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Lima Bean

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Lima Bean

Lima beans
Lima beans
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Subfamily: Faboideae
Tribe: Phaseoleae
Genus: Phaseolus
Species: P. lunatus
Binomial name
Phaseolus lunatus

Phaseolus limensis Macfad.

Lima beans, cooked, no salt
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 482 kJ (115 kcal)
Carbohydrates 20.88 g
- Sugars 2.9 g
- Dietary fiber 7 g
Fat 0.38 g
Protein 7.8 g
Thiamine (vit. B1) 0.161 mg (14%)
Riboflavin (vit. B2) 0.055 mg (5%)
Niacin (vit. B3) 0.421 mg (3%)
Pantothenic acid (B5) 0.422 mg (8%)
Vitamin B6 0.161 mg (12%)
Folate (vit. B9) 83 μg (21%)
Vitamin E 0.18 mg (1%)
Vitamin K 2 μg (2%)
Calcium 17 mg (2%)
Iron 2.39 mg (18%)
Magnesium 43 mg (12%)
Manganese 0.516 mg (25%)
Phosphorus 111 mg (16%)
Potassium 508 mg (11%)
Sodium 2 mg (0%)
Zinc 0.95 mg (10%)
Fluoride 2.2 µg
USDA Nutrient Database

Phaseolus lunatus is a legume grown for its edible seed. It is commonly known as the butter bean or lima bean /ˈlmə/.

Origin and uses

Phaseolus lunatus is of Andean and Mesoamerican origin. Two separate domestication events are believed to have occurred. The first, taking place in the Andes around 2000 BC,[1] produced a large-seeded variety (Lima type), while the second, taking place in Mesoamerica around AD 800, produced a small-seeded variety (Sieva type).[1] By around 1300, cultivation had spread north of the Rio Grande, and in the 1500s, the plant began to be cultivated in the Old World.[1]

The small-seeded wild form (Sieva type) is found distributed from Mexico to Argentina, generally below 1,600 metres (5,200 ft) above sea level, while the large-seeded wild form (Lima type) is found distributed in the north of Peru, from 320 to 2,030 metres (1,050 to 6,660 ft) above sea level.

The Moche Culture (0-800 AD) cultivated lima beans heavily and often depicted them in their art.[2] During the Spanish Viceroyalty of Peru, lima beans were exported to the rest of the Americas and Europe, and since the boxes of such goods had their place of origin labeled "Lima – Peru", the beans got named as such.

The term "butter bean" is widely utilised for a large, flat and yellow/white variety of lima bean (P. lunatus var. macrocarpus, or P. limensis[3]).

In some Southern United States areas the Sieva type are traditionally called butter beans, also otherwise known as the Dixie or Henderson type. In that area, lima beans and butter beans are seen as two distinct types of beans.

In Spain it is called "garrofón" and constitutes one of the main ingredients of the famous Valencian Paella.

In the United Kingdom,and some areas in the American South, "butter beans" refers to either dried beans which can be purchased to re-hydrate, or the canned variety which are ready to use. In culinary use there, lima beans and butter beans are distinct, the latter being large and yellow, the former small and green. In areas where both are considered to be lima beans, the green variety may be labelled as "baby" (and less commonly "junior") limas.


Both bush and pole (vine) varieties exist, the latter ranges from one to four metres in height. The bush varieties mature earlier than the pole varieties. The pods are up to 15 cm long. The mature seeds are 1 to 3 cm long and oval to kidney shaped. In most varieties the seeds are quite flat, but in the "potato" varieties the shape approaches spherical. White seeds are common, but black, red, orange and variously mottled seeds are also known. The immature seeds are uniformly green. Lima beans typically yield 2900 to 5000 kilograms of seed and 3000 to 8000 kilograms of biomass per hectare.

The seeds of the varieties listed below are white unless otherwise noted.

Bush types

  • Henderson/Thorogreen, 65 days (heirloom)
  • Eastland, 68 days
  • Jackson Wonder, 68 days (heirloom, seeds brown mottled with purple)
  • Fordhook 242, 75 days, 1945 AAS winner

Pole types

  • Giant Speckled/Christmas/Speckled Calico, 78 days (heirloom, seeds white mottled with red)
  • Big 6/Big Mama, 80 days[4]
  • King of the Garden, 85 days (heirloom)

Nutritional value

Lima beans, like many other legumes, are a good source of dietary fibre, and a virtually fat-free source of high quality protein.

Lima beans contain both soluble fibre, which helps regulate blood sugar levels and lowers cholesterol, and insoluble fibre, which aids in the prevention of constipation, digestive disorders, irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulitis.

Blood sugar

The high fiber content in Lima beans prevents blood sugar levels from rising too rapidly after eating them. This is due to the presence of large amounts of absorption-slowing compounds in the beans, and their high soluble fiber content. Soluble fiber absorbs water in the stomach forming a gel that slows down the absorption of the bean's carbohydrates. They can therefore help balance blood sugar levels while providing steady, slow-burning energy, which makes them a good choice for people with diabetes suffering with insulin resistance.


Soluble fiber binds with the bile acids that form cholesterol and, because it is not absorbed by the intestines, it exits the body taking the bile acids with it. As a result, the cholesterol level is lowered. They may therefore help to prevent heart disease, and may reduce the medical dosage required to combat cholesterol in the form of natural food.

Lima beans also provide folate and magnesium. Folate lowers levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that is an intermediate product in an important metabolic process called the methylation cycle. Elevated blood levels of homocysteine are an independent risk factor for heart attack, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease.

The magnesium content of lima beans is a calcium channel blocker. When enough magnesium is present veins and arteries relax, which reduces resistance and improves the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients throughout the body.

Other minerals

Apart from providing slow-burning complex carbohydrates, lima beans can increase energy levels by helping to restore more iron. For menstruating women, who are more at risk of iron deficiency, lima beans can provide iron, an integral component of hemoglobin—hemoglobin transports oxygen from the lungs to all body cells, and is also part of key enzyme systems for energy production and metabolism.

Lima beans are a very good source of the trace mineral manganese, and help enzymes important for energy production and antioxidant defense. Lima beans also contain the trace mineral molybdenum, an integral component of the valuable enzyme sulfite oxidase; sulfite oxidase detoxifies sulfites found as food preservatives.

Raw lima beans and butter beans contain toxic linamarin, a cyanogenic glucoside—one handful of raw beans can make a person violently ill. The beans are rendered safe when cooked. Low-linamarin varieties are typically used for culinary purposes.


External links

  • Plants For A Future: Database Search Results
  • Illustrated Legume Genetic Resources Database
  • Sorting Phaseolus Names
  • Recording of a song called "Butter Beans" from the Florida Folklife Collection (made available for public use from the State Archives of Florida)
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