8 Remarkable Health Benefits of Bean Sprouts that You Probably Didn’t Know

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ean sprouts are a nutritional powerhouse. Unlike beans and legumes that are usually boiled and cooked to make them edible, the sprouts are edible in their raw state. Though a number of people love to cook the sprouted beans, most people prefer consuming raw sprouts. Bean sprouts are a common ingredient in salads and stir-fry dishes. They add crispness to the dishes and enhance their flavor and texture. However, the most important reason for consuming bean sprouts is their amazing health benefits.

Though all types of beans can be sprouted, bean sprouts commonly available in grocery stores are sprouted mung beans. Soybean sprouts, though less popular than mung bean sprouts, are believed to be more nutritious than the sprouted mung beans. The high fiber content and larger size that makes chewing the raw soybean sprouts difficult are among the major reasons why soybean sprouts are not as widely consumed as mung bean sprouts. In East Asia where consumption of sprouted beans is believed to have originated, mung bean sprouts are eaten raw as well as cooked. As sprouts are in the transformative stage of growth, they have the highest concentration of active enzymes that contribute to most of their health benefits. Sprouting is also known to boost the levels of important plant nutrients. Because of their low glycemic index, sprouts are the ideal constituent of a low-calorie nutritious diet. [1] Sprouts of lentils, azuki beans, peas, and alfalfa are other types of bean sprouts that are frequently consumed. [2]


Nutritional Value of Bean Sprouts

Bean sprouts are a good source of vitamin C. Although the dried beans are devoid of vitamin C, once they are sprouted, the greening process stimulates chlorophyll production and increases the vitamin C level. [3] Per 100 g or 3 ½ oz serving of raw bean sprouts contains 13 mg vitamin C. Bean sprouts are very good sources of folate. From a 100 g serving, you will get about 61 mcg of folate. They are a good source of several minerals especially potassium, magnesium, and calcium. Per 100 g serving contains 149 mg potassium, 21 mg magnesium, 13 mg calcium, and 0.9 mg iron. [4]

The starch and sugar reserve of the beans are utilized to produce the green shoots during the sprouting process. Bean sprouts, therefore, contain less carbohydrate than raw beans. Bean sprouts are rich in dietary fiber comprising of soluble pectins and gums that occur naturally in the beans and the insoluble lignin and cellulose found in the leaf parts. One half of a cup of raw mung bean sprouts contains about 1.2 mg dietary fibers. [5]

Bean sprouts are a good source of protein. During the sprouting process, the starches, sugar, and fats stored in the seeds are utilized for building new protein. The concentrations of different amino acids increase significantly when the seeds begin to germinate, and the levels of the different amino acids rise gradually and depending upon the variety, reach the maximum levels between the 5th and the 9th day of sprouting. The total dry weight protein content of bean sprouts is comparable to that of animal protein sources such as egg and meat. However, bean sprouts are deficient in the sulfur-based amino acid methionine and cystine. Deficiency of the sulfur amino acids can be corrected by combining bean sprouts with rice or other cereals or by eating a small amount of poultry, meat, egg or fish with the sprouted beans. Per 100 g serving of mung bean sprouts provides 3.1 g of protein. [6]


Health Benefits of Bean Sprouts

The following are the various health benefits of Bean Sprouts:

1. Supports Healthy Heart Function

Bean sprouts are a good source of soluble fibers. Adding the sprouted beans to the diet helps in increasing its dietary fiber content. A number of studies have found a positive association between a fiber-rich diet and lower cholesterol level and heart diseases associated with elevated cholesterol level. Soluble fibers bind with cholesterol particles in the digestive system that aids the removal of cholesterol from the body before they are absorbed. Studies have found that a fiber-rich diet could reduce the risks of developing diabetes by almost 30%. Diabetes increases the risk of cardiovascular disorders. A high fiber diet is also known to lower the elevated blood pressure level. It gives a feeling of fullness that lasts for a long time which helps reduce hunger and assists in weight loss. [7] The high fiber content in bean sprouts could, therefore, help in lowering the risk factors of cardiovascular diseases.

