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. In fact, they are considered “one of the most cherished foods” in this ancient Indian practice that’s been a traditional form of medicine since roughly 1,500 B.C.
Among plant-based sources of protein and nutrients, mung beans are one of the foods gathering the most attention. What are the benefits of eating mung beans?
As you’ll come to learn, they 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 an article published in 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.”
What Are Mung Beans?
Mung beans, which have the scientific species name Vigna radiate, are a type of small, green legume. What we know as “bean sprouts” in many Asian dishes are most often mung bean sprouts. They are a high source of protein, fiber, antioxidants and phytonutrients.
Are lentils and mung beans the same thing? The two are related and in the same plant family, called Fabaceae or Leguminosae (aka the pea family), which also includes other legumes like adzuki beans, alfalfa sprouts and green peas.
Mung beans appear in cuisines around the world, mostly in India, China, the Philippines and Korea. Although in some countries, including the U.S, they’re less popular than other bean varieties — like chickpeas or black beans — mung beans have some huge health benefits to offer. These days, they are beginning to pop up in protein powders, canned soups and restaurant dishes stateside. Here’s what you need to know about the benefits of mung beans:
- These 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 fiber, protein and resistant starch.
- 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, they 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 recommend an increased intake of plant-derived foods to improve health status and prevent chronic diseases.
One cup (about 202 grams) of cooked mung beans contains approximately:
- 212 calories
- 38.7 grams carbohydrates
- 14.2 grams protein
- 0.8 gram fat
- 15.4 grams fiber
- 321 micrograms folate (80 percent DV)
- 0.6 milligram manganese (30 percent DV)
- 97 milligrams magnesium (24 percent DV)
- 0.33 milligram vitamin B1 thiamine (22 percent DV)
- 200 milligrams phosphorus (20 percent DV)
- 2.8 milligrams iron (16 percent DV)
- 0.3 milligram copper (16 percent DV)
- 537 milligrams potassium (15 percent DV)
- 1.7 milligrams zinc (11 percent DV)
- 0.8 milligram pantothenic acid (8 percent DV)
- 5.5 micrograms vitamin K (7 percent DV)
- 0.1 milligram riboflavin (7 percent DV)
- 0.1 milligram vitamin B6 (7 percent DV)
- 5.1 micrograms selenium (7 percent DV)
- 1.2 milligrams niacin (6 percent DV)
- 54.5 milligrams calcium (5 percent DV)
In addition, these beans also contain some vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E and choline. If you choose to sprout mung beans and eat them raw, each cup only has about 31 calories and provides about three grams of protein and two grams of fiber.
1. Help Lower High Cholesterol Levels and Protect Against Heart Disease
According to a 2017 study published by Biomed Research International, “Legume consumption is suggested to have protective effects against cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality in the general population.”
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 — making it a top cholesterol-lowering food. It found that 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.
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. Help Lower High Blood Pressure
Mung beans nutrition includes 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 decrease constricting of blood vessels that raises blood pressure.
3. Contain Antioxidants That Fight Cancer Development
Findings from a 2018 study published in Clinical Nutrition suggest that legume consumption reduced the risk of all-cause, cardiovascular and cancer-related deaths. 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 flavonoids lower oxidative stress that can contribute to cancer formation.
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.
5. Provide a High Source of Protein
Mung bean nutrition includes a very impressive amount of protein for a plant, with about 20 percent to 24 percent of their chemical structure made up of 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 the beans.
When legumes are substituted for unhealthy sources of protein, studies show they can help to lower risk for many chronic diseases. Mung bean 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.” The highly absorbable protein content makes the mung beans a smart choice for vegans or vegetarians, especially considering how many other nutrients they add to someone’s diet.
6. Boost Immunity and Protect Against Infections and Viruses
Mung bean nutrition contains a range of phytonutrients that are considered antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory. In fact, compounds isolated from mung beans are even used to preserve certain foods and reduce spoilage. Their antibacterial properties can help 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
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 helps people reach their magnesium needs. Many adults are actually deficient in magnesium, which is unfortunate because most people really need a substantial amount in their diets in order to control stress levels and manage pain. Magnesium is important for digestive health, proper heartbeat functioning, neurotransmitter release and repairing muscle tissue in people who are very active.
8. Fight Obesity and Help 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 twofold greater increase in the satiety hormone called cholecystokinin when compared to meals that didn’t contain beans.
Many other studies have found similar results — namely that satiety significantly increases after eating high-fiber foods like beans. Therefore, regularly eating legumes may help with reducing food intake and boosting weight loss.
9. Help Decrease PMS Symptoms
Mung bean nutrition provides B vitamins, including vitamin B6 and folate, which are both important for controlling hormone fluctuations that can lead to severe PMS symptoms. B vitamins, folate and magnesium are useful for lowering the severity and pain associated with PMS symptoms, including cramps, headaches, mood swings, fatigue and muscle aches.
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. They 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.
