Lima Bean Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Lima beans

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman 

Lima beans are sometimes called butter beans because of their rich, buttery taste. They have a flat, greenish or whitish, oval-shaped appearance and are easily found in almost any grocery store. While many of us may have avoided eating lima beans as children, they are a smart food to add to your meals at any age. Lima beans are rich in nutrients, budget-friendly, and easy to prepare.

Lima Bean Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 1 cup (156g) of raw lima beans. 

  • Calories: 176
  • Fat: 1.3g
  • Sodium: 12.5mg
  • Carbohydrates: 31.5g
  • Fiber: 7.6g
  • Sugars: 2.3g
  • Protein: 10.7g

Carbs

Lima beans are naturally low in calories, but full of healthy complex carbohydrates. There are three types of carbohydrates in a serving of lima beans.

  • Starch: More than half of the carbohydrates in lima beans come from starch. These carbohydrates provide the body with quick energy.
  • Fiber: The next-largest portion of carbs in lima beans is fiber. Fiber helps to stabilize blood sugar, boost satiety (feeling full), and improve digestive health.
  • Sugar: Lima beans also contain a small amount of naturally occurring sugar.

Lima beans have a glycemic index (GI) of about 46. (Foods with a GI of 55 or below are considered low glycemic foods.) The glycemic load of a 100-gram serving of lima beans is about 7. Glycemic load takes the serving size of a food into account when estimating the food's effect on blood sugar. A glycemic load of less than 10 is thought to have little effect on blood glucose response.

Fats

There is about 1 gram of fat in a cup o lima beans, making them a naturally low-fat food. Additionally, most of that small amount of fat is polyunsaturated fat, a form of fat that is considered "good fat" by health experts.

Protein

Each serving of lima beans provides nearly 11 grams of protein—slightly more than other types of beans. Lima beans, however, are not a complete protein. Complete proteins provide all of the essential amino acids that cannot be made by the body and therefore must be consumed in the diet. Eating foods from a variety of protein sources each day will allow you to get all the amino acids you need.

Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins in lima beans include folate (34 micrograms, or about 4% of the daily value). You also benefit from thiamin and smaller amounts of several B vitamins, along with vitamins K and E.

Minerals in lima beans include manganese, potassium. copper, magnesium, and phosphorus, and iron. Lima beans have more iron than several other types of beans, including kidney beans, chickpeas, and soybeans. Lima beans also contain small amounts of zinc, selenium, and calcium.

Health Benefits

Legumes, like lima beans, have been studied by nutrition researchers for years. They are a common food consumed around the world. Research suggests that increasing your intake of lima beans—or any bean—provides certain health benefits.

Helps with Weight Control

An evaluation of the nutritional value of legumes published in the journal Obesity Reviews determined that "replacing energy-dense foods with legumes has been shown to have beneficial effects on the prevention and management of obesity and related disorders, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome."

Study authors suggest replacing high-calorie, high-fat meaty foods (such as burgers and sausage) with beans, or combining meat with legumes in the production of those foods to reduce fat and calorie content.

Lowers Cholesterol

Including beans in your diet may help lower LDL cholesterol (also known as "bad" cholesterol).

Stabilizes Blood Sugar

Another review of studies found that increasing intake of beans, peas, and lentils can help both people with diabetes and people without diabetes improve long-term glycemic control in their diets.

Supports Brain Health

Lima beans are a good source of manganese, a mineral vital for the health of the nervous system and brain.

Allergies

Although allergy to lima beans is not common, it is possible. Allergies to other legumes, such as peanuts, soybeans, and lentils, are more prevalent. Some people who are allergic to one legume will also react to or be sensitive to others. If you have a legume allergy, speak to your doctor about which legumes are safe for you to eat.

Adverse Effects

Compounds that interfere with nutrient absorption are commonly referred to as "antinutrients." However, the term is misleading because this interference only occurs when the compounds are consumed in extremely large amounts. The effects are negligible in the quantity of lima beans you are likely to consume.

One study specifically investigated antinutrients in lima beans. Researchers found that rinsing, cooking, and toasting the beans (specifically autoclaving—using a pressure chamber—for 20 minutes) significantly reduced or eliminated antinutrients in lima beans, except for tannins.

While you might not have an autoclave handy in your kitchen, you probably don't need to worry about antinutrients in grains and legumes. According to nutrition experts, the substances are deactivated in beans with appropriate soaking and cooking practices. So, unless you have a condition that may be impacted by these nutrients (such as iron-deficiency anemia), you most likely do not have to worry about them too much. If you have a condition such as anemia or are concerned about antinutrients, speak with a registered dietitian nutritionist.

When They're Best

Lima beans are in season during the late summer and early fall, but most consumers can find lima beans in their grocery store year-round dried, frozen, and canned. When you buy any legumes, look for whole, plump, uncracked beans that look fresh. Avoid beans or pods that look wilted, yellowish, dried, or spotted.

In most cases, frozen vegetables are just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts and usually cheaper. Just be sure to choose frozen beans with few or no added ingredients (like added salt or sugars). Lima beans are also available canned, but they are often packaged in salt water, which can add upwards of 300mg sodium per 1/2 cup serving.

You can even grow your own. Lima beans are a great starter crop. They should be grown in full sun. They require about 60 to 90 warm, frost-free days to reach harvest.

Storage and Food Safety

The way that you store your beans depends on how you buy them: shelled or unshelled. Both should be stored in the refrigerator. Unshelled lima beans stay fresh for about seven days. If you buy shelled beans, you can blanch them and put them in the freezer, where they will stay fresh for up to three months. Dried, shelled lima beans can be stored in a cool, dry place for 10 to 12 months.

How to Prepare

Shell lima beans before you cook them by opening each pod and removing the beans. Rinse the beans in a colander before cooking. To cook fresh lima beans, add them to boiling salted water. Cook until tender, up to 60 minutes.

The buttery mild taste of this bean makes it an easy side dish that pairs well with fish, meat, poultry, or grains. Lima beans can easily be added to soups, salads, casseroles, a bean mash, or a dip recipe. You can also use lima beans in place of other beans, like white beans.

Recipes

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