Lima beans may be named after the city of Lima, as Peru is one of the places thought to be the origin of this buttery bean, though many other historians think they may have originally come from Guatemala.
There are many varieties of lima beans and Spanish explorers found them throughout South America, Central America and the Caribbean. They brought them to Europe and Asia, while the Portuguese introduced them to Africa. As lima beans have a great tolerance for humid tropical weather they have become an important crop in parts of Africa and Asia. Lima beans were introduced to the United States in the 19th century with most production today in California.
Here are seven health benefits of lima beans.
The high level of soluble fiber in lima beans helps absorb water in the stomach to form a gel that decreases the metabolism rate of the bean's carbohydrates, preventing blood sugar levels from rapidly spiking after a meal. The absorption-slowing protein lima beans are also so rich in contribute to this effect, making lima beans a good choice for people with diabetes, insulin resistance or hypoglycemia.
Sulfites are a preservative typically added to prepared foods such as delicatessen salads and salad bars. Lima beans are rich in the mineral molybdenum, a key component of the enzyme sulfite oxidase, whose job is to detoxify sulfites. People who are allergic to sulfites sometimes experience rapid heartbeat, headache or disorientation if they ingest them. A cup of lima beans per day may prevent you from suffering these symptoms.
Digestive Tract Benefits
Studies have shown that the insoluble fiber in lima beans helps increase stool bulk and prevent constipation, and also helps prevent digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome. The fermentation of dietary fiber in the large intestine helps maintain the health and integrity of the colon by way of healthy populations of friendly bacteria. In addition to producing necessary short-chain fatty acids, these friendly bacteria play an important role in the immune system by preventing disease-causing bacteria from surviving in the intestinal tract. All fiber helps maintain bowel regularity by increasing the bulk of the feces and decreasing the time it takes fecal matter to get through the intestines. Bowel regularity is associated with a decreased risk for colon cancer.
Their high fiber content is the number one factor in the cholesterol-lowering power of beans. Fiber binds with the bile acids that are used to make cholesterol, and takes these acids with it when it exits the body.
Lima beans also contain significant amounts of folate and magnesium. Folate helps lower levels of an amino acid named homocysteine. Higher blood levels of homocysteine are linked to increased chances of heart attack, stroke, or peripheral vascular disease. The high content of magnesium found in lima beans may also contribute to a more healthy cardiovascular system. A healthy level of magnesium in the body helps veins and arteries relax, lessening resistance and improving the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. Studies have also shown that just after a heart attack a deficiency of magnesium may be responsible for free radical injury to the heart.
As well as being rich in slow-burning complex carbohydrates, lima beans can increase your energy by contributing to the body's iron stores. Besides which, lima beans are a better source for iron than red meat, as they are low in calories and practically fat-free. Iron is a key component of hemoglobin, which moves oxygen from the lungs throughout the body, and is also necessary for energy production and metabolism. Menstruating or pregnant women have an even greater need for iron, as do anemics and adolescents.
The manganese in lima beans is an essential nutrient, needed for many enzymes important in energy production.
High in Protein
If you'd like to cut back a bit on your meat intake, lima beans make a great replacement source of protein. When combined with a whole grain, lima beans provide levels of protein on par with meat or dairy, without the high calories or the saturated fat.
The manganese and calcium in lima beans combine forces to maintain strong bones, and along with other trace minerals may combat osteoporosis.