Uses in Traditional Medicine
Mung beans were first domesticated in India, where they grew as wild plants. Archaeological evidence shows that they 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 ninth or 10th century, they 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 million to 20 million pounds of mung beans consumed in the U.S. every year are imported, grown in India and China.
Historians also tell us that mung bean soup has been traditionally taken as a kind of health food in China for many centuries. The beans are valued for their ability to reduce coldness and dampness, support the spleen and stomach, provide protein, and prevent nutrient deficiencies. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, it’s recommended that mung beans be cooked to improve digestion and prevent diarrhea.
Mung Beans vs. Chickpeas
Mung beans and chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans) are both legumes. As such, they have similar nutritional content and benefits. Compared to mung beans, chickpeas are slightly higher in calories, sugar, protein and carbs.
Both legumes have similar amounts of fiber and are good sources of folate, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and manganese. Chickpeas are a slightly better source of certain nutrients like manganese and iron, while mung beans have a bit more folate, but the two are very comparable. These legumes do differ in their appearance and taste. Chickpeas are beige, creamy and said to be nuttier in terms of flavor, while mung beans are described as both sweet and crisp. It’s also more common to eat mung bean sprouts, while chickpeas are less likely to be sprouted as opposed to cooked.
Where to Find and How to Use
In terms of where to buy mung beans, check local health food stores or ethnic markets that sell ingredients for Indian and Asian cooking. When buying mung beans, check for discolored or damaged beans and discard them before cooking them or making mung bean sprouts, since these can contain harmful bacteria.
How can you use mung beans at home? 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 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 that 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 percent to 60 percent) than soybeans do, so they work well as flour and noodle products. The starch is the predominant carbohydrate in the legume and is why these beans are typically used for the production of starchy noodles, such as the kind called muk in Korea.
How to Grow and Sprout
Tips for growing mung beans:
Mung beans grow in pods that are “fuzzy” and about five inches long, containing 10–15 seeds. They can appear yellow, brown, black or green. They are considered a warm season crop and take between 90–120 days to mature. You can grow mung beans either outside or indoors.
- Grow mung beans in sandy soil that has lots of drainage. If planting outside, remove all weeds and rocks from the soil.
- Plant the seeds when the soil has warmed to 65 degrees F. (18 C). Make sure to leave seeds two inches apart, and try to plant them about one inch deep into the soil.
- You should see beans begin to form when the plant is 15–18 inches tall. This takes roughly 100 days, at which point you can pill up the whole plant and hang it to dry out.
- Dry the seeds completely on paper and then store them away from moisture, such as in a tight-fitting glass canister. Another option is to freeze the dried seeds.
How to sprout mung beans:
How do you prepare mung beans? Do mung beans need to be soaked before cooking?
You can buy mung beans uncooked and choose to sprout them or soak and cook them. 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. Sprouting helps biosynthetic enzymes become activated during the stages of germination. This means mung bean nutrition becomes more absorbable by the human body. In sprouted form, try adding the sprouts to salads or sandwiches.
To make mung bean sprouts:
- Place dried mung beans in a large bowl and cover the seeds with room temperature water (about 3 cups of water for each cup of beans).
- Place a lid of plastic wrap over the bowl. Leave the beans to soak overnight at room temp.
- Pour out the water and transfer the beans to a large glass jar that’s covered with a towel or cheesecloth and secured with a rubber band. Let the jar sit in a cool, dark place for 3–5 days until sprouts start to form that are about a half-inch long.
- Rinse and drain the sprouts daily while you wait a couple more days for them to fully mature. Then store them in the refrigerator and use within several days.
How to Cook (Plus Recipes)
Soaked and cooked mung beans 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.
How to cook 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 beans are easy to add to recipes you probably already make, including adding them to soups, stews, salads, veggie burgers and stir-fries. They 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. Other ways to use mung beans include adding some cooked/sprouted to: Thai Coconut Chicken Soup, Bean and Quinoa Salad, or Easy Blended Pea Soup.
Risks and Side Effects
Like other beans/legumes, mung beans can potentially cause digestive issues due to their high fiber content. Start by introducing small amounts of legumes to your diet, and make sure to drink lots of water with fibrous foods. It’s best to start by having cooked mung beans in order to ease digestion. Avoid eating them if you experience mung bean side effects like diarrhea, bloating, dizziness or nausea. If you have a known allergy to other legumes, be careful about introducing mung beans.
- Mung beans (Vigna radiate) are a type of small, green legume in the Fabaceae or Leguminosae plant family (aka the pea family. What we know as “bean sprouts” in many Asian dishes are most often mung bean sprouts.
- They are a good source of protein, fiber, antioxidants and phytonutrients. They also supply folate, manganese, phosphorus, magnesium and other nutrients.
- Mung bean benefits include lowering cholesterol and high blood pressure, supplying antioxidants that may help fight cancer, helping prevent type 2 diabetes, fighting infections/viruses, easing constipation, reducing PMS symptoms, and helping with weight loss.
- Try mung bean recipes including adding cooked or sprouted mung beans to stir-fries, spring rolls, hummus, salads and more.