According to some modern accounts of Jack and the Magic Beanstalk, the beans in the myth are no other than fava beans. Were they really? There is no way of knowing, but there is little doubt that the fava bean is nothing short of magic. Full of incredible health benefits and high in protein, it is also a very sustainable crop to grow.


Humans have been eating fava beans for thousands of years: they are even mentioned multiple times in Homer’s Iliad (8th to 9th BC). However, fava beans have a somewhat tumultuous history. Indeed, certain civilizations such as the Greeks linked the bean to death, and priests were strictly forbidden to eat it or even mention the words ‘fava beans’. However, the Romans had held the fava beans in very high esteem. Fava beans sometimes get a bad reputation because they can be poisonous for people with favism. However, if you don’t have favism (usually detected during childhood), fava beans are an excellent choice.

Protein and the Environment

In many people’s diet, the main source of protein is meat. However, the amount of meat that humans consume is a big part of the environmental issues we face today, since producing so much meat requires enormous amounts of water and energy. So whether you do eat meat or not, getting at least some of your protein through the many possible plant-based sources available is a great idea. Fava beans are very high in protein, and some studies suggest that they could partially replace meat intake in human diets 2.

While there is no one solution for the environmental problems we are facing today, combined with some major systemic changes in our society, the fava bean might just help lead us towards a more sustainable way of relating to the planet. In addition, fava beans have may wonderful health benefits.

Levodopa and Parkinson Disease

Fava beans can help prevent and treat Parkinson Disease. If you or your loved one have Parkinson disease, of course, consult with your doctor on this matter, but fava beans might be a great option to explore. Indeed, fava beans are rich in levodopa3, the same chemical used in medical treatments for Parkinson disease. For now, there is very little research on this subject. However, with more research, fava beans are definitely a promising lead in helping with Parkinson’s.

Magnesium and Heart Disease

Fava beans help reduce chronic diseases, such as heart diseases. Fava beans are rich in magnesium, a very important chemical for the human body. Indeed, a lack of magnesium has been shown to increase the risk of hypertension, which is very often linked to cardiovascular diseases4.

Maybe at this point you are convinced that the flavorful fava bean should be favored in your diet, but how do you eat it? These beans make a wonderful addition to almost any type of salad, and can be delicious in a warm soup, or in a dip! But the fava bean can also be ground up into flour, and makes for a tasty alternative to wheat flour in bread. Fava beans are nutritious, delicious and could help us grow toward more sustainable agriculture… a magic bean indeed!


Lisa Darmet is a freelance writer, whose passions include not only eating but also food and cooking and their connections to health, culture and society. She is a graduate of Hampshire College, Amherst, MA, USA & a world traveler.