Fava beans are nutrient dense and easy to incorporate into our diet. Favas are high in protein and low in carbohydrates. They contain no saturated fat, cholesterol, or sodium, are gluten free and not genetically modified. Favas provide a good to high source of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of the following nutrients:
Fava beans are an excellent source of folic acid which is essential to support healthy fetal development in pregnancy. They are also rich in iron which can reduce the risk of anemia. They are a good source of manganese and copper, minerals important for bone health. Favas contain magnesium and potassium that helps reduce the risk of high blood pressure.
Favas have other attributes as well. Research over the past 50 years shows that favas can lower LDL cholesterol levels, decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease and are effective in reducing blood glucose levels. Fava beans also contain levodopa, which has been found to increase motor function in patients with Parkinson’s disease.
Favas are part of the pulse family that includes dried peas, lentils and chickpeas. When compared to other pulses, fava have a high protein to carbohydrate ratio, as demonstrated in the chart, below:
Although favas are highly nutritious, they, like many foods, also contain antinutritive properties including phytates, tannins, lectins, and saponins, oligosaccharides, and purines that can prevent the absorption of nutrients by interacting with certain foods. (Pasqualone, et. al, 2020). However, phytic acid can also reducethe bioavailability of heavy toxic metal such as lead and cadmium which are present in the American diet (Multari et al., 2015). Soaking, hulling, and cooking can reduce phytic acid content.
Favism is a hereditary health condition that is caused by consuming favas or exposure to plant or fava products. Favism affects a small percent of the population, especially those from eastern Mediterranean backgrounds. Favism symptoms include headaches, shortness of breath, stomach pains, raised temperatures and change of urine color. People who develop any of these symptoms should seek medical attention immediately.