Saturday, July 2, 2011

Can I have my beans supersized?

My family and I were out to dinner the other night and we ordered pasta fagioli soup at our favorite neighborhood Italian restaurant. One of our usual orders, we know the dish well. To our surprise, there was a new ingredient in the soup that night. “What are these supersized beans,” someone proclaimed. “Fava beans of course!” I explained.

Why have you done a good thing?

A wonderful spring legume, these pale floppy peas (not actually beans) are extremely nutrient dense, packed full of complex carbohydrates, protein, and fiber (9g of fiber per ½ cup). Fava beans are also extremely high in iron, giving you 30% of the daily value, making these beans wonderful for healthy red blood cells. Fava beans also contain L-dopa, which is the treatment for many neurological conditions including Parkinson’s disease.

Switching out vegetarian sources of protein for meat or poultry has also been shown to be protective against chronic diseases, such as cancer. Fava beans have also been shown to help with weight loss and management when part of balanced diet and eaten in substitution for animal products periodically. Beans like fava beans due to their high vitamin and mineral and soluble fiber content, have been shown to reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease by lowering LDL cholesterol and replacing sources of saturated fats in animal products.

How to eat fava beans…

Sometimes known as “broad beans,” you can find the freshest, most buttery fava beans shelled at the farmer’s market. However, it is time consuming to de-shell them on weeknights. So look out for canned varieties for more convenient cooking.

Wonderful to pair fava beans with other spring vegetables, like artichokes.

Try fava bean risotto

Looking for an alternative to traditional hummus? Try this great fava bean spread.

Other ideas:

-Add fava beans to your tomato sauce and pasta

-Throw fava beans in their shell on the grill until blistered for a few minutes with oil, salt and pepper

-Make a rice and fava bean side salad or vegetarian main course

-Let fava beans shine all on their own with just lemon juice, garlic and oil as a side dish

-Amy Santo, MS RD CDN

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