Lima beans : nutrition, shocking 4 medical uses & adverse effects


See also Beans.

Lima Beans Nutritional Profile

• Energy value (calories per serving): Moderate
• Protein: High
• Fat: Low
• Saturated fat: Low
• Cholesterol: None
• Carbohydrates: High
• Fiber: Very high
• Sodium: Low
• Major vitamin contribution: Vitamin B6, folate
• Major mineral contribution: Magnesium, iron, zinc

How Many Nutrients in This Food

• Lima beans are seeds, a good source of starch and very high in dietary fiber, including insoluble cellulose and lignin in the seed covering and soluble pectins and gums in the bean.

• That’s proteins are plentiful but limited in the essential amino acids methionine and cystine. Lima beans are a good source of the B vitamin folate, plus iron, and zinc.

• One-half cup boiled large this food has 6.5 g dietary fiber, 7.4 g protein, 78 mcg folate (20 percent of the RDA), 2.2 mg iron (12 percent of the RDA for a woman, 31 percent of the RDA for a man), and 0.9 mg zinc (11 percent of the RDA for a woman, 8 percent of the RDA for a man).

• Raw limas contain antinutrient chemicals that inactivate enzymes you need to digest proteins and carbohydrates (starches). They also contain factors that inactivate vitamin A, and they have hemagglutinins, substances that make red blood cells clump together.

• Cooking limas disarms the enzyme inhibitors and the anti-vitamin A factors, but not the hemagglutinins. However, the amount of hemagglutinins in limas is so small that it has no measurable effect in your body.

• This food also contain phaseolunatin, a chemical that breaks down into hydrogen cyanide when the cells of the lima bean are damaged or torn and the phaseolunatin comes into contact with an enzyme in the bean that triggers its conversion.

• Dark-colored this food and this beans grown outside the United States may contain larger amounts of phaseolunatin than the pale American limas. Since phaseolunatin is not destroyed by cooking, there have been serious cases of poisoning among people living in the tropics, where the high-cyanide varieties of this food grow.

• The importation of this food is restricted by many countries, including the United States; beans grown and sold here are considered safe.

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How To Serve Nutritious This Food

Cooked, with meat, cheese, milk, or grain (pasta, rice) to complete the proteins in the beans. The proteins in grains are deficient in the essential amino acid lysine but contain sufficient methionine and cystine; the proteins in beans are exactly the opposite.

• Together, these foods provide “complete” proteins with no cholesterol and very little fat. Both iron-rich foods (meat) and foods rich in vitamin C (tomatoes, peppers, potatoes) inhance your body’s ability to absorb the nonheme iron in the lima beans.

• The meat makes your stomach more acid, which enhances the absorption of iron, and the vitamin C may work by converting the iron in the this food from ferric iron (which is hard to absorb) to ferrous iron (which is absorbed more easily).

Diets That May Restrict or Exclude This Food

• Antiflatulence diet
• Low-calcium diet
• Low-carbohydrate diet
• Low-fiber diet
• Low-purine (antigout) diet

How To Buying This Food

Look for:

Well-filled, tender green pods of fresh limas. The shelled beans should be plump, with green or greenish white skin.


Spotted or yellowing pods.

How To Storing This Food

• Store fresh lima beans in the refrigerator.

How To Preparing This Food

• Slice a thin strip down the side of the pod, then open the pod and remove the beans. Discard withered beans and beans with tiny holes (they show where insects have burrowed through).

What Happens When You Cook This Food

• When lima beans are heated in water, their cellulose and lignin stiffened cells absorb moisture, swell, and eventually rupture, releasing the vitamins, minerals, proteins, starch,
and fiber inside.

• Cooking also makes lima beans safer by inactivating their antinutrients and hemagglutinins.

How Other Kinds of Processing Affect This Food


Drying reduces the moisture and concentrates the calories and nutrients in lima beans.

Canning and freezing.

Frozen fresh lima beans contain about the same amounts of vitamins and minerals as fresh beans; canned lima beans are lower in vitamins but usually contain more sodium in the form of added salt.

Medical Uses and/or Benefits Of This

Lower risk of some birth defects.

Up to two of every 1,000 babies born in the United States each year may have cleft palate or a neural tube (spinal cord) defect due to their mothers’ not having gotten adequate amounts of folate during pregnancy.

