Mung beans — a type of small, green legume in the same plant family as peas and lentils — is a high source of protein, fiber, antioxidants and phytonutrients. Although in most parts of the world they’re less popular than other bean varieties, like chickpeas or black beans, mung beans have some huge health benefits to offer!
While mung beans may be new to most people in the U.S, they’ve been a part of traditional Ayurvedic diets in India for thousands of years. Mung beans are considered “one of the most cherished foods” in the ancient Indian practice that’s been a traditional form of medicine since roughly 1,500 B.C.
These days, mung beans are beginning to pop up in protein powders, canned soups and in restaurant dishes state-side. So here’s what you need to know about mung beans:
- Mung beans are a high source of nutrients including: manganese, potassium, magnesium, folate, copper, zinc and various B vitamins.
- They are also a very filling food, high in protein, resistant starch and dietary fiber.
- You can find mung beans in dried powder form, as whole uncooked beans, “split-peeled” form (just like you’d find split green peas), as bean noodles, and also as sprouted seeds (which are the kind you’d see used on sandwiches or salads).
- Their dried seeds may be eaten raw, cooked (whole or split), fermented, or milled and ground into flour.
- Because of their high nutrient density, mung beans are considered useful in defending against several chronic, age-related diseases, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity.
Clinical evidence continues to show that plant-derived foods have various potential health benefits, including lowering inflammation. Health experts recommend that plant-based foods make up a large portion of every person’s diet, and many worldwide health organizations have recommended an increase in the intake of plant-derived foods to improve health status and to prevent chronic diseases. Among plant-based sources of protein and nutrients, mung beans are one of the foods gathering the most attention.
As you’ll come to learn, mung beans are one of the healthiest sources of plant protein there is when you consider how many other nutrients they contain in addition to amino acids (the building blocks of proteins). As the Journal of Chemistry Central puts it, “mung beans have biological activities including antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic, antihypertensive, lipid metabolism accommodation, antihypertensive and antitumor effects.” (1)
Mung Beans Nutrition Facts
One cup of cooked mung beans contains the following (percentages based on the RDAs for the average adult female): (2)
- 212 calories
- 14 grams of protein
- 15 grams of fiber
- 1 gram of fat
- 4 grams of sugar
- 321 micrograms of folate (100%)
- 97 milligrams of magnesium (36%)
- 0.33 milligrams of vitamin b1 thiamine (36%)
- 0.6 milligrams of manganese (33%)
- 7 milligrams of zinc (24%)
- 0.8 milligrams of vitamin B5 pantothenic acid (8%)
- 0.13 milligrams of vitamin B6 (11%)
- 55 milligrams of calcium (5%)
If you choose to sprout mung beans and eat them raw, each cup will only have about 31 calories and will provide about three grams of protein and two grams of fiber.
Health Benefits of Mung Beans
1. Can Help Lower High Cholesterol Levels and Protect Against Heart Disease
One 2011 study published in the Journal of Human and Experimental Toxicology found that mung beans are highly effective at inhibiting LDL “bad” cholesterol oxidation. Mung beans have the ability to regulate cholesterol levels because their antioxidants act like potent free-radical scavengers, reversing damage done to blood vessels and lowering inflammation. (3)
Oxidized LDL cholesterol is one of the biggest risks of deadly cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks or stroke. LDL cholesterol can accumulate within the inner lining of blood vessels, called the endothelium, and block blood flow, triggering cardiac arrest. Mung beans are a great addition to any anti-inflammatory diet thanks to their ability to keep arteries clear and to improve circulation.
2. Helps Lower High Blood Pressure
Mung beans nutrition include the ability to fight another significant cardiovascular disease risk factor: high blood pressure. In a 2014 study published in the Chemistry Central Journal, rats that were given mung bean sprout extracts for one month experienced significant reductions in systolic blood pressure levels.
The researchers believed that mung beans’ anti-hypertensive effects might be due to their high concentration of protein fragments known as peptides. These help to decrease constricting of blood vessels that raises blood pressure. (4)
3. Contains Antioxidants That Fight Cancer Development
High levels of amino acids — oligosaccharides and polyphenols — in mung beans are thought to be the main contributors to their antioxidant power that can fight cancer development. In clinical studies, mung beans show anti-tumor activity and are able to protect DNA damage and dangerous cell mutation.
