Lima beans get their name from Lima, the capital of Peru. For centuries, people in Central and South America have prized lima beans for the energy and nutrients they offer. Peru’s ancient Moche civilization used the large, flat beans in their cooking as early as 800 BCE.
Lima beans come in several varieties. The best-known varieties are pale green or cream-colored. The large ones also go by the name butter beans, while smaller beans are sometimes called baby limas.
Limas fall into the category of legumes, which are seeds or pods, including beans, peas, chickpeas, lentils, and peanuts. Fresh lima beans are harvested in the fall, but most people use dried, frozen, or canned beans.
Beans are packed with protein, fiber, and other nutrients, making them a superfood.
Lima beans are an especially good source of iron. One cup of lima beans contains roughly one quarter of your daily recommended iron.
Other health benefits of lima beans include:
Legumes such as lima beans are a low-glycemic index food, making them a great choice for people with diabetes. Beans are also rich in soluble fiber, which helps your body absorb carbohydrates more slowly and regulates your blood sugar levels. Foods that are high in fiber can also aid in weight control by making you feel full longer.
In addition to containing soluble fiber that your body can digest, beans also contain insoluble fiber, sometimes known as roughage. While your body cannot digest this type of fiber, it helps aid digestion by helping stool pass through your gut more quickly. Maintaining a diet that’s high in fiber can help you avoid constipation, which can lead to hemorrhoids.
Lima beans have a creamy texture but are low in fat. Since they are a plant food, they don't contain cholesterol. And because they aren’t processed, they don’t contain trans fats. Most of the fat found in lima beans is healthier, polyunsaturated fat. When you regularly choose foods with polyunsaturated fats over saturated fats, you can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Anemia is a blood disorder that can be caused by not getting enough iron in your diet. People with anemia lack the healthy red blood cells needed to carry oxygen throughout their body, which can lead to fatigue, shortness of breath, and even organ damage. Women who are menstruating have an increased risk of developing anemia. The iron found in lima beans can help prevent iron-deficiency anemia.
Besides protein, fiber, and iron, lima beans are also a good source of:
Nutrients per Serving
The nutritional value of lima beans will vary somewhat depending upon what kind you buy. Keep in mind that canned lima beans tend to have a lot more sodium than fresh, dried or frozen lima beans. Eating too many high-sodium foods can increase your risk of heart disease.
A one-cup serving of lima beans contains:
- Calories: 209
- Protein: 12 grams
- Fat: 1 gram
- Carbohydrates: 40 grams
- Fiber: 9 grams
- Sugar: 3 grams
Things to Watch Out For
Some people may find that eating lima beans gives them gas. If you’re using dried lima beans, be sure to soak them in room temperature water for at least four hours, or soak them in the fridge overnight. If you don’t want to bother soaking your beans, you can substitute frozen lima beans for faster prep time.
How to Use Lima Beans
Lima beans can be used in a variety of dishes. Here are a few ways to prepare lima beans:
- Make Southern-style butter beans with ham or bacon
- Boil lima beans until soft, then lightly sauté them in a pan with garlic and olive oil
- Combine lima beans with corn, bell peppers, and other vegetables to make succotash
- Top salads or pasta dishes with lima beans for added protein
- Use a food processor to blend lima beans into a creamy hummus