Lima beans are a kind of glabrous herb that grows throughout the year. They are usually grown as annual crops. There are two types of seed varieties varying in size.
According to their mode of growth, they can be of two types. They can either be grown as the bush variety or the vine variety. On an average, the bush variety is the ones that yield small seeds. They are often referred to as sieve or baby lima.
Sometimes, they are also called as butter beans. The vine variety of this plant produces the large seeds that get easily categorized as lima beans.
Usually, the larger ones measure up to four centimetres in height, while the smaller ones grow up to about three centimetres. The common property among them both is that they are buttery in how they feel, and they have a pleasant and sweet flavour.
It is often noticed that the large lima seeds take a longer time to grow and mature as compared to their smaller counterparts. There are two ways of using lima beans.
In one, they are plucked early from the plants and used when they are tender itself. In the second method, they are left to dry up on the plants themselves. The second method is usually followed when they are harvest for their dried beans.
These days, you can find lima beans in every supermarket in the world, including star supermarkets even in India. But, they originally hail from Central America. They are available in three different ways. They are either frozen, canned or dried. They are used in various dishes as major or minor ingredients according to people’s varying tastes. Lima beans are packed with wholesome minerals and nutrients.
These plants are often called butter beans due to their buttery texture. They have a delicate and unmistakable flavour. If it is difficult to locate lima beans, it is worthwhile the effort because of their innumerable good nutrients. While fresh lima beans may not be available throughout the year, the dried and canned versions can be found adorning the aisles of every supermarket.
Lima beans are encased within a pod. These pods are flat and long and are slightly curved in appearance. They span up to three inches in length. Each pod has two to four seeds, which are flat and kidney-shaped in appearance. These seeds are the ones which we call Lima beans. The colouring of these seeds is interesting. While the cream, beige and green varieties are more common and easy to find, they are also available in red, brown, purple and sometimes even black.
Though Lima is often associated to many preparations from the United States, it is often claimed that the name of the beans is derived from the city Lima, which is the capital of Peru, a country in South America. It is thus believed that this is where lima beans were discovered. The scientific name for lima beans is Phaseolus lunatus.
Though they are bestowed with immense nutrients and minerals, here are some of their major health benefits.
1. Good source of fiber
Fibers are essential components of the human body’s dietary needs. Fibers are required for proper digestion and elimination of the food particles in the body.
Not only are lima beans good sources of normal fibers, but they are also a good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber. Thus, it helps in the maintenance of a healthy heart.
The high amount of fiber in Lima seeds is also extremely useful in maintaining blood sugar levels. It works very well especially after the consumption of food.
Individuals who are diagnosed with hypoglycaemia or less production of insulin benefit greatly from consuming lima seeds. If lima beans are eaten with whole grains, they are typically fat-free in nature.
2. Helps you overcome sulfite sensitivity
Many among us are highly sensitive to sulfite, which is a type of preservative commonly used in salads in most salad bars.
People often don’t realize that they are suffering from the symptoms of sulfite sensitivity. It takes a long time before it gets properly diagnosed.
Sulfite sensitivity is often characterized by rapid heartbeat, headache or disorientation minutes after consumption of food that contain sulfites.
Lima beans can be helpful to you if you are diagnosed with this syndrome as they are excellent sources of molybdenum, which is a mineral compound responsible for detoxifying sulfites.
These molybdenum compounds help your body detoxify more of these sulfites.
3. Lowers your risk of cardiovascular disease
In a recent study conducted in countries across the world, it was proven that the intake of lima seeds lowers your risk of coronary heart disease.
The research was conducted on a population of 16,000 middle-aged men.
Surprisingly, or not, it was found the risk of developing heart disorders was reduced by a great margin of 82%.
Another great importance of lima seeds to your heart health is its high levels of magnesium. Magnesium helps the heart block the calcium channels naturally.
More magnesium in the heart means that the arteries and veins have more space to breathe. They can now work at a relaxed pace and thus, help in the improvement of blood and oxygen flow to various parts of the body.
Many studies have shown that those who consume less magnesium in their diet often suffer from more heart attacks.
4. Is a good source of energy
While balancing the blood sugar levels in your body, lima beans also provide you with immense, steady and slow-burning energy.
Not only is its consumption beneficial to people suffering from diabetes, but it is also highly beneficial in general.
5. Replenishes iron content
Not only does lima beans provide good energy and carbohydrates, they are also well-known to replenish the iron stores in your body.
Consuming just one small cup of lima beans provides you one-fourth of the everyday iron content that you need for your body.
It is highly helpful especially for menstruating women who usually tend to have iron deficiencies due to constant blood loss and low hemoglobin levels.
