The broad bean is among the oldest crops in the world and so it is not surprising that it goes by many names, including vicia faba, fava bean, faba bean, field bean, bell bean and tic bean. Although this species of bean is native to North Africa and parts of south Asia, it is extensively cultivated all over the globe. The broad bean is a hardy legume and can grow in almost any soil and any climate. They are a good source of protein and carbohydrates and they also contain several vitamins and minerals
The beans are contained in pods and so the first step in preparing any broad bean dish is to open the pods and pop the beans out. The beans are then blanched by immersing them in boiling water for two minutes and then immediately dipping them in cold water. This will help to loosen the papery skins that cover each of the beans and you can squeeze them gently to slip them out of the skins. When buying broad beans, look for pods that are firm and crisp and avoid the ones that are soft and bend easily. Broad beans are best when they are relatively small and fresh and they lose their taste as they age until they are similar to dried pulses.
Health Benefits of Broad Beans
Broad bean seeds contain a variety of nutrients and provide a wide range of health benefits. Here are a few of the health benefits of this nutrition-rich legume:Broad Beans for Heart Health:
Broad beans are good sources of B vitamins which play an important role in the prevention of heart disease. Researchers in Japan found that including foods rich in B vitamins can reduce the risk of heart problems
and stroke in both sexes. Broad beans are also an excellent source of thiamine as 100 grams of raw broad beans provide almost half a personís daily requirement for this nutrient. Thiamine deficiency is very common in people who suffer from congestive heart failure and research into thiamine supplementation showed that patients experienced a marked improvement in heart function. Patients with congestive heart failure
(CHF) who require long-term furosemide therapy are more likely to suffer from thiamine deficiency as the medication causes the body to get rid of too much thiamine. It would be best if individuals on this medication include broad beans in their daily diet to prevent thiamine deficiency. Broad beans are also extremely high in folate as 100 grams of raw broad beans meets a personís entire daily requirement for folate. Folate or folic acid improves arterial elasticity and reduces arterial wall thickness which in turns lowers heart attack risk. Broad beans are very low in saturated fats and 100 grams of broad beans just 0.1g of saturated fat. Broad Beans for Parkinson's disease:
It affects the nervous system which in turn affects a personís movement and balance. In this condition, the brain cells that produce dopamine start to die. Since dopamine acts as a chemical messenger between the brain and the muscles of the body, the person starts to lose their ability to control the muscles of their body. There is no cure for Parkinsonís
but its symptoms Ė such as tremors, rigidity and slowed movement, can be reduced. Almost all treatments for Parkinsonís contain an amino acid called L-dopa as our bodies convert this chemical into dopamine. Broad beans are a good source of natural L-dopa as well as another natural chemical called C-dopa. Researchers found that consuming broad beans increases the levels of L-dopa and C-dopa in the blood along with a significant improvement in motor performance of patients with Parkinsonís disease. Furthermore, unlike the conventional medications for Parkinsonís, the patients did not suffer any side effects. Broad Beans for Weight Management:
Broad beans are a great weight loss food
as they are low in calories but high in fiber. One cup of boiled broad beans contains just 187 calories but they provide 36% of your daily fiber requirement. They are also a good source of protein as they provide 25% of your protein requirement. Studies show that a low-calorie but high-protein and high-fiber diet produces greater weight loss in overweight and obese people. This type of a diet also helps to lower cholesterol levels and this in turn, lowers the risk of many other health problems including heart disease. One of the simplest ways to prepare broad beans is to include them in various salads. The slightly nutty taste of this bean goes very well with grilled or shredded chicken. You can make a simple high-protein low-calorie salad by tossing fava beans, boiled and shredded chicken and sautťed shallots (spring onions) in a bowl. Add lemon juice, salt and freshly ground pepper and throw in a few mint leaves for a cool twist to this weight loss salad. Broad beans for blood pressure:
