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Why You Should Eat This Ancient Bean: Fava

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What are the health and nutrition benefits of fava beans?


Food legumes are considered the best substitute for meat in many parts of the world where there is demand for alternate, non-animal protein sources. Among them, cool seson legume fava bean (Vicia fava) which is also called horse bean is cultivated in Europe, Asia, and Africa for centuries and in North America for the last 40 years. Fava bean is rich in proteins, fibre, and most of the amino acids necessary for human and animal nutrition (1); Fava contains the most protein (26% of mature seed) among pulse crops, including lentils, cowpeas, mung beans, black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, lima beans, and chickpeas (2). Additionally, mature fava beans provide high-quality carbohydrates, fibre, and essential minerals including K, P, Mg, Fe, and Zn.

Fresh green beans are spring delicacy in many part of the world, once about 1-inch-diameter, they can be picked and used in cooking; their beans can also be eaten raw peeled or unpeeled. Immature fava beans are as vegetables are significant source of vitamins A and antioxidants vitamin C, and phenolics. (2). Green pods of fava contain significant source of levopoda [which is the the precursor to the neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine (noradrenaline), and epinephrine(adrenalin)] (2) For years, levopoda is used as a gold standard for treating Parkinson disease (3) and levopoda turns into dopamine in body improves mood and libido. Fava beans also contain significant amount of xantine oxidase inhibitors flavanoid glycosides; Xanthine oxidase is involved in pathogenesis of several diseases such as vascular disorders (4). Additionally, the anticancer compound daidzein, an isoflavone is found in the stems of fava (5).

If you are curious about trying fava, just be cautious about the consumption of green and mature seeds and also pollens if you are intending to grow them. The anti-nutritional compounds vicine and convicine, found in beans of fava cause favism (hemolytic anemia), an intolerance in some individuals carrying certain variant(s) of the x linked gene “glucose 6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD)”.This favism causing variation or mutation of G6PD is found mainly in individuals who live in Africa, Southeast Asia, and Mediterranean in about %10 of the population. It is an interesting fact that this favism linked G6PD variant provides protection against malaria. Today, research programs are underway to develop anti-nutritional free fava phenotypes for world protein and whole food market.


  1. Mortuza, M., Hannan, M., & Tzen, J. (2010). Chemical composition and functional properties of Vicia faba L. from Bangladesh Bangladesh Journal of Botany, 38 (1) DOI: 10.3329/bjb.v38i1.5129
  2. Burbano, C., Cuadrado, C., Muzquiz, M., & Cubero, J. (1995). Variation of favism-inducing factors (vicine, convicine and L-DOPA) during pod development inVicia faba L. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, 47 (3), 265-274 DOI: 10.1007/BF01088335
  3. Reichmann H, & Emre M (2012). Optimizing levodopa therapy to treat wearing-off symptoms in Parkinson’s disease: focus on levodopa/carbidopa/entacapone. Expert review of neurotherapeutics, 12 (2), 119-31 PMID: 22288667
  4. Spanou, C., Veskoukis, A., Kerasioti, T., Kontou, M., Angelis, A., Aligiannis, N., Skaltsounis, A., & Kouretas, D. (2012). Flavonoid Glycosides Isolated from Unique Legume Plant Extracts as Novel Inhibitors of Xanthine Oxidase PLoS ONE, 7 (3) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0032214
  5. Kaufman, P., Duke, J., Brielmann, H., Boik, J., & Hoyt, J. (1997). A Comparative Survey of Leguminous Plants as Sources of the Isoflavones, Genistein and Daidzein: Implications for Human Nutrition and Health The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 3 (1), 7-12 DOI: 10.1089/acm.1997.3.7

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