Iron content requirement doubles in pregnant and lactating women as they are now seeking nourishment for two living organisms.
6. Lima beans are fat-free
Putting on weight is a common concern for many people in these times.
The more amount of nutrients one wants to consume, the more one, is worried about whether it would result in weight gain.
Consumption of lima beans is extremely safe and contains no amount of fat, whatsoever. It is also very low in calorie content and thus ensures that you can have other whole foods in almost similar quantities as before.
7. Good source of manganese
Lima bean is an essential source of the mineral manganese.
Manganese is required by the body as it speeds up the production of antioxidants in your body.
It disarms the production of free radicals that are otherwise harmful to the body. It leads to more energy production in the body.
8. Good source of Protein
If you are a vegetarian, then it is highly likely that you are suffering from a protein deficiency unless you combine it with external supplementation.
Lima beans are a good source of protein, especially when combined with whole foods.
A cup of lima beans contains almost 15 grams of protein. It also comes with the added benefit of not consuming fat in the process. It is thus highly beneficial for the body.
9. Good source of Folates
Lima beans are a good source of folates. A hundred grams of dry lima beans provides us with 995 mcg of our folate requirement.
Folates are required by the body for cell synthesis and cell division. An adequate amount of folates is also required during conception, pregnancy, delivery and lactation.
Good presence of folates saves the baby from developing neural tube defects.
10. Saves you from breast cancer
Lima beans are known to contain small, but useful amounts of isoflavones.
It is a compound that has been found to lower the risks of developing breast cancer when tested in laboratories on animals.
Instead of consuming soybeans, you can replace it with lima beans in your diet.
11. Rich source of vitamins
Lima beans are known to be excellent sources of Vitamin B6, Thiamine, Pantothenic Acid and Niacin.
All of these are required by the human body as they act as co-enzymes in the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
12. Good sources of carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are required by the body in a good amount. Carbohydrates are biomolecules and are one of the most important ways in which the body provides itself with nutrition and energy.
Carbohydrates are found mostly in products rich with sugar. But this also comes with the unwanted side effect of gaining weight.
Lima beans are an excellent source of carbohydrate, but without the negative effects of sugars.
Not only does it avoid you from gaining more weight, it also helps you lose weight as it lets your metabolism work properly.
13. Storehouse of potassium
Potassium is an electrolyte and is useful in the creation of new cells in the body and also aids the muscles in contraction and expansion.
Not only this, but Potassium is also extremely beneficial in maintaining a healthy heart and digestive capacities.
Potassium is also a combining agent. It combines with other minerals in your body to aid in their processes.
It works with calcium, manganese and magnesium to help in providing you with strong bones. This way, it also helps you avoid the risk of developing Osteoporosis.
14. Low Sodium content
A high amount of sodium intake leads to many disastrous side effects, including swelling of your various body parts and high blood pressure.
Either way, a high intake of salt always puts you at a risk for developing or furthering the risk of developing high blood pressure.
The magic of lima beans lies in the fact that it contains little sodium. You can consume a lot of lima beans without actually consuming so much salt.
15. Provides copper to your body
Copper is found in various parts of the human body in varying proportions. In a major way, they are stored in the liver.
Copper works as an antioxidant and prevents your body from developing illnesses of many sorts, cell damage and a whole host of other related health problems.
How to prepare Lima beans?
Before using Lima beans in any form, it is mandatory to wash them to remove dirt from the environment.
Even before that, make sure you spread them out on a clean surface to look for stones, damaged beans or any other form of impurities. After this, you should put the beans in a large strainer and leave it under running water for a couple of minutes. Once done, rinse it thoroughly to remove any final impurities.
Lima beans in most cooking requirements needs to be boiled. Boiling lima beans is a much quicker process if you have soaked it in water overnight for a period of at least eight hours.
With this done, boil it in a pressure cooker or pan with enough water for the seeds to submerge.
After this, you can use it in any form – soups, main course, starters – anything that is appetizing, while also being healthy.
Selection and storage of lima beans
Since lima beans are available in their dried version, it is easy to buy in bulk when available and store it for a long-term usage.
It must be ensured before purchase that the cans must be sealed well to ensure the retaining of freshness. There should also be no moisture or damage by insects to these cans.
The seeds must also remain whole and should not be cracked.
When choosing fresh lima beans, make sure you choose the ones that are firm, dark green and are shiny. They should also have no spots, wrinkles or yellow skin on them. They are also available in their shelled form.
When buying these, ensure they are fresh and do not have moisture on them as they can easily decay in that case.
Once you bring them home, ensure that they are kept in a cool and dry condition so that they do not catch fungus easily. If you live in moist climates, you should exercise greater caution in their preservation.