Lima beans (Phaseolus lunatus) are sometimes called butter beans because of their rich, buttery taste. They have a flat, greenish or whitish, oval-shaped appearance and are easily found in almost any grocery store. While many of us tried to avoid eating lima beans as children, they are a smart food to add to your meals at any age. Lima beans are rich in nutrients, budget-friendly, and easy to prepare.
|Lima Beans Nutrition Facts|
Serving Size 100 grams (about 1/2 cup) mature seeds, cooked, raw, no salt
|Per Serving||% Daily Value*|
|Calories from Fat 3.2|
|Total Fat 0.4g||2%|
|Saturated Fat 0.1g||1%|
|Polyunsaturated Fat 0.2g|
|Monounsaturated Fat 0g|
|Potassium 508 mg||15%|
|Dietary Fiber 7g||28%|
|Vitamin A 0% · Vitamin C 0%|
|Calcium 2% · Iron 13%|
|*Based on a 2,000 calorie diet|
Carbs in Lima Beans
Lima beans are naturally low in calories but full of healthy complex carbohydrates. There are three types of carbohydrates in a 100-gram serving (about 1/2 cup) of cooked lima beans.
Most of the carbohydrates in lima beans come from starch. There are about 11 grams of starch in a single serving. Carbohydrates in the form of starch provide the body with quick energy.
You’ll also benefit from 7 grams of fiber when you consume a serving of lima beans.
Fiber helps to stabilize blood sugar, boost satiety (feeling full), and improve digestive health.
Lima beans also provide about 3 grams of naturally-occurring sugar.
Lima beans have a glycemic index (GI) of about 46. (As a reference, foods with a GI of 55 or below are considered low glycemic foods.) The glycemic load of a 100-gram serving of lima beans is about 7.
Glycemic load takes the serving size of a food into account when estimating the food’s effect on blood sugar. A glycemic load of less than 10 is thought to have little effect on blood glucose response.
Fats in Lima Beans
There is less than 1 gram of fat in lima beans, making them a naturally low-fat food. Additionally, most of that small amount of fat is polyunsaturated fat, a form of fat that is considered “good fat” by health experts.
Protein in Lima Beans
Each serving of lima beans provides 8 grams of protein—slightly more than other types of beans. Some vegans and vegetarians may use lima beans or other types of legumes to boost their protein intake.
However, lima beans are not considered a complete protein. Complete proteins provide all of the essential amino acids that cannot be made by the body and therefore must be consumed in the diet.
You’ll need to combine lima beans with a whole grain or with seeds in order to get all essential amino acids at mealtime.
Micronutrients in Lima Beans
Lima beans provide several important vitamins and minerals.
Vitamins in lima beans include folate (83 micrograms or 21 percent of your daily needs). Folate, a B vitamin, helps boost red blood cell production and provides other health benefits.
You also benefit from thiamin (11 percent of your daily needs), and smaller amounts of vitamin B6 (8 percent), pantothenic acid (4 percent), riboflavin (3 percent), vitamin K, niacin, and vitamin E.
Minerals in lima beans include manganese (26 percent), a vitamin that boosts nervous system and brain health. Potassium (15 percent) copper (12 percent), magnesium and phosphorus (11 percent each), iron (13 percent), zinc, selenium, and calcium.
Lima beans also provide sodium—508 milligrams or 15 percent of your recommended daily intake. However, sodium is a mineral that many of us overconsume, so it’s best to keep an eye on your daily intake.
Legumes, like lima beans, have been studied by nutrition researchers for years. They are a common food that is consumed around the world. Research suggests that increasing your intake of lima beans—or any bean—provides certain health benefits.
One limited study investigating the nutritional benefits of lima beans as compared to other beans found that cooked lima beans provided a more efficient source of protein in rodents.
Other studies have investigated the benefits of beans in humans.
An evaluation of the nutritional value of legumes published in the journal Obesity Reviews determined that “replacing energy-dense foods with legumes has been shown to have beneficial effects on the prevention and management of obesity and related disorders, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and the metabolic syndrome.”
