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The Benefits of Fava or Broad Beans for Diabetics
Fava beans, as they are called in the Americas, or broad beans as they are more commonly called in Europe, Australia and New Zealand, have been part of the diet of the eastern Mediterranean since about 6,000 BCE.
They grow in broad, leathery pods, like greatly enlarged pea pods. Each pod contains three to eight oval beans.
The term broad beans refers to the larger seeded varieties grown for human consumption, while horse beans or field beans refer to varieties with smaller, harder seeds that are mainly (but not exclusively) used for animal feed.
The fava bean is a hardy plant. It can withstand harsh and cold climates.
Preparation of fava beans
Preparing fresh fava beans can be a bit of a pain.
When buying the beans, choose green pods that are firm and not bulging. The bulging pods may be old and often have a bitter taste.
To remove the beans from the pods, simply run a thumb nail along the seam of the pod to split it open. Take out the beans. They are wrapped in a thick white skin that must be removed.
You can get rid of the skin by using a sharp knife to make a small slit along the edge of the bean. This will allow the raw bean to pop right out. But this is very hard work… bean by bean!
You can get around this by putting the beans in boiling salted water and cooking them for about a minute and a half. Then put the beans in ice cold water to stop the cooking. Now you can squeeze the beans right out of their skins. Still… cooking broad beans is hard work. It takes about 3 lbs or 1.5 kg of fava pods to get a full cup of beans.
Broad beans are usually eaten while they are young and tender. If planted early in winter, they can be harvested in mid-spring. If sown in early spring, they will be ready by mid-summer.
Horse beans, on the other hand, are left to ripen fully. They are harvested in late autumn and can be eaten by humans as a pulse, although they are most often used as animal feed.
Broad beans were an important food in the ancient civilizations of the Mediterranean. They were especially popular among the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. They eventually spread along the Nile Valley to Ethiopia, northern India and China.
Fava beans can be eaten in many different ways. For example, you can steam them until they are tender and then toss them in fresh lemon juice. They are wonderful in a mixed green salad. Mashed fava beans can be used as a spread on bread or biscuits. They are best as fúl medammes, which is very popular as a breakfast dish in Arabia. It makes a good lunch.
Making fúl medammes is really easy. Fry finely chopped garlic and onion in a pan with an extremely small amount of virgin olive oil. When the garlic has softened, add the fava beans and a little water. Bring to the boil and mash the beans with a wooden spatula. When the goo is piping hot, pour it into a bowl and serve with oatcakes (thin sugar-free biscuits made from oats).
In parts of Latin America, mashed fava beans are used as a filling in corn-based snacks. They are also used whole in vegetable soups.
The beans can also be dry-fried so that they split open. You can then season them to produce a tasty, crunchy snack popular in northern Iran, Malaysia, Thailand, China and Latin America.
The unripe pods can also be cooked and eaten. In addition, the young leaves of the plant can be eaten, either raw or cooked in the same way as spinach.
How nutritious are fava or broad beans?
The simple answer is… very nutritious.
Here is what you get in 100 grams of raw ripe seeds:
Energy… 1,425 kJ (341 kcal)
Carbohydrates… 58.29 g
Dietary fiber… 25 g
Thiamine (B1)… 0.555 mg… 48%
Riboflavin (B2)… 0.333 mg… 28%
Niacin (B3)… 2,832 mg… 19%
Vitamin B6… 0 366 mg… 28%
Folate (B9)… 423 μg… 106%
Vitamin C… 1.4 mg… 2%
Vitamin K… 9 μg… 9%
Calcium… 103 mg… 10%
Iron… 6.7mg… 52%
Magnesium… 192 mg… 54%
Manganese… 1,626 mg… 77%
Phosphorus… 421 mg… 60%
Potassium… 1,062 mg… 23%
Sodium… 13 mg… 1%
Zinc… 3.14 mg… 33%
μg = microgram… mg = milligram… IE = International Units
The percentages refer to the recommended daily amounts for an adult.
As you can see from the above, dietary fiber makes up 25% of fava beans. A further 26% consists of protein.
In addition, fava beans are particularly rich in micronutrients such as B vitamins, especially folate and thiamin. The broad beans are also full of phosphorus, manganese, magnesium and iron.
