Health Benefits of Fava Beans

Medically Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, RD, LD, MPH on February 12, 2024
4 min read

Fava beans, or broad beans, are a type of bean that’s eaten around the world. They’re high in protein and other important nutrients. Eating fava beans can help with weight loss, aid in your body's immunity, and provide other health benefits.

‌Fava beans are a type of legume. Legumes (also known as pulses) are vegetables that grow inside pods, although you may not always eat the pod. Common legumes include peanuts, kidney beans, and lentils.

Fava beans were first grown thousands of years ago in the Middle East and southwest Asia. They can grow in many different places around the world. They’re a staple in cooking across cultures, from Chinese to South American dishes.

‌Fava beans come in a few different forms. You can purchase dried, hard fava beans to boil and eat. Ready-to-eat fava beans usually come in cans. Fresh fava beans come in their natural pods. Roasted fava beans are a crunchy snack food, and can be flavored with spices like pepper or garlic.

Some common dishes with fava beans include:

  • Blended fava bean dip
  • Grilled fava bean pods
  • Salads with fava beans
  • Sautéed fava beans

Legumes are known for their health benefits. Fava beans, like many other legumes, are packed with nutrients that boost your health. The nutrients in fava beans can aid in weight loss, help prevent some illnesses, and promote healthy growth.‌

Protein. One cup of cooked fava beans contains almost a third of your daily protein needs. Protein is one of the most important nutrients in your diet. Eating high-protein foods can help you feel fuller for longer. Protein also helps grow and maintain your muscles.

If you don't eat animal-based foods that are high in protein, like meat, cheese, or eggs, adding fava beans and other plant sources to your diet can help make sure you're getting enough protein.

Folate. One cup of fava beans meets almost half of your daily folate needs. Folate is a type of vitamin that helps your body create DNA and make new cells. 

Folate is especially important for pregnant women. Getting enough folate can lower the risk of brain-related birth defects like spina bifida and anencephaly. 

You can get folate from over-the-counter vitamins and supplements. Combining supplements with high-folate foods like fava beans is an easy way to get enough into your diet.‌

Manganese. Fava beans are high in the mineral manganese. Your body uses manganese to maintain bone structure and strength. Getting enough manganese in your diet may help prevent osteoporosis and other bone problems. One cup of fava beans has about a third of your daily manganese needs.‌

Manganese also helps your body digest glucose, a key nutrient that provides energy. Your body has trouble turning glucose into energy or can’t digest it at all if you have diabetes. Getting enough manganese in your diet may lower your chances of getting diabetes. 

Fiber. Fava beans are rich in fiber. Fiber is a nutrient that helps with digestion, maintaining healthy glucose levels, and preventing cholesterol buildup.

Cholesterol is a chemical that occurs naturally in your body and in other foods. Too much cholesterol from oils or animal products can build up in your arteries (tubes that your blood flows through). This can lead to heart attacks, strokes, and other problems. Eating enough fiber can help prevent cholesterol from blocking your arteries.

Iron. Fava beans are a good source of iron. Iron is an element your body uses to get energy from oxygen when you breathe.

Not getting enough iron in your diet can lead to anemia. Anemia is when your body doesn’t get enough oxygen. It can lead to extreme tiredness, weakened immunity, and stomach problems. Eating fava beans can help you reach your daily recommended amount of iron.

Digestive upset. Legumes and beans often cause bloating and gas. This is normal and happens because of the way your body digests them. These digestive problems can be uncomfortable.

To avoid bloating, try to introduce fava beans into your diet gradually instead of eating a lot at once. This can reduce passing gas and bloating.

Favism. Fava beans can cause shortness of breath, raise heart rate, and other symptoms for people with the genetic disorder G6PD. This reaction is called favism and usually isn’t life-threatening. Children are at higher risk for severe symptoms of favism. ‌

Many people with G6PD don’t know they have it. If you’re unsure whether you’ll get favism from eating fava beans, talk to your doctor. You can get a test to see if you have G6PD.