Fava beans — or broad beans — are green legumes that come in pods.
They have a slightly sweet, earthy flavor and are eaten by people all over the world.
Fava beans are loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber and protein. They’re thought to offer impressive health effects, such as improved motor function and immunity.
Here are 10 health benefits of fava beans, backed by science.
For their relatively small size, fava beans pack an incredible amount of nutrients.
In particular, they’re rich in plant protein, folate and several other vitamins and minerals. They’re also loaded with soluble fiber that can aid digestion and lower cholesterol levels (, ).
One cup (170 grams) of cooked fava beans has (3):
- Calories: 187 calories
- Carbs: 33 grams
- Fat: Less than 1 gram
- Protein: 13 grams
- Fiber: 9 grams
- Folate: 40% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Manganese: 36% of the DV
- Copper: 22% of the DV
- Phosphorous: 21% of the DV
- Magnesium: 18% of the DV
- Iron: 14% of the DV
- Potassium: 13% of the DV
- Thiamine (vitamin B1) and Zinc: 11% of the DV
In addition, fava beans provide smaller amounts of almost all other B vitamins, calcium and selenium.
Summary Fava beans are incredibly nutritious and an excellent source of soluble fiber, protein, folate, manganese, copper and several other micronutrients.
Fava beans are rich in levodopa (L-dopa), a compound that your body converts to the neurotransmitter dopamine ().
Parkinson’s disease causes the death of dopamine-producing brain cells, leading to tremors, issues with motor function and difficulty walking. These symptoms are usually treated with medications that contain L-dopa ().
Therefore, eating fava beans may help with symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, though research is limited.
A small study in 11 people with Parkinson’s disease found that eating 1.5 cups (250 grams) of fava beans after 12 hours without medication had a comparable positive effect on blood dopamine levels and motor function as L-dopa drugs ().
Another study in 6 adults with Parkinson’s disease showed that consuming 100–200 grams — about 1–1.75 cups — of fava beans with the anti-Parkinson’s medication carbidopa improved symptoms as well as traditional drug combinations ().
While these results are promising, more research is needed. Keep in mind that even though fava beans are rich in L-dopa, they should not be used in place of medications.
Summary Fava beans are rich in L-dopa, which your body converts to dopamine. Since Parkinson’s disease is characterized by low dopamine levels, eating fava beans may help with symptoms. Still, more research on this topic is needed.
Fava beans are loaded with folate, a nutrient that promotes healthy fetal development.
Folate is critical for creating cells and organs. An expecting mother needs additional folate from foods and supplements to reduce the risk of neural tube defects, or issues with the development of her infant’s brain and spinal cord (, ).
In fact, it’s estimated that more than 260,000 infants born worldwide in 2015 had neural tube defects, many of which may have been preventable by adequate maternal folate intake ().
One study in more than 23,000 women found that the incidence of brain and spinal cord issues was 77% lower in infants of mothers who had the highest daily intake of dietary folate, compared to children of women with the lowest intake ().
With 40% of the DV for folate in just one cup (170 grams), fava beans are an excellent choice for pregnant women (3).
Summary Fava beans are loaded with folate, a nutrient that promotes proper brain and spinal cord development in infants. Adequate folate intake in pregnant women can help prevent neural tube defects.
Regularly eating fava beans may boost your immune system.
In particular, they’re rich in compounds that may enhance antioxidant activity. Antioxidants are critical to your body’s immune defense, as they fight free radicals that may lead to cell damage and disease (, , ).
One test-tube study found that treating human lung cells with extracts from fava beans increased their antioxidant activity by up to 62.5% ().
In addition, fava beans contain compounds that have been shown to enhance the ability of the powerful antioxidant glutathione in human cells and delay cellular aging (, ).
However, these studies were conducted on isolated cells treated with extracts from fava beans. It is unclear whether fava beans have the same immune-boosting effects in people when eaten as part of a regular diet.
Summary Fava beans contain compounds that have been shown to boost antioxidant activity of human cells in test-tube studies. Since antioxidants enhance immune function, eating fava beans may boost immunity, but more research is needed.
Fava beans are rich in manganese and copper — two nutrients that may prevent bone loss (, ).
Their exact role in bone health is unclear, but rat studies suggest that manganese and copper deficiencies may lead to decreased bone formation and increased calcium excretion (, ).
Human research also suggests that manganese and copper are vital to bone strength.
A one-year study in postmenopausal women with weak bones found that taking a supplement with manganese and copper, as well as vitamin D, calcium and other nutrients, improved bone mass ().
Additional research has shown that manganese and copper in combination with calcium and zinc may prevent bone loss in healthy older women ().
