Fava beans nutrition

Fava beans nutrition is noteworthy for its high vegetable protein content, L-dopa and carbidopa.

They are also known as broad beans.

This page was last updated by Bernard Preston on 9th April, 2019.

By Bernard Preston

Green fava beans in shells

You are an exceptional person if you are reading this page, because the subject is of little interest amongst people scouring the web; perhaps it's because they are using favas' other name, the broad bean.

You've arrived here probably for one of two reasons. Either you have Parkinson's disease and are looking for a natural form of treatment, or you are planning to reduce the red meat in your diet; both are perfectly valid.

Favas are probably the world's most hated bean and for good reason. I disliked them so much myself in my youth that I avoided them for over fifty years. The reason is simple; dried, or old and starchy, they are perfectly horrid and their nutrition is lessened too.

But once, a few years back, when I was served fresh baby fava beans at a dinner, I realised how for half a century I had been avoiding one of nature's delights.

There are three good reasons to grow and enjoy fava beans regularly; they don't thrive as well in the summer heat by the way, so you may need to freeze them if you want some for year round nutrition. I hate to recommend the dried ones; I don't like them either.

However, this year we have grown them through the summer and they have done remarkably well.

Health benefit of fava beans

  • They have the highest amount of vegetable protein of all legumes; nearly a quarter of the seed.
  • They taste absolutely delicious enjoyed young.
  • They are a far better source of dopamine for those suffering from Parkinson's disease than the very expensive drugs, which have awful side effects.
  • Less likely to get macular degeneration.

Fava beans nutrition

Fava beans nutrition is about the treatment of Parkinson's disease, and I would suggest perhaps the prevention of it, though I could find no research confirming that.

The reason is that they contain large amounts of two chemicals, L-dopa and carbidopa, that are absolutely vitally needed by the body. Ask any person suffering from Parkinson's disease and they will tell you that life without these two substances is not worth living.

This is all quite complex biochemistry, so we will leave it until last; if you have the disease and want to reduce or go without the medication then brace yourself, and get ready to have your brain stretched. It's important. And start looking for either a packet of seeds to plant in your garden, or a source of the fresh, young bean.

Vegetable protein

Whether we like it or not, within a few short decades, humans beings are going to be getting most of their protein from vegetables; more specifically, from legumes.

There are four reasons.

  1. Meat is going to become inordinately expensive; in fact it is already.
  2. It takes one tenth of the water to produce the same amount of protein from legumes as from animals.
  3. Climate change from the waste produced by animals into the atmosphere is going to destroy the planet; it is already.
  4. That waste is also going to pollute our water supplies, already in seriously short supply.

For the wealthy, and that probably includes you who are reading this, that's a problem for another day, the next generation and for the present we will continue to enjoy predominantly meat in some form for our protein.

But perhaps you like I have a tender conscience, and don't want your children stomping on your grave and cursing the way you contributed to the destruction of the planet. Then it's time to start making a place for vegetable protein in your diet, and there's no better place to start than with fava beans nutrition. 

Therein lies the rub; it will mean you have to start growing them yourself, unless you live in a place like Morocco where they are available in the market place. It is not in the slightest difficult.

Dried, or old and starchy, they are perfectly horrid. How to plant broad beans isn't rocket science, but it will take you down new and enticing paths like getting your garden soil ready. In fact, most folk reading this page, have probably also already considered the subject and are even practising it.

Just how much protein we should be eating each day is a controversial subject, not to be discussed here, but as a rough guide, the average person needs about 50g per day, and a cup of fava beans would provide almost all of that; add an egg and you're home and dry.

Absolutely delicious fava beans

Fava and lima beans

The second reason I propose to enjoy fava beans is that they are absolutely delicious; if you can get them young and fresh. Otherwise, forget it, and stick to lentils and chickpeas.

I'm writing here from a standpoint of practical experience. Ever since that day recently when I was deceived into eating young favas, not knowing what they were, we have been growing and enjoying them for over two thirds of the year.

During the hot summer months, we rely on pole beans and late in the season limas, another favourite legume. Year round vegetable protein is our goal. Not that we are vegetarians, but with so much cancer about in our meat-loving family, I'm determined to go down the road less travelled.

Broad bean pods

And I will add, that if you are prepared to take the time to grow and cook your own, fava beans are absolutely delicious; and you only have to simmer them for about five minutes; it's so easy.

We try quite hard to eat two different legumes fresh from the garden every day; okay, I'll admit it, I'm a bit of a fruitcake. Call me neurotic if you will but perhaps if you have witnessed first hand what malignancies can do to your family, then you'll understand. In that pot above is a mixture of fava and lima beans. I'll be turning that into Eggs Hilton.

I will admit, legumes generally don't have much flavour; we add plenty of chilli and garlic and mix them with other vegetables like broccoli and spinach; and always with onion. 

Parkinson's disease

Parkinson's disease and fava beans nutrition are intimately linked; they are the only natural source of L-DOPA. Thus they can be used successfully in the treatment of the condition in many but not all cases. There are however numerous caveats.

  1. You will have to reduce the amount of medication taken.
  2. You will need a continuous supply of favas, also known as broad beans.
  3. The dose is difficult to manage, and you will need to weigh the beans and be prepared to experiment.

On the plus side, the medication is very expensive, and has nasty side effects. Those who use fava beans nutrition claim the effect is much longer lasting and there are far less of the dystonias.

There's another big plus; fava beans nutrition are also a natural source of C-DOPA; more about that below.