• The current RDA for folate is 180 mcg for a woman and 200 mcg for a man, but FDA now recommends 400 mcg for a woman who is or may become pregnant.

• Taking a folate supplement before becoming pregnant and continuing through the first two months of pregnancy reduces the risk of cleft palate; taking folate through the entire pregnancy reduces the risk of neural tube defects.

Possible lower risk of heart attack.

In the spring of 1998, an analysis of data from the records for more than 80,000 women enrolled in the long running Nurses’ Health Study at Harvard School of Public Health/Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Boston, demonstrated that a diet providing more than 400 mcg folate and 3 mg vitamin B6 daily, either from food or supplements, might reduce a woman’s risk of heart attack by almost 50 percent.

• Although men were not included in the study, the results were assumed to apply to them as well. However, data from a meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in December 2006 called this theory into question.

• Researchers at Tulane University examined the results of 12 controlled studies in which 16,958 patients with preexisting cardiovascular disease were given either folic acid supplements or placebos (“look-alike” pills with no folic acid) for at least six months.

• The scientists, who found no reduction in the risk of further heart disease or overall death rates among those taking folic acid, concluded that further studies will be required to ascertain whether taking folic acid supplements reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.

To reduce the levels of serum cholesterol.

The gums and pectins in dried beans appear to lower the level of cholesterol in the blood. There are currently two theories to explain how this may happen.

• The first theory is that the pectins in the beans form a gel in your stomach that sops up fats so that they cannot be absorbed by your body. The second is that bacteria in the gut feed on the bean fiber, producing chemicals called short-chain fatty acids that inhibit the production of cholesterol in your liver.

• As a source of carbohydrates for people with diabetes. Beans are digested very slowly, producing only a gradual rise in blood-sugar levels. As a result, the body needs less insulin to control blood sugar after eating beans than after eating some other high carbohydrate foods (bread or potato).

• In studies at the University of Kentucky, researchers put diabetic patients on a bean-grains-fruit-and-vegetables diet developed at the University of Toronto and recommended by the American Diabetes Association.

• On the diet, patients with type 1 diabetes (whose bodies do not produce any insulin) to cut their insulin intake by 38 percent. Patients with type 2 diabetes (who can produce some insulin) were able to reduce their insulin injections by 98 percent.

• This diet is in line with the nutritional guidelines of the American Diabetes Association, but people with diabetes should always consult their doctors and/or dietitians before altering their diet.

As a diet aid.

Although beans are very high in calories, they have so much bulky fiber that even a small serving can make you feel full. And, since beans are insulin-sparing (because they don’t cause blood-sugar levels to rise quickly), they postpone the natural surge of insulin that triggers hunger pangs.

• In fact, research at the University of Toronto suggests the insulin-sparing effect may last for several hours after eating beans, perhaps even until after the next meal.

lima beans
lims beans

Adverse Effects Associated with This Food

Intestinal gas.

All legumes (beans and peas) contain raffinose and stachyose, sugars that cannot be digested by human beings. Instead, they are fermented by bacteria living in the intestinal tract, producing the gassiness many people associate with eating beans.

• Since raffinose and stachyose leach out of the limas into the water when you cook lima beans, discarding the water in which you cook fresh limas beans or presoak dried ones may make them less gassy.

Allergic reaction.

According to the Merck Manual, legumes (including lima beans) are one of the 12 foods most likely to trigger classic food allergy symptoms: hives, swelling of the lips and eyes, and upset stomach. The others are berries (blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries), chocolate, corn, eggs, fish, milk, nuts, peaches, pork, shellfish, and wheat (see
wheat cereals).

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Food/Drug Interactions

Monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors.

Monoamine oxidase inhibitors are drugs used to treat depression. They inactivate naturally occurring enzymes in your body that metabolize tyramine, a substance found in many fermented or aged foods.

• Tyramine constricts blood vessels and increases blood pressure. If you eat a food containing tyramine while you are taking an MAO inhibitor, you cannot effectively eliminate the tyramine from your body. The result may be a hypertensive crisis.

• Some nutrition guides list lima beans as a food to avoid while using MAO inhibitors.


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