Summary Research in both animals and humans suggests that adequate levels of manganese and copper — two nutrients that are abundant in fava beans — may promote bone strength.
Eating iron-rich fava beans may help with symptoms of anemia.
Iron is needed to produce hemoglobin, the protein that enables your red blood cells to carry oxygen through your body. An iron deficiency can lead to anemia, characterized by fatigue, weakness, dizziness and shortness of breath (24, ).
One study in 200 young women found that those who reported an insufficient dietary intake of iron were six times more likely to have anemia compared to those with adequate intake ().
Regularly eating fava beans and other iron-rich plant foods may increase blood iron levels and improve anemia symptoms ().
However, fava beans contain a form of iron that is better absorbed with vitamin C from foods, such as citrus fruits or bell peppers ().
Furthermore, fava beans are not recommended for people with the genetic disorder glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency, as eating these beans may lead to a different type of blood issue called hemolytic anemia (29, ).
Summary Regular consumption of fava beans may help increase blood iron levels and improve symptoms of anemia that results from inadequate iron intake.
Fava beans are high in nutrients that can improve heart health.
In particular, they contain magnesium and potassium that may relax blood vessels and prevent high blood pressure ().
Several studies have shown that the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Diet, an eating pattern that recommends foods high in potassium and magnesium, helps decrease high blood pressure (, , ).
In addition, a 10-year study in 28,349 women found that those with the highest dietary intake of magnesium were less likely to develop high blood pressure than those with lower intakes of this mineral ().
Based on this research, eating a diet that contains fava beans and other foods rich in magnesium and potassium may lower blood pressure and improve heart health.
Summary Fava beans are loaded with magnesium and potassium that may help relax blood vessels and decrease high blood pressure.
Fava beans may be good for your waistline.
A one-cup (170-gram) serving of fava beans provides 13 grams of protein and 9 grams of fiber — at only 187 calories (3).
A diet rich in protein and fiber may improve feelings of fullness, which may result in a lower calorie intake and weight loss (, ).
One small study in 19 adults found that a diet with 30% of calories from protein increased feelings of fullness and decreased daily calorie intake by 441 calories on average, compared to a diet with the same number of calories but only 15% from protein ().
Another four-year study in 522 people observed that those who ate a high-fiber diet with more than 15 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories lost over five pounds (2.4 kg) more than those who ate a diet with less fiber ().
Thus, adding protein- and fiber-rich fava beans to your diet may help you reach your weight loss goals.
Summary Eatings foods that are rich in protein and fiber — such as fava beans — may help you lose weight and consume fewer calories overall.
Most of the fiber in fava beans is soluble and may help lower cholesterol levels.
Soluble fiber may promote healthy bowel movements by absorbing water in your gut, forming a gel-like substance and softening your stool ().
It can also bind to and remove cholesterol from your body. In fact, several studies have shown that soluble fiber may help lower blood cholesterol levels in both healthy adults and those with elevated levels (, ).
A three-month study in 53 healthy adults found that those who ate two additional grams of soluble fiber per day experienced a 12.8% decrease in “bad” LDL cholesterol, while the group that ate less fiber did not have any significant changes in their LDL levels ().
Additionally, a review of 10 studies focussing on the effect of fiber-rich legumes on cholesterol levels found that diets that included this type of food were associated with modest decreases in total and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels ().
If you’re trying to improve your cholesterol levels, adding fava beans to your diet may be beneficial.
Summary Fava beans are high in soluble fiber that can bind to and remove cholesterol from your body. This type of fiber has also been shown to lower blood cholesterol levels.
Fava beans can be a delicious addition to meals and snacks.
To prepare them, start by removing their inedible green pods. Next, boil the beans for 30 seconds before transferring them to a bowl with ice water. This will soften the waxy outer coating, making it easier to peel off.
Peeled fava beans can be steamed and tossed in olive oil and seasonings to be eaten whole, or smashed to be eaten on top of bread or in other dishes.
To roast fava beans, boil them for 30 minutes, drain them and then add olive oil and seasonings. Spread the beans on a baking sheet and roast for another 30 minutes at 375℉ (190℃).
Cooked fava beans can be added to salads, rice dishes, risottos, pastas, soups and pizzas.
Summary Fava beans should be removed from their pods and outer coatings before eating. Steamed or roasted fava beans can be added to a variety of meals and snacks.
Fava beans are loaded with nutrients and may offer impressive health benefits.
Eating these beans regularly may have benefits for symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, help prevent birth defects, boost immunity, aid weight loss and lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
However, research is limited and more studies on the effects of fava beans on human health are needed.
Nevertheless, they’re an excellent and versatile addition to a healthy, balanced diet.