Broad Beans: Properties and Contraindications

Cultivated by humans for thousands of years, beans are a food to be recovered thanks to their nutrients, flavor and multiple uses in cooking.
Broad Beans: Properties and Contraindications
Anna Vilarrasa

Written and verified by the nutritionist Anna Vilarrasa.

Last update: 04 March, 2023

Halfway between legumes and vegetables, broad beans have the properties of both and are a very healthy food to include in your daily menu.

In the winter, you can make a great bean stew, combine them with bacon, sausage or ham, include them in salads, sautée them or prepare a broad bean omelet.

If you want to know more details, we’ll tell you how to include them in your daily diet, and what their potential benefits are.

Broad beans: one of the oldest legumes

The bean plant belongs to the family of Fabaceae or legumes. This means that they belong to the same group as legumes such as chickpeas or lentils.

They have been cultivated for thousands of years and are believed to have originated in the Mediterranean region. Today, however, they are familiar items on all continents and in many cuisines.

Inside the pods are the seeds, which are the best-known edible part. They’re reasonably large and a pale green color; they can be bought fresh or dried.

Fresh (or tender) broad beans are similar to peas. They can be eaten raw (since their texture is soft) or subjected to short cooking. Likewise, no soaking process is necessary prior to cooking.

On the other hand, dry beans are similar to chickpeas or lentils. They usually have the same cooking and canning times and a similar nutritional value. Moreover, although they aren’t as well known, they have the same healthy properties as legumes.

Properties and health benefits of beans

Whether you choose fresh or dried beans, they provide a very nutritious and healthy food. In the framework of a suitable diet, they have many strong points that we’re going to look at now:

1. They contain excellent nutrients

In spite of their small size, the broad beans present a remarkable nutritional composition. As the Spanish Nutrition Foundation (FEN) points out, they are a source of carbohydrates, proteins and fiber.

They also contain notable amounts of other compounds: vitamin C, folates, thiamine (B1), niacin (B3) and potassium.

2. They can help prevent anemia

One of the minerals they provide in moderate amounts is iron. This is necessary in the production of hemoglobin, which, in turn, is responsible for transporting oxygen to all the cells of the body.

As noted by experts at the Mayo Clinic, low iron levels can lead to anemia, whose symptoms are weakness, fatigue, and shortness of breath.

This is of special interest to women with heavy menstruation and for people who follow vegan diets. With the inclusion of beans in the diet, the variety of foods with iron increases.

Food with iron.
Beans bring iron to the diet and are useful for vegetarians to sustain the micronutrient content they do not get from meat.

3. They promote better cardiovascular health

There is increasing scientific evidence that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is one of the keys to lowering the incidence of heart disease.

For this reason, heart protection can be listed among the health properties of beans.

As the authors of this article published in the journal Nutrients, legumes contain nutrients that improve some risk factors such as blood cholesterol, blood glucose control, inflammation, or damage to blood vessels.

4. They are good for pregnancy

As a folate-containing food, beans can be a regular part of a pregnant woman’s diet.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends including a 400-microgram folic acid supplement along with a folate-rich diet.

This nutrient helps prevent neural tube defects that can lead to serious illnesses in babies, such as anencephaly or spina bifida.

5. They can promote weight loss

At the nutritional level, beans provide a moderate amount of calories. They are light thanks to the presence of water and a low percentage of fat. In addition, the amount of protein and fiber per serving is high compared to the vast majority of vegetables.

This makes them a good choice for those who wish to lose weight and follow slimming diets. Recent scientific evidence has found that higher protein intake increases thermogenesis and satiety. In addition, it has also been linked to a lower subsequent energy intake.

Furthermore, according to data published in The Journal of Nutrition, fiber intake aids in weight loss and allows better adherence to low-calorie diets.

6. Improves some digestive problems

The properties of beans due to the presence of fiber also extend to the digestive system.

Specifically, as indicated by the Mayo Clinic, thanks to its insoluble fiber, it increases the volume of stools and facilitates their passage along the intestine and colon.

Its presence in the diet can reduce the risk of hemorrhoids and diverticula.

Moreover, this component is the food of intestinal bacteria and allows their development in number and variety. As a consequence, it improves the response to pathogens and the state of the mucosa and cells of the colon.

Contraindications of beans

As we have seen so far, the consumption of beans has very positive properties for health. However, it’s also important to bear in mind that they can sometimes cause problems.

The clearest case is favism, a genetic anomaly caused by a lack of the enzyme glucose 6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD). It’s characterized by the sudden onset of episodes of severe anemia, which are generated by the ingestion of certain medications or foods such as beans and their derivatives.

The accompanying signs are as follows:

  • Dark urine
  • Pallor
  • Yellow coloration in the eyes
  • Abdominal pain

It’s the most common enzyme deficiency in the world and is a common disorder in some specific geographical areas, such as southern Europe and Asia. Sufferers can lead a normal life if contact with the causative agents is avoided.

In the general population, consumption of broad beans can lead to some digestive problems such as gas and flatulence. These improve with a moderate intake and if accompanied by plants such as cumin, bay leaf, mint, garlic and fennel.

Recipe of broad beans with peas

This is a rich and healthy dish prepared with vegetables, very easy to cook and with an excellent result. Here are its ingredients and how to make it.

Ingredients needed for 4 servings

  • 800 grams (32 oz) of frozen peas
  • 400 grams (16 oz) of frozen broad beans
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 potatoes
  • 1 teaspoon of saffron threads
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Mint
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 100 grams (4 oz) of ham

Step-by-step instructions

  1. First, peel and cut the onion and garlic into very small cubes. Fry in a frying pan with olive oil and the two bay leaves. When they’re a little browned, add the ham and sauté for a few minutes.
  2. Add the beans and the mint. Let it cook for about 10 minutes more.
  3. Then it’s time to add the peas and the peeled and diced potatoes. Optionally, a little white wine can be sprinkled on.
  4. Cover with water about two fingers above the ingredients and let it reduce over low heat until the peas and beans are tender.

The poached peas and beans can be served and accompanied in many ways. This recipe uses ham, but it’s also possible to use a little bacon or sausage. You can also serve it with a poached egg at the last minute.

Guisantes para añadir a las habas.
Combining broad beans with peas makes for a tasty and easy-to-prepare salad.

The essentials for enjoying broad beans and their properties

The best fresh broad beans in pods are the green ones. They are crunchy and break easily. They can be kept in the refrigerator for at least 2 to 3 days.

Another possibility is to buy dried beans, which, like other legumes, have a longer shelf life. Nowadays they’re also available frozen and canned.

Both fresh and dried beans are a very healthy food that should be included in the daily diet. If accompanied by a healthy diet and lifestyle habits, they can be positive for cardiovascular health, the digestive system, and overweight problems.

In some countries, it’s a tradition to hide a bean in the “Roscón de Reyes” (Three Kings’ cake). But after learning about their benefits and the different ways to prepare them, more people will surely include them in their dishes.

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All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

The contents of this publication are for informational purposes only. At no time can they serve to facilitate or replace the diagnoses, treatments, or recommendations of a professional. Consult with your trusted specialist if you have any doubts and seek their approval before beginning any procedure.