Fava beans are one of the best foods high in folate (vitamin B9) available. Folate helps metabolize your energy, supports your nervous system and keeps red blood cells healthy. It is also a must for pregnant women.
Benefits of eating fava or broad beans
Fava beans do not directly help diabetics control their blood sugar. But they help prevent or slow the development of certain adverse medical conditions, many of which occur due to diabetes, such as:
risk of heart disease and stroke
weak immune system
development of osteoporosis
poor motor function
risk of birth defects
Hypertension… 85% of diabetics suffer from high blood pressure. Studies show that magnesium can lower blood pressure. Broad beans are loaded with magnesium.
According to a meta-analysis of 12 clinical trials covering a total of 545 participants, magnesium supplementation taken for up to 26 weeks resulted in a small reduction in diastolic blood pressure. But another study found that better results are achieved when magnesium supplements are combined with magnesium-rich vegetables and fruits.
Heart disease and stroke… hypertension and diabetes increase the risk of heart disease and stroke at least three times compared to the risk among the general population. Thus, improvements in your blood pressure will reduce your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
Weak immune system… is another consequence of diabetes. Healthy white blood cells are necessary to support a strong immune system because without them, your body is highly susceptible to disease and infection. White blood cells destroy disease-causing pathogens and help eliminate free radicals found in your body.
Copper helps maintain healthy blood cells, and beans contain significant amounts of copper and thus help strengthen your immune system.
Reduced energy… many diabetics experience a feeling of sluggishness. This persistent fatigue may be due to a lack of iron, which is needed to produce hemoglobin. Hemoglobin carries oxygen to the cells throughout your body. Fava beans contain significant amounts of iron, and their consumption can help put the pep back in your step.
Development of osteoporosis… can be prevented to an extent with manganese. Manganese helps increase bone mass and helps reduce calcium deficiency. Fava beans contain significant amounts of manganese. The US National Library of Medicine suggests that consuming forms of manganese along with calcium, zinc and copper may help reduce spinal bone loss in older women.
Risk of birth defects… can be reduced with folate (vitamin B9). Broad beans contain very significant amounts of folate, which, in addition to being good for providing energy, has long been associated with helping to reduce birth defects.
A meta-analysis of research on folic acid supplementation, published in Scientific reports by the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health in 2015, found a positive association between folate supplementation and a reduced risk of congenital heart defects.
Birth defects often occur during the first few weeks of pregnancy at a time when many women may not know they are pregnant.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the US Public Health Service recommend that all women between the ages of 15 and 45 (the childbearing age) consume 0.4 mg (400 μg) of folic acid each day to help reduce the risk of birth defects, spina bifida and anencephaly.
Poor motor function… due to Parkinson’s disease can be helped by eating beans regularly, according to some studies. Research published in the Journal of Clinical & Diagnostic Research examined the effects of eating fresh fava beans with their outer skins, fava beans dissolved in alcohol and water, and dried sprouted fava beans.
The researchers discovered that the increase in the levels of the amino acids L-dopa and C-dopa in the bloodstream from the fava beans caused a significant improvement in the motor performance of patients with Parkinson’s disease, without any side effects.
Side effects of eating fava or broad beans
Fava beans are not the most flavorful food on the planet. But spice them up a bit and they’re a joy to eat. Most people tolerate them very well.
A few people are allergic to fava beans. However, cooking the beans thoroughly can help reduce the risk of an allergic reaction.
Eating broad beans can be very harmful if you have glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency. G6PDD is an inborn problem with your metabolism that predisposes you to a breakdown of your red blood cells. It’s very rare.
This breakdown can be triggered by a variety of infections, medications, stress, and a few foods such as fava beans. So if you have G6PDD, avoid eating broad beans.
Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are a class of drugs that have a long history of use in the treatment of depression. These substances interact unfavorably with other drugs and certain foods, so if you use these substances, you should avoid eating fava beans.
Despite all of this, it is a good idea to add broad beans to your diet unless you have a medical condition that may be adversely affected by the beans or you are taking medication that may cause you to have an adverse reaction to the beans.
But if you can handle them without health problems, you should take advantage of their potential to reduce your diabetic’s risk of heart disease and stroke, to boost your energy levels and immune system, to help your motor function and so on by consuming broad beans regularly.
I enjoy a bowl of fava beans with garlic and onions for lunch at least once a week in the form of fúl medammes.
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