My strong recommendation is that you first decide how you are going to grow them yourself so that you can pick them every morning from your garden, as I do, or find someone who can supply you daily or at least several times a week.

Spring: green peas and fava beans

Midsummer: Pole beans

Autumn: Pole beans, limas and favas.

Winter: Limas and fava beans


GDNF

Researchers have reported that infusing a protein called GDNF directly into the brain resulted in "major changes in a key area of the brain affected by Parkinson's disease."

Alas the treatment failed to improve the symptoms of the disease.

Enjoying a steady supply of fava beans nutrition also delivers L-dopa, in a form which can cross the blood-brain barrier and have immediate access to the part of the brain affected by Parkinson's disease. Moreover, research shows there is immediate benefit and lessening of symptoms.

Pharmaceutical companies of course would far rather you took their very expensive but less effective drugs.

Macular degeneration

Patients with Parkinson's disease taking dopamine medication are much less likely to get macular degeneration; it's the most common form of adult onset blindness. L-dopa from your fava beans has a profound effect on the eyes too.

Lutein[3] is one of two phytochemicals that help prevent the onset of age related macular degeneration.

The other is zeaxanthin.

The biochemistry

The biochemistry of Parkinson's disease is complex, but you will at least need to grasp some of the underlying processes. Here's a very simplified version.

L-DOPA is an amino acid; it is the precursor of several extremely important neurotransmitters. Since it's rarely found in the diet, only in those parts of the world where fava beans nutrition is the norm, it is synthesized normally in the brain from another amino acid called tyrosine that is found in many protein foods such as dairy, fish and fowl, nuts and lima beans.

In a part of the brain called the Substantia Nigra, L-DOPA is converted into a neurotransmitter called dopamine which is then supplied to many other parts of the brain called the Basal ganglia, one of the functions of which is inhibition to several 'motor' areas. Without it the various dystonias of speech, lips and limbs occurs; there is loss of precise control of voluntary movement affecting the gait and causing tremors.

Vitamin B6, pyridoxine, is required in the conversion of L-DOPA to dopamine.

The dopamine produced by the Substantia Nigra has many other functions in the brain too; the neurodegenerative Parkinson's disease has a wide ranging effect on the patient, since the dopamine producing cells are destroyed.

Nitrates used as preservatives in bacon for example, and reheated the cooking oils used in fast food restaurants have been fingered as a cause of the disease.

On the other hand, regularly eating the spice turmeric(1) and coloured foods rich in flavonoids(2) protects the Substantia Nigra.

Parkinson's disease affects roughly one in five hundred people.

Carbidopa

L-dopa is converted to dopamine both before and after it enters the brain. Large amounts of dopamine in the muscles causes involuntary writhing movements. In the normal healthy person, this carbidopa, also found in large amounts in fava beans, inhibits the conversion of L-dopa to dopamine before it reaches the brain preventing these spasms.

Like L-dopa, carbidopa cannot enter the brain proper, and thus does not affect the conversion L-dopa to dopamine in the Substantia Nigra.

Parkinson's patients must either get their carbidopa from fava beans nutrition or as a drug to reduce the conversion of L-dopa to dopamine in the peripheral muscles of the body.

Pyridoxine

Once the L-dopa has entered the Substantia Nigra, the dopaminergic cells as they are known, convert it to dopamine; for this to happen correctly vitamin B6, or pyridoxine is required.

Both normal people, and those suffering from Parkinson's disease, must have adequate amounts of pyridoxine in their diet; without it all the fava beans nutrition in China will not help a scratch.

Luckily, and those who have read Fearfully, and wonderfully made, would agree that it's no coincidence that fava beans nutrition are also a good source of pyridoxine. The good Lord made them all. It's also widely distributed in various grains, meat, eggs and vegetables.

Take home

The take home from this is that the brain must have both L-dopa and C-dopa, if it's unable to produce dopamine in the Substantia Nigra, as normally happens in the healthy brain. The Parkinson's patient can either get them from medicines or, if they are lucky, fava beans nutrition may be able to supply all or part of their needs. 

Either way, living without dopamine is almost impossible.

  1. Bernard Preston
  2. What are legumes
  3. Fava beans nutrition



Prevention of Parkinson's disease

I have been unable to confirm, or even suggest really that fava beans nutrition would help prevent Parkinson's disease. It's logical that it would, but sometimes our logic can be quite erroneous.

There are many other reasons confirming that those who frequent fast food restaurants on a regular basis, and those who eat processed meat full of nitrates are on the road, not paved with good intentions, but destined to suffer from serious disease; one of them is Parkinson's.

There is also evidence that an unhealthy colon, deficient in the microbiota, is also the source of many of the problems causing the neurodegenerative diseases. Taking a probiotic, or enjoying these kefir benefits is the solution.

We agree with Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine when he said 'let your food be your medicine.' Amen.

Aquafaba

After cooking your fava beans, you'll be left with a viscous, brownish and frankly smelly liquid! Usually it's discarded, but it in fact does have protein, carbohydrate and other plant compounds.

Exactly why it's called aquafaba rather than aquafava, I have no idea.

What's particularly interesting is its use as a emulsifying and foaming agent, and for thickening for example, instead of using cornstarch which is nasty stuff.

It can be used instead of egg white; I confess I have not tried it yet but plan to next time I make ice cream.

According to Wikipedia, use 2 tablespoons of aquafaba to replace  the white of one egg. It takes a little longer than egg whites to blend apparently.

My one initial concern, is that the phytates in your fava beans are reduced by the cooking and rinsing process; are we putting them back into our food?

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