A 2012 study done by the College of Food Science and Nutritional Engineering at the China Agricultural University showed that mung beans’ antioxidant capacities are mainly derived from vitexin and isovitexin, two types of protective flavonoids that have high free-radical scavenging abilities. These flavanoids lower oxidative stress that can contribute to cancer formation. (5)
4. Can Help Prevent or Treat Type 2 Diabetes
Strong evidence exists that mung beans nutrition has a significant anti-diabetic effect and can naturally help prevent or treat cases of type 2 diabetes. A 2008 study done by the Institute of Crop Sciences at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences found that when rats were given mung bean supplements, they experienced lowered blood glucose, plasma C-peptide, glucagon, total cholesterol and triglyceride levels. At the same time, the rats significantly improved glucose tolerance and increased insulin responsiveness. (6)
5. Provide a High Source of Protein
Mung beans nutrition includes a very impressive amount of protein for a plant, with about 20–24 percent of their chemical structure being amino acids (protein), according to the Department of Chemistry at the Harbin Institute of Technology China. Globulin and albumin are the main storage proteins found in mung bean seeds and make up over 85 percent of the total amino acids found in mung beans. (7)
Mung beans nutrition is also rich in other essential amino acids, including leucine, isoleucine and valine, which can be combined with other plant sources (like whole grains or some vegetables) to make a “complete protein.” Their highly absorbable protein content makes them a smart choice for vegans or vegetarians, especially considering how many other nutrients they add to someone’s diet.
6. Boosts Immunity and Protects Against Infections and Viruses
Mung beans nutrition contains a range of phytonutrients that are considered anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory, helping them to increase immunity and fight harmful bacteria, viruses, colds, rashes, irritations and more. Mung beans promote a healthy balance of bacteria within the digestive tract, which helps with nutrient absorption and immune defense.
7. High Source of Vitamins and Minerals, Like Folate and Magnesium
Mung beans nutrition provides a whopping 100 percent of your daily value of folate in every one cup serving! Folate (also known as vitamin B9) is an important vitamin for DNA synthesis, cell and tissue growth, hormonal balance, cognitive function, and even reproduction. In fact, consuming enough folate is especially important during pregnancy because it’s essential for preventing early births, neural tube defects and even termination.
Mung beans also provide about 36 percent of daily magnesium needs for the average adult woman. Many adults are actually deficient in magnesium, which is unfortunate because most people really need a substantial amount in their diet in order to control stress levels and manage pain. Magnesium is important for digestive health, proper heart beat functioning, neurotransmitter release and for repairing muscle tissue in people who are very active.
8. Fights Obesity and Helps with Weight Loss
Because mung beans nutrition contains high levels of fiber and protein, they are one of the most filling foods there is. In a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, researchers observed that a single meal with high-fiber beans produced a two-fold greater increase in the satiety hormone called cholecystokinin when compared to meals that didn’t contain beans. (8)
Many other studies have found similar results: Namely, that satiety significantly increases after eating beans. Therefore, regularly eating mung beans can help with reducing food intake and boosting weight loss. (9)
9. Can Help Decrease PMS Symptoms
Mung beans nutrition provides B vitamins, including vitamin B6 and folate, which are both important for controlling hormone fluctuations that can lead to PMS symptoms. B vitamins, folate and magnesium are useful for lowering the severity and pain associated with PMS cramps, headaches, mood swings, fatigue and muscle pains.
10. Easy to Digest Compared to Many Other Beans
While some people experience gas or bloating from eating beans, mung beans are considered one of the easiest beans to digest and can actually help with detoxification in some cases. Mung beans have many benefits for digestion due to their high fiber content — for example, they can help prevent IBS symptoms like constipation.
In order to add mung beans into your diet without experiencing unwanted digestive effects, try first soaking and sprouting dried beans overnight and then cooking them with traditional Ayurvedic spices that can help increase digestibility. In India, they are commonly cooked with such spices as ginger, cumin, coriander and turmeric in order to help make them taste great while also helping to avoid any stomach pains.
Soaking and sprouting mung beans can also help reduce “antinutrients” that are naturally present within all legumes and beans, making them easier to digest and also releasing more of their nutrients. Types of carbohydrates called oligosaccharides, raffinose, stachyose and verbascose are present in raw (unsprouted) or poorly processed legumes, which can cause uncomfortable flatulence.
Some of these antinutrients are present in mung beans, but to a lesser degree than many other beans. In addition, antinutrients found in mung beans are soluble in water and can be eliminated by soaking, sprouting (germinating) or fermenting before eating them.
History of Mung Beans
Mung beans were first domesticated in India, where they grew as wild plants. Archaeological evidence shows that mung beans were growing in the Harappan civilization in the Punjab and Haryana areas of Indian about 4,500 years ago!
Scholars separate domestication of mung beans into two different species: the kind that grew in southern India (which was a larger-seeded mung bean that began being harvested about 3,000–3,500 years ago) and the even older kind of mung bean that has smaller seeds and grew in northern India. Cultivated mung beans later spread from India to China and other parts of Southeast Asia.
