Scientifically known as ‘vicia faba’ and known in the culinary sense as the ‘broad bean’, ‘fava bean’, or ‘faba bean’, this legume is in the pea and bean family with edible flattened seeds. It is of uncertain origin and widely cultivated as a crop for human consumption.
Amon Rwasamanzi, a nutritionist at USAID-HINGA WEZE, an NGO, says this legume contains a variety of nutrients and provides a wide range of health benefits.
He says that broad beans are good sources of B vitamins which play an important role in the prevention of heart disease.
In fact, research has shown that including foods rich in B vitamins can reduce the risk of heart problems and stroke.
Rwasamanzi says these types of beans are an excellent source of thiamine (vitamin B1).
He says that 100 grams of raw broad beans provide almost half a person’s daily requirement for this nutrient.
“Thiamine deficiency is very common in people who suffer from congestive heart failure. However, regular consumption of broad beans can improve heart function,” he says.
Rene Tabaro, a nutritionist at King Faisal Hospital, says patients with congestive heart failure (CHF) who require long-term furosemide therapy are more likely to suffer from thiamine deficiency.
He explains that this is so because the medication causes the body to get rid of too much thiamine.
“For this reason, if individuals on this medication include broad beans in their daily diet, it can help prevent thiamine deficiency,” he says.
Tabaro says broad beans are also extremely high in folate as 100 grams of raw broad beans meet a person’s entire daily requirement for folate.
He notes that folate or folic acid improves arterial elasticity and reduces arterial wall thickness which in turn lowers heart attack risk.
“Broad beans are very low in saturated fats and 100 grams of broad beans contain just 0.1g of saturated fat,” he says.
Rwasamanzi says broad beans are a great weight-loss food as they are low in calories but high in fibre.
He says one cup of boiled broad beans contains just 187 calories but they provide 36 per cent of the daily fibre requirement.
They are also a good source of protein. Studies show that a low-calorie but high-protein and high-fibre diet produces greater weight loss in overweight and obese people.
According to Tabaro, this type of diet also helps lower cholesterol levels, which in turn, lowers the risk of many other health problems, including heart disease.
Tabaro says broad beans help lower blood pressure as well.
He says this is so because they are a good source of potassium, which lowers high blood pressure levels and helps in kidney and heart function.
“For people who suffer from type 2 diabetes, we often advise them to add beans and legumes to their diet,” he says.
Rwasamanzi says consuming broad beans can help fight problems related to constipation.
He explains that they contain soluble and insoluble fibre, and that one cup of boiled broad beans will provide 36 per cent of one’s daily dietary fibre needs.
“Fibre does not provide any nutritional value but it is essential for good digestive health as it provides roughage which ensures smooth bowel movements,” he says.
Tabaro says fibre also regulates the absorption of glucose and fats in the small intestine and prevents blood sugar spikes.
Besides, it also balances intestinal pH levels and reduces the risk of colorectal cancer.
“Fibre does not restrict the absorption of minerals and vitamins, and certain types of fibre even work to improve the absorption of minerals such as calcium,” he says.
According to nutritionists, this is why it is especially important that those suffering from bone diseases, or those at a high risk of bone diseases such as post-menopausal women, need to include plenty of fibre-rich foods in their diet.
They say that broad beans contain several nutrients including vitamins B, C and K, and minerals such as manganese, magnesium, and zinc.
All of these nutrients play a vital role in the maintenance of the immune system.
Broad beans also contain isoflavones which are naturally occurring chemical compounds that boost the immune system and can even prevent certain types of cancer, Tabaro says.Follow Lydia_AtienoM