Lima Beans Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Lima beans, annotated
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman  

Lima beans are sometimes called butter beans because of their rich, buttery taste. They have a flat, greenish or whitish, oval-shaped appearance and are easily found in almost any grocery store. While many of us may have avoided eating lima beans as children, they are a smart food to add to your meals at any age. Lima beans are rich in nutrients, budget-friendly, and easy to prepare.

Lima Bean Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 1/2 cup (94g) of mature lima beans, cooked with no salt. 

  • Calories: 108
  • Fat: 0.4g
  • Sodium: 1.9mg
  • Carbohydrates: 19.5g
  • Fiber: 6.5g
  • Sugars: 2.7g
  • Protein: 7.5g

Carbs

Lima beans are naturally low in calories, but full of healthy complex carbohydrates. There are three types of carbohydrates in a half-cup serving of cooked lima beans.

  • Starch (11g): More than half of the carbohydrates in lima beans come from starch. These carbohydrates provide the body with quick energy.
  • Fiber (7g): The next-largest portion of carbs in lima beans is fiber. Fiber helps to stabilize blood sugar, boost satiety (feeling full), and improve digestive health.
  • Sugar (2.7g): Lima beans also contain naturally occurring sugar.

Lima beans have a glycemic index (GI) of about 46. (Foods with a GI of 55 or below are considered low glycemic foods.) The glycemic load of a 100-gram serving of lima beans is about 7. Glycemic load takes the serving size of a food into account when estimating the food's effect on blood sugar. A glycemic load of less than 10 is thought to have little effect on blood glucose response.

Fats

There is less than 1 gram of fat in lima beans, making them a naturally low-fat food. Additionally, most of that small amount of fat is polyunsaturated fat, a form of fat that is considered "good fat" by health experts.

Protein

Each serving of lima beans provides almost 8 grams of protein—slightly more than other types of beans. Lima beans are not a complete protein. Complete proteins provide all of the essential amino acids that cannot be made by the body and therefore must be consumed in the diet. However, eating foods from a variety of protein sources each day will allow you to get all the amino acids you need.

Vitamins and Minerals.

Vitamins in lima beans include folate (83 micrograms, or 21% of your daily needs). You also benefit from thiamin (11% of your daily needs), and smaller amounts of several B vitamins, along with vitamins K and E.

Minerals in lima beans include manganese (26% of daily value), potassium (15%) copper (12%), magnesium and phosphorus (11% each), and iron (13%). Lima beans have more iron than several other types of beans, including kidney beans, chickpeas, and soybeans. Lima beans also contain small amounts of zinc, selenium, and calcium.

Health Benefits

Legumes, like lima beans, have been studied by nutrition researchers for years. They are a common food that is consumed around the world. Research suggests that increasing your intake of lima beans—or any bean—provides certain health benefits.

Helps with Weight Control

An evaluation of the nutritional value of legumes published in the journal Obesity Reviews determined that "replacing energy-dense foods with legumes has been shown to have beneficial effects on the prevention and management of obesity and related disorders, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome."

Study authors suggest replacing high-calorie, high-fat meaty foods (such as burgers and sausage) with beans, or combining meat with legumes in the production of those foods to reduce fat and calorie content.

Lowers Cholesterol

Including beans in your diet helps to lower LDL cholesterol (also known as "bad" cholesterol).

Stabilizes Blood Sugar

Another review of studies found that increasing intake of beans, peas, and lentils can help both diabetic and non-diabetic patients improve long-term glycemic control in their diets.

Supports Brain Health

Lima beans are a good source of manganese, a vitamin that boosts nervous system and brain health. In excess, manganese can also be toxic to the brain, but eating foods rich in manganese would not cause these problems. They usually happen from exposure to air pollution.

Allergies

Although allergy to lima beans is not common, it is possible. Allergies to other legumes, such as peanuts, soybeans, and lentils, are more prevalent. Some people who are allergic to one legume will also react to or be sensitive to others. If you have a legume allergy, speak to your doctor about which legumes are safe for you to eat.

Adverse Effects

Compounds that interfere with nutrient absorption are commonly referred to as "antinutrients." However, the term is misleading because this interference only occurs when the compounds are consumed in extremely large amounts. The effects are negligible in the quantity of lima beans you are likely to consume.