Broad beans are a good source of potassium
. Potassium helps to lower high blood pressure levels and helps in kidney and heart function. People who suffer from type 2 diabetes are often instructed by their doctors to add beans and legumes to their diet. Canadian researchers found that including a combination of chickpeas, lentils and fava beans in a daily diet plan for type 2 diabetes patients lowered their blood sugar levels as well as their blood pressure levels. They believed that the positive effect of these legumes is likely to be the result of their protein, fiber, mineral and antioxidant content. They recommend a cup of beans on a daily basis in order to reap long term and lasting results. One of the best ways to include broad beans in a diet plan for blood pressure management is to use them in a homemade sandwich spread. Blend equal amounts of boiled broad beans and yogurt and add salt and spices as per your taste. Use this instead of butter or sandwich spread on your daily slice of toast. You can also add a couple of slices of tomatoes and shredded poultry meat as these foods are high in potassium and will help to meet your daily requirement. Broad beans to prevent constipation:
Broad beans contain soluble and insoluble fiber and one cup of boiled broad beans will provide you with 36 per cent of your daily dietary fiber needs. Fiber does not provide any nutritional value but it is essential for good digestive health as it provides roughage which ensures smooth bowel movements. Fiber also regulates the absorption of glucose and fats in the small intestine and prevents spikes in blood sugar levels. It also balances intestinal pH levels and reduces the risk of colorectal cancer
. Fiber does not restrict the absorption of minerals and vitamins and certain types of fiber even work to improve the absorption of minerals such as calcium. This is why it is especially important that those suffering from bone diseases or those at a high risk of bone diseases such as post-menopausal women, include plenty of fiber rich foods in their diet. You can couple beans with whole grains, pulses or nuts to increase your fiber intake.Broad beans to boost immunity:
Broad beans contain several nutrients including vitamins B, C and K and minerals such as manganese, magnesium and zinc. All of these nutrients play a vital role in the maintenance of the immune system. Broad beans also contain Isoflavones which are naturally occurring chemical compounds that boost the immune system and can even prevent certain types of cancer.
Unfortunately there is one possible negative effect to consuming broad beans Ė this is a condition called Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency; the common name for this condition is Favism. People who have this hereditary disease will experience hemolytic anemia where their red blood cells breakup, if they eat broad beans. This condition is not very common and generally affects people of Mediterranean and African origin.
Broad Beans Recipes
Broad beans are very versatile and they can be used in salads, pasta, frittatas or other side dishes. The creamy texture and mild sweet taste of the broad bean perfectly complements sharp tastes such as feta, bacon and anchovies. You can include them in your healthy eating
plan by keeping the beans whole, mashing them into a paste or even by grilling the entire pod. Roasted broad beans make an excellent low calorie snack and are nutritionally superior to chips and regular snacks. Chickpeas and soybeans are excellent broad bean substitutes and you can use them in recipes that call for broad beans.
Fragrant Broad Bean Pilau Ingredients:
- 200g basmati rice
- 300g podded broad beans
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 10g butter (optional)
- 5 finely sliced spring onions
- Ĺ tsp ground allspice
- 2 bay leaves
- pinch saffron threads (optional)
- ĺ cup of chopped assorted nuts
- Ĺ cup of chopped dill
- 1 cup vegetable stock (optional)
- Salt to taste
1. Blanch the broad beans by placing them in boiling water for 2-3 minutes and then immersing them in cold water. Remove the skins from the beans and set aside.
2. Rinse the rice thoroughly under running water and then cook it until it is almost done. Take it off the stove and set it aside. In a large pan heat the olive oil and fry the onions then add the allspice, saffron threads, nuts and dill and allow this mixture to cook for a few minutes before adding the rice.
3. Pour the vegetable stock and the butter into the pan and stir the rice gently until the onions, nuts and spices mix well with the rice. Allow the rice to cook completely on low heat and then finally add in the beans and stir this once more. Add salt if required.