Records show that in Thailand, mung beans have been eaten for at least 2,200 years. Around the 9th or 10th century, mung beans also came to be cultivated in Africa since they grow easily in warm climates and helped feed undernourished populations.
Mung beans are most popular and widely grown today in India, China, Southeast Asia and also somewhat in parts of southern Europe and the U.S. In the U.S., mung beans have been cultivated since around the 1830s, although they’ve really only picked up a following over the past decade or two. Today about 75 percent of the 15–20 million pounds of mung beans consumed in the U.S every year are imported and grown in India and China.
How to Use Mung Beans in Recipes
Sprouting, or germination, is thought to improve the nutritional and medicinal qualities of mung beans nutrition — making them easier to digest and tolerate — so always try to consume sprouted mung beans if you can.
In recent years, as researchers learn more about the importance of sprouting legumes, nuts and grains, studies show that the sprouts of mung beans – meaning the type that is edible after germination – have more obvious biological activities and more plentiful beneficial metabolites than unsprouted mung beans do. Sprouting helps biosynthetic enzymes to become activated during the stages of germination, which means mung beans nutrition become more absorbable by the human body.
Mung beans, which have the scientific species name Vigna radiate, appear in cuisines around the world, mostly in India, China, the Philippines and Korea. In India, split and peeled mung beans are traditionally used in the dish called dahl, which is a thick stew that is high in fiber and protein, yet low in calories. It’s a filling meal and is considered a staple in Indian cooking that is eaten multiple times per week for most families.
In Chinese cuisine, mung beans are also used to make pancakes or dumplings, combined with rice in stir- fries as a staple dish and even used in desserts. Whole mung beans are used to make tángshuǐ, a type of Chinese dessert which literally translates to “sugar water” because the beans are cooked with sugar, coconut milk and a little bit of ginger. They are also ground into a paste to form a popular type of ice cream and sorbet in Hong Kong.
Mung bean sprouts are made into a processed version of starch noodles that are most common in Asian cuisine. Mung beans have a much greater carbohydrate content (about 50–60 percent) than soybeans do, so they work well as flour and noodle products. Mung beans’ starch is the predominant carbohydrate in the legume and is why they are typically used for the production of starchy noodles, such as the kind called muk in Korea.
How To Cook Mung Beans
When buying mung beans, check for discolored or damaged mung beans and discard them before cooking since these can contain harmful bacteria. You can buy mung beans uncooked and choose to sprout them or to soak and cook them.
In sprouted form, try adding them to salads or sandwiches. Soaked and cooked mung beans will become tender and taste “al dente,” similar to a firm pasta. They are considered complexly flavored and hearty, making them a great addition to many comfort meals in order to add bulk and more nutrients. After cooking them, you can use mung beans to create hummus or dips, or puree them to thicken soups.
Instructions to cook dried mung beans:
- Rinse the mung beans under cool running water, then add them to three cups of salted boiling water for every one cup of dried means (so a ratio of three parts water to one part beans).
- Once boiling, bring the water back down to a low simmer and cover the beans.
- Cook the mung beans until tender, about 45 minutes, if they are whole dried beans. Split or peeled mung beans take about 20 to 30 minutes to fully cook, so they are good option if you’re short on time.
Mung Bean Recipes
Mung beans are easy to add to recipes you’re probably already making, including adding them to soups, stews, salads, veggie burgers and stir-fries. Mung beans can also be made into porridges, confections, curries and even fermented to make alcoholic beverages.
This recipe below for Thai Spring Rolls is different and fun to try. Thai Spring Rolls are loved by all and loaded with vegetables, vitamins and fiber. Try this as an appetizer or larger meal by adding a side salad.
Total Time: 15 minutes
- 16 pieces of rice paper
- 2 cups cucumber
- 2 cups shredded lettuce
- 2 cups shredded carrots
- 2 red bell peppers, seeded and sliced very thin
- 1 cup mung bean sprouts
- 1 cup chopped fresh mint
- 1 cup chopped fresh basil
- 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 small onion chopped
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- Sea salt to taste
- Warm water
- Chop all vegetables and fresh herbs until uniform in size (1/4″ or smaller pieces).
- Mix in bowl with remaining spices and balsamic vinegar.
- Place warm water in a bowl. Soak rice paper in the water until soft.
- Lay rice paper on a flat surface.
- Place approximately 1/4 cup of the mixture on one end of the rice paper.
- Begin Rolling, being careful to fold in sides as you progress.
- Cut in half and serve cold.
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