Study authors suggest replacing high-calorie, high-fat meaty foods (such as burgers and sausage) with beans or combining meat with legumes in the production of those foods to reduce fat and calorie content.
A review published by the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that including beans in your diet helps to lower LDL cholesterol (also known as “bad” cholesterol).
Another review of studies found that increasing intake of beans, peas, lentils can help both diabetic and non-diabetic patients improve long-term glycemic control in their diets.
What should I look for when purchasing lima beans?
When you buy any legumes, look for whole, plump, uncracked beans that look fresh. Avoid beans or pods that look wilted, yellowish, dried, or spotted.
You can also find lima beans in the frozen section of the grocery store. In most cases, frozen vegetables are just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts and usually cheaper. Just be sure to choose frozen beans with few or no added ingredients (like added salt or sugars).
When are lima beans in season?
Lima beans are in season during the late summer and early fall, but most consumers can find lima beans in their grocery store year-round.
Can I grow my own lima beans?
Yes! If you have a home garden or are interested in starting one, lima beans are a great starter crop. You can even start the beans indoors. Once outside, lima beans should be grown in full sun. They require about 60 to 90 warm, frost-free days to reach harvest.
How do I store lima beans and how long will they stay fresh?
The way that you store your beans depends on how you buy them: shelled or unshelled. Both should be stored in the refrigerator. Unshelled lima beans stay fresh for about seven days. If you buy shelled beans you can blanch them and put them in the freezer, where they will stay fresh for up to three months. Dried, shelled, lima beans can be stored in a cool, dry place for 10 to 12 months.
Recipes and Preparation Tips
Shell lima beans before you cook them. Simply “unzip” each pod and remove the beans from the shell. Rinse the beans in a colander before cooking.
To cook lima beans, simply add them to boiling salted water. Cook until tender, up to 60 minutes.
The buttery mild taste of this bean makes it an easy side dish that pairs well with fish, meat, poultry, or grains. Lima beans can easily be added to soups, salads, casseroles, a bean mash, or a dip recipe. You can also use lima beans in place of other beans—like white beans—if you don’t have them on hand for a recipe. You can use lima beans as a substitute for beans in any of the tasty recipes below.
- Curried White Bean and Cashew Dip Recipe
- Rosemary Olive Oil White Bean Dip
Healthy Potato, Leek, and White Bean Soup
Allergies and Interactions
According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, legume allergies were assumed to be rare in the past, but are now more commonly recognized in adults and children. The source notes that in-office allergy testing may be able to reveal a sensitivity to certain beans, but that an oral challenge is the only way to know for sure if you are allergic to lima beans.
Symptoms of a legume allergy may include swelling in the face, difficulty breathing, severe asthma, abdominal pain, nausea, or vomiting, according to the Anaphylaxis Campaign, an allergy support network based in England.
If you suspect that you have an allergy to lima beans or any legume, speak with your healthcare provider to get a proper diagnosis.
Antinutrients in Lima Beans
Compounds that interfere with nutrient absorption are commonly referred to as “antinutrients.” However, the term is misleading because all plants contain these nutrients, which have an effect only when consumed in extremely large quantities. The effects of these nutrients are negligible in the quantities you likely consume of lima beans.
One study specifically investigated antinutrients in lima beans. Researchers found that rinsing, cooking, and toasting the beans (specifically autoclaving—using a pressure chamber—for 20 minutes) significantly reduced or eliminated antinutrients in lima beans except for tannins.
While you might not have an autoclave handy in your kitchen, you probably don’t need to worry about antinutrients in grains and legumes. According to nutrition experts, the substances are deactivated by appropriate soaking and cooking of the beans. So, unless you have a condition that may be impacted by these nutrients (such as iron-deficiency anemia), you most likely do not have to worry about them too much. If you have a condition such as anemia or are concerned about antinutrients, be sure to speak with your doctor as best practice.