10 Impressive Health Benefits of Fava Beans

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Fava beans — or broad beans — are green legumes that come in pods.

They have a slightly sweet, earthy flavor and are eaten by people all over the world.

Fava beans are loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber and protein. They’re thought to offer impressive health effects, such as improved motor function and immunity.

Here are 10 health benefits of fava beans, backed by science.

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For their relatively small size, fava beans pack an incredible amount of nutrients.

In particular, they’re rich in plant protein, folate and several other vitamins and minerals. They’re also loaded with soluble fiber that can aid digestion and lower cholesterol levels (1, 2).

One cup (170 grams) of cooked fava beans has (3):

  • Calories: 187 calories
  • Carbs: 33 grams
  • Fat: Less than 1 gram
  • Protein: 13 grams
  • Fiber: 9 grams
  • Folate: 40% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Manganese: 36% of the DV
  • Copper: 22% of the DV
  • Phosphorous: 21% of the DV
  • Magnesium: 18% of the DV
  • Iron: 14% of the DV
  • Potassium: 13% of the DV
  • Thiamine (vitamin B1) and Zinc: 11% of the DV

In addition, fava beans provide smaller amounts of almost all other B vitamins, calcium and selenium.

Summary Fava beans are incredibly nutritious and an excellent source of soluble fiber, protein, folate, manganese, copper and several other micronutrients.

Fava beans are rich in levodopa (L-dopa), a compound that your body converts to the neurotransmitter dopamine (4).

Parkinson’s disease causes the death of dopamine-producing brain cells, leading to tremors, issues with motor function and difficulty walking. These symptoms are usually treated with medications that contain L-dopa (5).

Therefore, eating fava beans may help with symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, though research is limited.

A small study in 11 people with Parkinson’s disease found that eating 1.5 cups (250 grams) of fava beans after 12 hours without medication had a comparable positive effect on blood dopamine levels and motor function as L-dopa drugs (6).

Another study in 6 adults with Parkinson’s disease showed that consuming 100–200 grams — about 1–1.75 cups — of fava beans with the anti-Parkinson’s medication carbidopa improved symptoms as well as traditional drug combinations (7).

While these results are promising, more research is needed. Keep in mind that even though fava beans are rich in L-dopa, they should not be used in place of medications.

Summary Fava beans are rich in L-dopa, which your body converts to dopamine. Since Parkinson’s disease is characterized by low dopamine levels, eating fava beans may help with symptoms. Still, more research on this topic is needed.

Fava beans are loaded with folate, a nutrient that promotes healthy fetal development.

Folate is critical for creating cells and organs. An expecting mother needs additional folate from foods and supplements to reduce the risk of neural tube defects, or issues with the development of her infant’s brain and spinal cord (8, 9).

In fact, it’s estimated that more than 260,000 infants born worldwide in 2015 had neural tube defects, many of which may have been preventable by adequate maternal folate intake (10).

One study in more than 23,000 women found that the incidence of brain and spinal cord issues was 77% lower in infants of mothers who had the highest daily intake of dietary folate, compared to children of women with the lowest intake (11).

With 40% of the DV for folate in just one cup (170 grams), fava beans are an excellent choice for pregnant women (3).

Summary Fava beans are loaded with folate, a nutrient that promotes proper brain and spinal cord development in infants. Adequate folate intake in pregnant women can help prevent neural tube defects.

Regularly eating fava beans may boost your immune system.

In particular, they’re rich in compounds that may enhance antioxidant activity. Antioxidants are critical to your body’s immune defense, as they fight free radicals that may lead to cell damage and disease (12, 13, 14).

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