Ancient Philosophy

Greek Pre-Socratics

Why did the Pythagorians avoid fava beans?

Many reasons have been given for why the Pythagorians avoided fava beans: a belief that fava beans contain the souls of the dead; the resemblance of the seed in the bean to a human embryo, so that eating them would be like cannibalism; fava beans seem to have the shape of testicles or the gates of hell; they evoke oligarchy or rule by wealth because they were commonly used to draw lots; and they allow part of the soul to escape in causing “wind” or gas

Fava beans were the only beans available in Europe before the discovery of the Americas. Modern research has shown that some Mediterranean populations are deficient in G6PD enzyme, and one-fifth of those with the deficiency suffer kidney damage if they eat fava beans. On the other hand, young fava beans contain Levadopa, which in controlled doses can be an effective treatment for Parkinson’s disease.


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