Lima beans, also known as butter beans or chad beans, are named for the capital of Peru, where they've been cultivated for more than 6,000 years. They are a common summer side dish in the Southern United States, where fresh lima beans are easier to find than in other parts of the country. Like most beans, lima beans are a good source of several different nutrients.
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A fourth-cup serving of baby lima beans—about 45 grams of beans—has about 170 calories, including 5 calories from fat. You'll get 32 grams of carbohydrates, including 10 grams of dietary fiber, and 10 grams of fiber from that serving of baby limas. The same size serving of large lima beans actually has fewer calories: One-fourth cup of large lima beans has 150 calories, with no calories from fat. It also contains 28 grams of carbohydrates, including 9 grams of dietary fiber, and 10 grams of protein.
Lima beans are very low in fat and contain no cholesterol, which is why they—and most other vegetables—play a role in a heart-healthy diet. For vegetarians, the fact that a serving of lima beans, whether of baby lima beans or of large lima beans, contains about 4 percent of the recommended daily value for protein can be a big plus because many protein sources are derived from animals.
Lima beans are rich in insoluble fiber, which helps promote digestive tract health and prevent constipation. Lima beans are also a good source of soluble fiber, which may play a role in helping to control cholesterol and improve cardiovascular health.
If you can't find fresh lima beans, frozen lima beans and butter beans possess the same nutritional benefits as fresh ones, according to the University of Florida Sarasota Extension Office's Family and Consumer Sciences Department. You can use fresh and frozen lima beans interchangeably in recipes and substitute baby lima beans for large lima beans or large beans for small ones in any recipe.
You should never eat raw lima beans. Uncooked lima beans contain linamarin, a kind of cyanide that's potentially toxic. Cooking lima beans destroys the compound, so lima beans that have been cooked are safe to eat.