Here's a secret: I love Lima beans! I love Lima beans so much, I put them in chili and even add them to my breakfast smoothie. I think most people overlook how healthy they are. So, in this review, I'm going to share with you some little known health benefits of Lima beans and their nutrients. After you are finished, you will never look at these power-packed foods the same again. Who knows, you might just be having them for breakfast as I do 🙂
My True Story
One day, I had lunch with friends at a local diner. I decided to splurge and have spaghetti and meatballs. When I heard Lima beans were also being served, I got a big smile and ordered them too. When lunch came, I quickly dumped the beans on the spaghetti -and everybody at the table gasped!
Even the waitress said “yuck!”
If they only knew what I'm about to tell you, they would be eating Lima beans too.
What Are Lima Beans?
Lima beans (Phaseolus lunatus) are, of course, a vegetable. Technically, they are called legumes but let's face it – nobody outside of the nutrition classroom calls them legumes. For most of us, they're beans.
Beans, in general, have been taking a pounding lately. I think much of this stems from the writings of Dr. Steven Grundy and his talk about substances called lectins. More about lectins below.
Here are 11 things Lima beans can do for you. My favorite is #11 🙂
1 Lima Beans: Packed With Nutrition
Here's the basic nutrition facts info for a pack of frozen Lima beans I have in my fridge. One-half cup (85 grams) contains the following nutrition information:
- 100 calories
- zero fat
- zero saturated fat
- zero trans fat
- 80 mg sodium (3% DV)
- 20 grams total carbs (7% DV)
- 8 grams dietary fiber (31% DV)
- 2 grams total sugars
- 6 grams protein
In this list, “DV” means daily value. If refers to the percentage of nutrients the food gives you. For example, each 1/2 cup of Lima beans gives you 31% of the minimum amount of fiber we should aim to get each day.
The RDA for fiber is ONLY about 30 grams per day. That's about 1 oz. Most Americans get about 15 grams. per day Just sad…
In case ya didn't know, fiber has a LOT of health benefits, not the least of which is it helps suppress appetite.
But, the basic Nutrition Facts we see on a food label does not tell us the whole story. These beans contain more than just what you see above. For example, 1/2 cup also contains about:
- 477 mg potassium
- 100 mg phosphorous
- 78 mg folate (folic acid)
- 40 mg magnesium
- 30 mg choline
- 15 mg calcium
- 2 mg iron
- 4 micrograms selenium
- 323 micrograms boron
- 1.9 micrograms vitamin K
2 Lima Beans Contain Water
Many often assume we only get water from liquids. This is not true. We get water from the foods we eat too. Vegetables contribute to our hydration. Each 1/2 cup of Lima beans has about 65 grams of water. While this might not seem like much, it adds up when you factor in all the other foods you eat.
It only takes a 2% drop in water intake to be clinically dehydrated. This can lead to significant reductions in both aerobic and strength training exercise ability. One small investigation (9 people) noted just a 2.9% reduction in fluid intake resulted in exercise seeming harder to perform and it also leads to a 14% reduction in muscle power.
While we all know lack of fluids can lead to dehydration, fewer know it can also contribute to blood sugar problems and fatigue.
Our cells – even our muscle cells -are mostly made of water. Muscle is actually about 70% water. Inadequate intake of liquids has been shown to reduce muscle protein synthesis (making muscle proteins). For the weight lifters, Lima beans not only have protein (see below), their fluid might also help contribute to muscle growth too!
3 Lima Beans Have Protein
As you can see from the list of nutrients above, Lima beans also contain protein. Just 1/2 cup provides 6 grams of protein. A cup of milk contains 8 grams of protein. This fact busts the myth that plants do not contain protein. They do!
4 Lima Beans Contain Omega 3 Fats
One fact often overlooked is Lima beans have small amounts of omega 3 fatty acids. Mostly the omega 3 fats come from:
- Linoleic acid
- Linolenic acid (alpha-linolenic acid / ALA)
Both of these are unsaturated fatty acids considered to be good for heart health. Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) in particular, gets a lot of attention for helping reduce heart disease. The ALA in flaxseeds has also been shown to reduce blood pressure too.
