The health benefits of butter beans, also known as lima beans, made them the mainstay of the Native American diet as a major source of protein, fiber, iron and B vitamins.
Low-Calorie, Low-Fat Food
Butter beans are good for you as a low-fat low-calorie food. A 1/2-cup serving of butter beans contains 77 calories per 100 grams. Butter beans are considered a low-energy-dense food, which means it has a low-calorie content compared to its serving size. Including more low-energy-dense foods in your diet helps control hunger when limiting your calorie intake, which may help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. As a very low-fat source, with only one gram per 1/2 cup, butter beans make a healthy alternative to fatty meats that are high in the cholesterol-raising saturated fat.
Healthy Carbs in Butter Beans
Carbs found in butter beans should be an essential component of your diet to provide your body with energy. While carbs are found in a variety of different foods, it is important that most of your carbs come from healthy sources. The Harvard School of Public Health considers beans, like butter beans, to be among your healthiest choices. A 1/2-cup serving of butter beans contains 17 grams of carbs.
Protein Content of Butter Beans
Butter beans contain protein, essential for the regeneration of cells, tissues and muscle. A 1/2-cup serving of butter beans contains 6 grams of protein toward your daily goal of 46 grams for women and 56 grams for men. Butter beans are considered an incomplete protein because they don't offer all of the amino acids required by your body. To make your meal of beans a complete protein, serve with rice, lentils, seeds or corn.
Vitamins and Mineral Content
The nutrition in butter beans provides almost half of your daily requirements for manganese, in addition to providing iron, zinc, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and valuable antioxidants says Mercola Food Facts. You need adequate intakes of iron to help transport oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. Zinc is necessary for cellular metabolism and supports the immune system, wound healing and cell division, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. Magnesium helps make protein and is needed for producing energy. Butter beans are also a source of B vitamins, specifically thiamine, riboflavin and folate, which are necessary for turning the carbs you eat into energy.
Beans Excel in Fiber
The greatest health benefit of butter beans is in the fiber they provide. The current average dietary fiber intake among Americans is about 15 grams, which is have the recommended amount of 25 to 30 grams a day from food. A 1/2-cup serving of butter beans provide 53% of your recommended daily requirement, says Mercola Food Facts. Important in normal digestion and in the protection of the colon, fiber-rich beans acts as a laxative. Fiber in beans also helps to reduce blood cholesterol by decreasing re-absorption in the colon and may help lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes and some types of cancer.
Cooking Butter Beans
There are many recipes that make use of the nutritional value of butter beans, also known as lima beans. Fresh butter beans and beans that have been soaked for six hours take about 30 minutes to cook. If you have a slow cooker, it will take less time. To cook butter beans, shell and wash the beans thoroughly and put them in a saucepan with water and salt. When they are tender, drain, add butter and sprinkle with pepper before serving. If you wish, you can add sauteed onions or red pepper flakes. Another idea is to cover the cooked beans with olive oil, salt, lime juice and cayenne and roast them in the oven until they are slightly brown. Leftover beans are terrific sprinkled on salads or used in soup and added to pasta to add protein. You can also use canned butter beans for a quick and convenient meal, but be aware of the higher salt content.
- Texas A & M Agrilife Extension: Two New Beans From America
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Low-Energy-Dense Foods and Weight Management: Cutting Calories While Controlling Hunger
- Harvard School of Public Health: Carbohydrates: Quality Matters
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Health Implications of Dietary Fiber
- Health.gov: 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Iron
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Magnesium
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Zinc
- MedlinePlus: B Vitamins
- Food Network: Baby Lima Beans (Butterbeans)
- Mercola Food Facts: What Are Lima Beans Good For?
- University of California San Francisco: Increasing Fiber Intake
- USDA: Butter Beans