Like other pulses, fava beans are an excellent source of vegetarian protein, fibre, vitamins, minerals and disease-fighting phytochemicals.
Gram for gram, fava beans are lower in calories than black beans, chickpeas and kidney beans, yet they deliver just as much fibre, folate, calcium, magnesium and iron. A ¾ cup (175 ml) serving of cooked fava beans contains 7 grams of fibre, one-third of the daily fibre requirement for women and one-quarter of a day's worth for men.
Studies consistently show that people who regulary eat legumes have a lower risk of heart disease and are less likely to have high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol. Studies also show that eating legumes can help ward off type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, including prostate cancer.
Canada's Food Guide recommends choosing meat alternatives, such as fava beans, on a regular basis.
Nutrient information per ¾ cup (175 ml) boiled fava beans:
Fava beans vary in size, colour and growing season. In Canada, you can identify fava beans by their long pod that ranges anywhere from 10 to 25 cm long and 1 to 3 cm across. Each leathery green pod contains up to 8 seeds, or beans, which are oval and slightly flat and pale green in colour. (Depending on the variety, fave beans can be green, red, brown or purple.)
Fava beans are available year round in most supermarkets. However, the local growing season ranges from spring to early summer.
Fava beans are available fresh or canned in most major grocery stores.
When buying fresh fava beans in the pod, choose those that are fresh-looking and free of any moisture, bruising or spoiling. The pods should be soft and tender. Avoid pods that are bursting with beans; this means they're past their prime.
If you're using canned or jarred fava beans, look for no-added salt products. If you can't find a low sodium brand, rinse beans thoroughly in a colander under cold running water before using to remove excess sodium.
Store fresh fava beans in the fridge where they'll stay fresh for up to one week. Store them in the crisper for maximum freshness.
While young fava beans are tender and can be eaten from the pod, older beans develop a tough outer skin that must be removed before eating.
The easiest way to remove the outer shell is to briefly boil or blanch the beans, and then remove the tougher outer skin when the beans have cooled. Once the skin is removed, you can cook or boil the beans as required.
Some popular ways to eat fava beans around the glove include: in China the beans are combined with soy beans and chili peppers to make a spicy fermented bean pasta; in much of the Middle East fava beans are the star ingredient in ful medames - a popular breakfast dish with tomatoes, onions garlic and lemon juice; in Greece fava beans are most commonly served with artichokes or a garlic sauce.
Healthy ways to enjoy
- Enjoy a classic Middle Eastern breakfast by mashing cooked fava beans with olive oil, garlic, lemon, salt and cumin. Serve with a whole grain pita.
- Give your lunch a fibre boost by tossing a half a cup (125 ml) of fava beans onto a fresh spinach salad with fresh cut vegetables and a vinaigrette.
- Combine equal parts fava beans, black beans and chickpeas with olive oil, lime juice, cilantro and red pepper flakes for a delicious and nutritious mid-day meal.
- Add fava beans, instead of kidney beans, to chili.
- Serve bruschetta made from fava beans. Combine shelled blanched fava beans with chopped fresh tarragon, olive oil and diced tomatoes. Place mixture on slices of whole grain baguette and place under broiler until the edges of the bread begin to brown. Serve warm.
- Roasted fava beans make a delicious afternoon snack that even kids love! Toss shelled fava beans with olive oil and coarse sea salt. Bake at 350F until beans are brown and slightly crispy. Season with ground cumin and a touch of cayenne pepper.
Did you know?
- Fava beans go by many names, including broad beans, faba beans, field beans, bell beans and tic beans.
- In Italy, fava beans are traditionally planted on November 2nd, otherwise known as All Souls Day.