While Lima beans do not contain fish oils (EPA and DHA), humans can convert a little bit of ALA into EPA and DHA. It's not much – only about 1% or 2% – but it is something. For unknown reasons, women are better than men at turning ALA into the fish oils.
5 Lima Beans Can Help Diabetes
Because of their high fiber/low sugar content, Lima beans have both a low glycemic index and glycemic load. According to the University of Sydney, An 8 oz serving has:
- glycemic index of 36
- glyemic load of 11
This makes them great food choices for diabetics and those with insulin resistance (pre-diabetes). The fiber not only helps keep us full but it also helps balance blood sugar, keeping it from going too high or too low.
This anti-diabetes effect may also be due to the magnesium in Lima beans. Magnesium has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity. In other words, it helps insulin work better. For those trying to reverse their type II diabetes, this an added bonus.
Speaking of magnesium, did you know the enzyme which breaks down energy (ATP) in our cells, needs magnesium to work? It's true. So, magnesium also helps provide us with energy too.
6. Lima Beans Help Reduce Heart Disease
Lima beans contain the B vitamin, folate (also called folic acid). While most know folate (and folic acid) can reduce birth defects, folate is also well known to reduce homocysteine.
Homocysteine is a substance that makes blood cells sticky and damage blood vessels. Both of these effects can increase the chances of developing heart disease. So, one way Lima beans might help our heart is by supplying folate to reduce high homocysteine levels.
7 Lima Beans Keep The Gut Healthy
The fiber in Lima beans nourishes the bacteria inside your large intestine, (“The Gut”) helping to promote a more healthy and diverse microbiome. How? The fiber acts as a prebiotic. In case you did not know, prebiotics is the new, sexy name for fiber. They are the same thing.
The Fiber-Microbiome Connection
As I posted on my Instagram page, the fiber from foods -such as beans – can also help with weight loss.
When our gut bacteria eat fiber, they give off substances, called short-chain fatty acids. These fatty acids can raise an anti-hunger hormone called leptin. Higher leptin levels might help us eat less – and lose weight.
8 Lima Beans Might Reduce Colon Cancer
As mentioned previously, when the bacteria in our large intestine (colon) eat fiber, they give off short-chain fatty acids. One of those short-chain fatty acids is called butyrate (bU-ter-ate). One of the things butyrate does is inhibit tumors in the colon from forming.
So, eat more beans = make more butyrate and get less colon cancer. To be clear, I'm not just talking about Lima beans doing this. Eating any food with fiber seems to reduce colon cancer risk. Another way beans might help protect against cancer is through their lectins.
But wait – aren't lectins toxic? Keep reading…
9 Lima Beans Lower Cholesterol
Remember those short-chain fatty acids I mentioned above? Well, there is another fatty acid – called propionate (pro-pie-oh-nate) – you should know about. Propionate has been shown to inhibit the creation of cholesterol.
So, if you have high cholesterol levels, eating more fiber – from beans and other vegetables – can help you reduce your synthesis of cholesterol.
So, eating more fiber =more propionate = lower cholesterol. That's good for heart health.
10 Lima Beans Can Lower Blood Pressure
If you have high blood pressure (hypertension), you should consider eating beans. All beans are loaded with the blood pressure-lowering mineral potassium. The RDA for potassium is 4700 mg (4.7g) per day. Most Americans do NOT get this much.
MANY studies have proven eating foods with potassium can reduce blood pressure.
Yes, bananas can help too but I want you to know bananas are not the only potassium-containing foods. Each 1/2 cup of Lima beans has about 477 mg of potassium – similar to what a banana has!
Potassium is a very important part of the DASH Diet. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.
11 Lima Beans Can Help You Live Longer
In a study called Food Habits in Later Life (FHLL), researchers in Australia looked at 785 older people living in different parts of the world (Australia, Sweden, Japan, and Greece) between 1988-1991. They noted that every 20 grams of fiber from beans eaten daily was associated with an 8% reduction in death.
