Fava beans

Fava beans

Fava beans also known as Broad beans have been very popular in Europe since ancient times; the Romans celebrated them every year during the Calendae Fabarie festival. Over the centuries, this legume, which is easy to grow in large quantities, was a staple of the European diet of many low-income families before being supplanted, during the Renaissance, by other vegetables from America. Delicious raw or cooked, fava beans are very popular in Mediterranean countries, where they are featured in many traditional dishes. As they are harvested in France from April to July, early summer is the ideal time to enjoy their nutritional benefits.

Nutritional information

Fava beans are part of the legume family. They are particularly rich in proteins and fiber. Proteins are essential for the protection of muscle and bone tissue. They are also beneficial to cardiovascular health (1). They allow the body to eliminate the surplus of "bad" cholesterol in the blood (2). The antioxidants contained in fava beans accelerate glucose metabolism and can help prevent or treat some diabetic symptoms (3).

But that's not all! Fava beans contain many fibers that permanently protect the intestinal flora by promoting the natural production of bacteria and enzymes essential to the health of your digestive system (4). They reduce the absorption of bad fats and improve intestinal transit while protecting the digestive tract against chronic diseases such as colorectal cancer. Finally, recent studies have shown that regular consumption of fava beans decreases the symptoms of patients afflicted with Parkinson's disease (5). They contain a molecule used in disease-modifying treatments of the disease (6).

How to cook fava beans

Fava beans can be used in an endless number of delicious recipes! Cooked fava beans go perfectly with meat stews, such as tagine and couscous. For a gourmet appetizer, you can use fava beans to make "hummus", mixing them with lemon and garlic. You can also simply enjoy them raw, lightly drizzled with argan oil and lemon juice for a light and simple meal.

For best flavor, choose pods with a bright green color and shuck them just before use. Although they tend to yellow at the end of the season and have a more mealy appearance, they are still delicious. A puree of fava beans is scrumptious when mixed with onions and seasoned with cumin, parsley, and savory. Off season, choose quick-frozen or frozen fava beans. A little trick to make your fava beans more digestible: soak them overnight in slightly salted water before cooking.

References: (1) Young VR, Pellett PL. Plant proteins in relation to human protein and amino acid nutrition. Am J Clin Nutr 1994 May;59(5 Suppl):1203S-12S. (2) Macarulla MT, Medina C, et al. Effects of the whole seed and a protein isolate of faba bean (Vicia faba) on the cholesterol metabolism of hypercholesterolaemic rats. Br J Nutr 2001 May;85(5):607-14. (3) Venn BJ, Mann JI. Cereal grains, legumes and diabetes. Eur J Clin Nutr 2004 November;58(11):1443-61. (4) Giczewska A, Borowska J. Nutritional value of broad bean seeds. Part 1: Starch and fibre. Nahrung 2003 April;47(2):95-7. (5) Rabey JM, Vered Y, et al. Broad bean (Vicia faba) consumption and Parkinson's disease. Adv Neurol 1993;60:681-4. (6) Apaydin H, Ertan S, Ozekmekci S. Broad bean (Vicia faba)--a natural source of L-dopa--prolongs "on" periods in patients with Parkinson's disease who have "on-off" fluctuations. Mov Disord 2000 January;15(1):164-6.

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