in the body. The B-group vitamin levels are higher than the alternative neand shown in the table below.

Vitamin C, A and K are lower in Fava beans than in the other beans listed in the table below.

Broad beans are an excellent source of a wide range of minerals including iron, manganese, calcium, copper, zinc and magnesium. The mineral contents in broad beans are generally much higher than in the other beans.

Preparation and Use of Broad bean (Fava Beans)

As a home grown vegetable, broad beans, like green peas, are a winter crop. Small immature and tender, green pods can be eaten whole, including the skin capsule and can be substituted for green-beans. Using juvenile pods in this way is good way to start using your crop of broad beans in the garden. Broad beans are prolific producers and the harvest can occur at the same time unless you stagger the plantings. Usually, however, the mature beans are removed from the pods and the skins removed before cooking.

While buying fava beans, choose fresh, evenly shaped and sized beans, that are just mature and not hard and dry. Choose green color beans, not the yellow ones, as the latter can be over mature, dry, and have a bitter taste. Store the beans with the shells on as they keep better that way. Remove the capsules just before use

Fresh broad beans are easy to cook, versatile and delicious.

Dried beans can be re-hydrated by soaking in warm water and cooking similar to other dried beans. The fresh beans are preferred.

Serving Tips for Broad Beans

  • Add to risotto and other rice dishes
  • Add to stews, soups, and stir-fries.
  • Serve broad beans with boiled couscous (semolina) as a side dish with grilled and roast meat
  • Chop the cooked beans finely, and add to breads, baked goods, pasta sauce, pesto and other dishes

Broad Beans with Barley and Feta

  • 100g (4 oz) feta, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 3 sprigs of mint, chopped
  • 1 litre (2 pints) vegetable stock
  • 200ml (1 cup) white wine
  • 800g (1.8 lb) broad beans, removed from the pods and, if large, blanched and popped out of their skins
  • 400g (14 oz) pearl barley, washed thoroughly and left to soak for 20 minutes
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1 bunch spring onions, trimmed and sliced into 1cm pieces
  • 30g (1oz) butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Heat half the butter and the oil in a large, heavy frying pan and cook the garlic and spring onions and garlic for about 5 minutes until soft. Add the pearl barley and cook for about 60 seconds and then add the white wine. Let the wine infuse into the barley for a minute or so, and then add the stock. Simmer, stirring frequently, until the barley is tender (about 30 minutes, but sample to check). Add a little hot water to top-up the stock if all the liquid is absorbed before the barley is soft. Remove the pan from the heat, and stir in one tablespoon of butter and add the crumbled feta and herbs. Season to taste, with salt and pepper.

Broad Bean Risotto with Mint

  • 3kg (6.5lb) fresh broad beans or 400g (14oz) podded or frozen beans
  • 75g (3oz) Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 1 bunch of mint, chopped
  • 1 glass of white wine
  • 300g (11oz) arborio rice or similar
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 150g (5oz) unsalted butter
  • 2 litres (3.5 pints) chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste

One option is to blend about half of the beans into a rough, creamy paste. This adds color and infused the bean taste through the risotto.

To prepare the risotto, add the stock to a large saucepan, bring to the boil, lower the heat to a simmer. Add the broad beans and cook for 2-3 minutes, then remove and set aside. Keep the stock simmering to add to the rice later.

Add about half of the butter and a pinch of salt to a small frying pan and sautee the onions and garlic until tender (but do not brown them). Increase the heat to high and add the rice. Mix the rice with a wooden spoon for about 30 seconds to coat all the grains with oil. Add the wine and boil the mixture fiercely for about 60 seconds, stirring constantly. Quickly add the broad bean paste (if using this option). Reduce the heat and start adding small batches of hot simmering stock in stages, waiting till the liquid is absorbed before adding the next one.

When the rice is just cooked, remove the pan from the heat, add the rest of the butter and set the pan aside until it has melted. Mix in the mint and broad beans, then add the Parmesan, season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Best Ever Beef and Broad Bean Stew

  • 2 tablespoons wholegrain mustard
  • 100g (3.5oz) broad beans, cooked for 2-3 minutes in simmering water
  • 55g (2oz) sweet potato roughly diced and boiled until tender, drained
  • 100ml (3.5 fl oz) chicken stock or vegetable stock
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 100g (3.5 oz) fillet steak, diced
  • 50g (2oz) unsalted butter

Preheat the oven 200 degrees C ( 400 degrees F). Heat the butter in a small frying pan until and fry the steak to brown the outside for 2-3 minutes. Remove the steak and set aside. Add the garlic and onions and to the pan and fry for about 2-4 minutes, until the onion is translucent and softened. Add the tomato and Worcestershire sauce to the pan and fry for another 1-2 minutes. Add the chicken stock and bring to the boil. Mix in the broad beans and sweet potato and stir in the mustard.

Note: This minimal cooking time only works with fillet steak which is tender enough to be used straight away. Other cuts of meat will require longer cooking times in the stock mixture to become tender.

Nutrients in Fava Beans (Broad Beans) compared with Other Beans and Peas

Nutrients in Serving of 100g
Fava Beans
Lima Beans
Green Beans
Green Peas
Yard Long beans
341 Cal
338 Cal
31 Cal
81 Cal
47 Cal
58.59 g
63.38 g
7.13 g
14.45 g
8.35 g
26.12 g
21.46 g
1.82 g
5.42 g
2.8 g
Total Fat
1.53 g
0.69 g
0.34 g
0.40 g
0.40 g
0 mg
0 mg
0 mg
0 mg
0 mg
Dietary Fiber
25 g
19 g
3.4 g
5.1 g
423 mcg
395 mcg
37 mcg
65 mcg
62 mcg
2.832 mg
1.537 mg
0.752 mg
2.090 mg
0.410 mg
Pantothenic acid
0.976 mg
1.355 mg
0.094 mg
0.104 mg
0.055 mg
0.366 mg
0.512 mg
0.074 mg
0.169 mg
0.024 mg
0.333 mg
0.202 mg
0.105 mg
0.132 mg
0.110 mg
0.555 mg
0.507 mg
0.084 mg
0.266 mg
0.107 mg
Vitamin A
53 IU
0 IU
690 IU
765 IU
865 IU
Vitamin C
1.4 mg
0 mg
16.3 mg
40 mg
18.8 mg
Vitamin E
0.72 mg
0.13 mg
Vitamin K
9 mcg
6 mcg
14.4 mcg
24.8 mcg
13 mg
18 mg
6 mg
5 mg
4 mg
1062 mg
1724 mg
209 mg
244 mg
240 mg
103 mg
81 mg
37 mg
25 mg
50 mg
0.824 mcg
0.740 mcg
0.176 mg
0.048 mcg
6.70 mg
7.51 mg
1.04 mg
1.47 mg
0.47 mg
192 mg
224 mg
25 mg
33 mg
44 mg
1.626 mg
1.672 mg
0.214 mg
0.410 mg
0.205 mg
421 mg
385 mg
38 mg
59 mg
8.2 mcg
7.2 mcg
1.8 mcg
1.5 mcg
3.14 mg
2.83 mg
0.24 mg
1.24 mg
0.37 mg
32 mcg
0 mcg
379 mcg
449 mcg
00 mcg
0 mcg
69 mcg
0 mcg
00 mcg
0 mcg
640 mcg
2477 mcg

© 2013 Dr. John Anderson


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