One study specifically investigated antinutrients in lima beans. Researchers found that rinsing, cooking, and toasting the beans (specifically autoclaving—using a pressure chamber—for 20 minutes) significantly reduced or eliminated antinutrients in lima beans, except for tannins.

While you might not have an autoclave handy in your kitchen, you probably don't need to worry about antinutrients in grains and legumes. According to nutrition experts, the substances are deactivated by appropriate soaking and cooking of the beans. So, unless you have a condition that may be impacted by these nutrients (such as iron-deficiency anemia), you most likely do not have to worry about them too much. If you have a condition such as anemia or are concerned about antinutrients, speak with your doctor.

Varieties

You can find lima beans in the frozen section of the grocery store. In most cases, frozen vegetables are just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts and usually cheaper. Just be sure to choose frozen beans with few or no added ingredients (like added salt or sugars).

When They're Best

Lima beans are in season during the late summer and early fall, but most consumers can find lima beans in their grocery store year-round. When you buy any legumes, look for whole, plump, uncracked beans that look fresh. Avoid beans or pods that look wilted, yellowish, dried, or spotted.

You can even grow your own. Lima beans are a great starter crop. They should be grown in full sun. They require about 60 to 90 warm, frost-free days to reach harvest.

Storage and Food Safety

The way that you store your beans depends on how you buy them: shelled or unshelled. Both should be stored in the refrigerator. Unshelled lima beans stay fresh for about seven days. If you buy shelled beans, you can blanch them and put them in the freezer, where they will stay fresh for up to three months. Dried, shelled lima beans can be stored in a cool, dry place for 10 to 12 months.

How to Prepare

Shell lima beans before you cook them by opening each pod and removing the beans. Rinse the beans in a colander before cooking. To cook fresh lima beans, add them to boiling salted water. Cook until tender, up to 60 minutes.

The buttery mild taste of this bean makes it an easy side dish that pairs well with fish, meat, poultry, or grains. Lima beans can easily be added to soups, salads, casseroles, a bean mash, or a dip recipe. You can also use lima beans in place of other beans, like white beans.

Recipes

Was this page helpful?

Article Sources

Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Trinidad TP, Mallillin AC, Loyola AS, Sagum RS, Encabo RR. The potential health benefits of legumes as a good source of dietary fibre. Br J Nutr. 2010;103(4):569-74. doi:10.1017/S0007114509992157

  2. Rebello CJ, Greenway FL, Finley JW. A review of the nutritional value of legumes and their effects on obesity and its related co-morbidities. Obes Rev. 2014;15(5):392-407. doi:10.1111/obr.12144

  3. Abeysekara S, Chilibeck PD, Vatanparast H, Zello GA. A pulse-based diet is effective for reducing total and LDL-cholesterol in older adults. Br J Nutr. 2012;108 Suppl 1:S103-10. doi:10.1017/S0007114512000748

  4. Ha V, Sievenpiper JL, de Souza RJ, et al. Effect of dietary pulse intake on established therapeutic lipid targets for cardiovascular risk reduction: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. CMAJ. 2014;186(8):E252-62. doi:10.1503/cmaj.131727

  5. Sievenpiper JL, Kendall CW, Esfahani A, et al. Effect of non-oil-seed pulses on glycaemic control: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled experimental trials in people with and without diabetes. Diabetologia. 2009;52(8):1479-95. doi:10.1007/s00125-009-1395-7

  6. Horning KJ, Caito SW, Tipps KG, Bowman AB, Aschner M. Manganese is essential for neuronal health. Annu Rev Nutr. 2015;35(1)71-108. doi:10.1146/annurev-nutr-071714-034419

  7. Verma AK, Kumar S, Das M, Dwivedi PD. A comprehensive review of legume allergy. Clin Rev Allergy Immunol. 2013;45(1):30-46. doi:10.1007/s12016-012-8310-6

  8. Adeparusi EO. Effect of processing on the nutrients and anti-nutrients of lima bean (Phaseolus lunatus L.) flour. Nahrung. 2001;45(2):94-6. doi:10.1002/1521-3803(20010401)45:2<94::AID-FOOD94>3.0.CO;2-E

  9. Palmer S. Nutritional anomaly—might antinutrients offer some benefits?. Today's Dietitian. 2011;13(7):54.