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Broad Bean

Fava beans are an ancient legume originating in North Africa and southwest Asia. They are a large legume with off white flesh that is a rich source of protein, fiber and many other nutrients Fava beans are widely used in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cooking.

Broad Bean
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What it is

The Fava bean is an ancient legume with a long, tough and leathery pod ranging in length from 15–25 cm and 2-3 cm wide. Each pod has 3-8 kidney shaped seeds about 2-3 cm long and 1.5 cm wide. The bean has off white flesh with a tough and bitter outer skin that is usually a greenish-brown color. The beans can be picked while still immature and green and eaten as a vegetable or more often, they are grown to maturity and dried to be re-hydrated later. 

The ancient fava bean originates from North Africa and southwest Asia and is now grown throughout the world.


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What is in it

Fava beans are an excellent source of molybdenum, a very good source of fiber and manganese and a good source of folate, protein, copper, iron potassium and magnesium. Fava beans also contain tyramine and L-dopa.


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What it is good for

• Diuretic
• Strengthens the spleen-pancreas
• Treats edema and swelling
• Fava juice can treat diarrhea
• Controls hypertension
• Can help patients with Parkinson’s disease
• Improves the libido


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When you get it

Fresh Lima beans can be found in markets in the summer months and early fall (autumn). Dried beans are available all year around.


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Which to select

Broad beans, they can usually be bought packages or in bulk containers. For the freshest product buy seeds that are stored well in sealed airtight containers in markets or shops with good turnover. Be sure that there is no evidence of moisture of mold. The beans should be whole and not split. 

Canned legumes retain most of their nutritional value so unlike canned vegetables, using canned beans can still a nutritious option.

When you buy fresh beans choose beans with a bright green color that are free of brown or soft spots on the skin or beans. 

Why Organic
Choose organically grown beans whenever possible. To eat organic means to live cleanly, free of pesticides and toxins. It is a conscious choice. One made in order to survive right along with the planet that sustains us. Organically grown foods do not over-run the landfills with toxic waste from their farming or subject your body to unhealthy toxins. For your health and for the planet, choose to eat organic foods. To understand more about why organic is better please read our “Why Organic?” special feature


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Where to store

Store dried beans in a well-sealed container away from light and heat. If stored correctly they can keep well for up to 1 year. Once they have been cooked, store them in the refrigerator and keep for a few days.

Fresh beans should be stored in the refrigerator where they will keep for up to 4 or 5 days.


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How to use

Wash the beans ion cold water to ensure they are free of any debris and remove any damaged beans. 

For full details on preparing legumes see our Special Guide to Legume Preparation, this will guide you on reducing flatulence and reducing cooking times.

All dried legumes should be be re-hydrated by soaking overnight.

• Make falafel by crushing soaked, uncooked beans with garlic, cumin. Coriander, onion and other ingredients then form into balls and bake or fry until cooked.
• Use in bean salads
• Make a bean stew or chili by adding beans to stock, spices and stewing for several hours.


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How much you need

To reach your health goals and become healthy the most important step is to eat a well balanced diet of food from across all the food groups. 

For an average person 
 
Servings per food group:
• Whole Grains (Carbohydrates):  6 – 8 
• Meat and beans (Protein):  1 – 2 
• High quality fats: 1
• Dairy:     2 – 3
• Fruit: 2
• Vegetables: 5
• Water: 6

This list is of recommended daily amount of each food group for an average person 19 to 50 years old with a low level of exercise (30minutes of less a day). If you are older you may need a little less, if you are younger, a little more and if you are very active even more food should be eaten. For more information on serving sizes see our special feature on Sizing Up A Serve.

It is important to ensure that the foods that you eat are of a high quality. The highest quality product is one that is fresh, whole and organic.

Fresh – over time the quality of nutrients degrades with their potency dying off.

Whole – many foods, particularly vegetarian foods carry a lot of their nutrients in their outer skins. So leave bran, germs and skins on the food where possible; always with grains and whenever the fruit of vegetable permits.

Organic – ensure you have the cleanest food by using only foods that are grown without pesticides, or other chemicals, in a natural way as people have in all bar the last 80 years of history. Chemical burdened foods are a modern invention designed to increase output with little regard to the health of the end user.


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Things to watch out for

Broad beans are rich in tyramine and should be avoided by those with monoamine oxidase (mao) inhibitors.
 
Raw broad beans contain vicine, isouramil and convicine, which can induce hemolytic anemia in patients with the hereditary condition glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency (G6PD). This potentially fatal condition is called "favism" after the fava bean.


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References

The Journal of Nutrition – The American Society for Nutrition, http://jn.nutrition.org, retrieved 05/2009.

Wikipedia, Broad Beans,  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broad_beans, retrieved 

Prepared by the editors at Harvard Health Publications in consultation with Meir J. Stampfer, M.D., Dr.P.H., Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition, Vitamins and Minerals: What you need to know,  Harvard School of Public Health, 2008.

Bratman, Steven, and David Kroll. Natural Health Bible. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1999.

Paul Pitchford. Healing with whole food, North Atlantic Books, 2002.

Goldman L, Ausiello D. Cecil Textbook of Medicine. 22nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: WB Saunders, 2004.

Norton Greenberger M.D. and Roanne Weisman, 4 Weeks to Healthy Digestion, Harvard School of Public Health. (2008)
 


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