Why is this?
Is it the fiber in beans? Is it the other minerals or phytonutrients in beans? Or, is it because of a cumulative effect of the things I mentioned in this review? I think that is closer to the truth trying to pin this longevity benefit on any single nutrient.
Bottom line. if you want to live longer and prosper, eat more beans.
Raw vs. Cooked Lima Beans
Does anybody eat raw Lima beans? For most, I think the answer is no. Canned or frozen Lima beans are how most people consume them. I prefer them frozen because they help keep my smoothies cold.
Lectins: The Hannibal Lecter Of Nutrition?
In the world of nutrition, there's been much talk about the dangers of lectins. What are lectins? They are proteins made by plants (red kidney beans, potatoes, tomatoes, etc.) that act as a defense mechanism. Lima beans have some lectins too.
Plants want to live – and so they create substances, toxic to insects to help ensure they stay alive. There are different types of lectins and they do more than protect plants from hungry insects.
To be clear, lectins are not the only way plants defend themselves from the outside environment. Plants make
phytonutrients in response to stress too. They are also plant-based defenses. When we eat the plants, we get the benefits of those phytonutrients.
Might lectins have health benefits too?
According to anti-lectin proponents like Dr. Steven Gundry, when we eat foods containing lectins, they become toxic and cause health problems. In some circles, this theory has become quite popular.
But, the problem with Dr. Gundry's statements is he's wrong. Here's why he's wrong. Overwhelming evidence proves people who eat lectin-containing foods:
- Live longer
- Get fewer disease
There's no debate here.
If lectin-containing beans really were so bad, then why have some researchers called them “the most important dietary predictor of survival in older people.” When you look at people who live the longest, what do they eat – foods containing lectins -and that includes beans!
And then, there is the evidence lectins can promote good gut health. Other researchers have reported lectins might also help osteoporosis.
OK, so the lectin called phytohemagglutinin can cause nausea and vomiting in some people. But, phyto-hemagglutinin is inactivated when beans are cooked. So, as long as you're not eating beans raw, most people should not have a problem with them.
My Lima Bean Smoothie
I've already written about how I like to make smoothies in my Vitamix for breakfast. Here's a quick and easy variation which you can make in about 3 minutes (yes, I've timed myself making this):
- 1 orange (peel it)
- 1/2 cup of grapes
- 1/4 cup of frozen Lima beans
- 1/4 cup frozen spinach
- a teaspoon of green tea (cut open the bag and toss it into the blender)
- frozen blueberries (I don't measure)
- frozen strawberries (1-2 should do the trick)
I like my smoothies to taste good so while everything is blending, I also add chocolate protein powder. I like chocolate but feel free to use whatever flavor you prefer.
If you try my recipe, let me know what you think 🙂
Lima Beans: What Are They Good For? Absolutely Everything!
In this review, I showed you some of the benefits of eating more beans. I prefer Lima beans not only because they taste great (I really love the taste) but also because they have a lot of nutrition.
Truth told any bean you eat will likely have similar health benefits. Whichever type of bean you prefer, the important thing is to eat them and eat them regularly.
Related: Spinach for weight loss: Facts To Know
Sue H says
I’ve never liked green lima beans, but love dried ones. Is the nutrition comparable? Or do I need to learn to like them at 60 years old?
Joe Cannon says
Hi Sue, the nutrition between dried lima beans and cooking is the same. Eat them any way you like. 🙂
George E Hudson says
I grew up on lima beans. Is there a complementary food that will keep you from cutting a few room clearing nose fanning smells.
George, LOL I hear ya 🙂 Does that always happen? Sometimes that happens as our microbiome adjusts to what we eat but reduces after a period of time. I have been there though so I know what you are taking about 🙂 I dont know of anything which would reduce that from happening. I’ll see if I can find anything and if I do I’ll let you know here.
Jessica Thorpe says
I LOVE lima beans! Thanks for this Joe. Now I have something to show my kids 🙂
Jessica, so glad to learn you now have ammo to prove to your kids Lima beans good for them 🙂