The beneficial effect of bean sprouts on the cardiovascular function is also attributed to its high vitamin K content. A 100 g serving of mung bean sprouts could meet about 30% of the daily vitamin K requirement of your body. [8] Vitamin K plays an important role in maintaining cardiovascular health. It is known to inhibit calcification of the coronary artery. Calcification of blood vessels leads to hardening of the artery walls and atherosclerosis. [9]

2. Helps to Build Strong Bones

Bean sprouts are replete with vitamins and minerals that help in building strong bones. Studies have shown that vitamin K helps in increasing bone strength. According to a meta-analysis, adequate intake of vitamin K causes a significant reduction in the risks of hip, vertebral and all non-vertebral fractures. [10] Bean sprouts are also a dietary source of calcium, the most important mineral for building bones and maintaining the bone density.

3. Good Source of Protein

Bean sprouts are a good source of protein, especially for vegetarians and vegans. It provides most of the essential amino acids. Per 100 g serving of sprouted mung beans contain 175 mg leucine, 166 mg lysine, 130 mg valine, 37 mg tryptophan, 132 mg isoleucine, 166 mg methionine, 1170 mg threonine, and 34 mg phenylalanine. [11] The amino acids play important role in maintaining various body processes.

4. Supports Healthy Immune Function

As a good source of vitamin C, bean sprouts are beneficial food for the immune system. Vitamin C supports various cellular functions of the innate and adaptive immune system. It plays an important role in maintaining the epithelial barrier function that obstructs pathogens from invading the skin. It promotes antioxidant activity that helps reduce oxidative stress. Accumulation of vitamin C in the phagocytic cells could enhance the ability of the immune cells to kill the disease-causing microorganisms. Vitamin C deficiency weakens the immune system and increases the risk of infections. [12] Iron in bean sprouts also helps in enhancing the immune function. Deficiency of iron increases the risk of infections. [13]

Mung bean sprouts are also known to possess antimicrobial property. The high antimicrobial activity of sprouted mung beans against Helicobacter pylori bacteria has been demonstrated in laboratory studies. H. pylori bacteria are among the common pathogens responsible for gastroduodenal diseases in humans. [14]

5. Easy to Digest

Sprouted beans are easy to digest. Unlike cooked dry beans that are fermented in the large intestine leading to excess production of gas, consumption of bean sprouts does not cause flatulence. Moreover, sprouting reduces the levels of digestion inhibitors, trypsin and natural toxins that are present in raw beans. Therefore, sprouting ensures that your body can easily absorb most of the nutrients present in the sprouts. [15]

6. Helps in Blood Sugar Management

Diabetics may consider adding bean sprouts to their diet. A clinical study conducted in Iran suggests that overweight and obese patients with type-2 diabetes who consumed 60 grams of lentil sprouts daily had lower HbA1c level at the end of the eight weeks study period. Sprouts, when added to the regular diet of diabetes patients, help in reducing insulin resistance. [16]

A study reported in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition claims that short-term sprouting improves anti-amylase activity that helps in reducing hyperglycemia. The plant-based enzymes play an important role in modulating carbohydrate breakdown that assists in diabetes management. [17] Compared to the cooked dry beans, bean sprouts contain less sugar and starch. Germination causes 8.78% reduction in starches and the sugar content declines by 36.1%. However, the sugar level increases at the initial stage of germination but it declines significantly after the first 24 hours. [18] Therefore, they are the ideal low-glycemic index food for diabetics on a low carbohydrate diet.

7. High Antioxidant Level

Bean sprouts are an excellent source of antioxidants. The sprouting process increases the levels of phenolics and flavonoids that are known for their antioxidant activities. Furthermore, the DPPH radical scavenging activity of bean sprouts is higher than that of the seeds. Consuming sprouted beans provides more health benefits associated with antioxidants than the raw beans. [19]

Increased consumption of foods rich in antioxidants helps in reducing risks of chronic diseases associated with oxidative stress such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, vision problems like cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer. The antioxidant molecules counteract free radicals that are generated in the body due to exposure to air pollution, cigarette smoke, sunlight and other environmental sources that induce oxidative stress. The natural antioxidants in foods help in protecting the body from the harmful effects of oxidative stress. [20]

8. Helps Reduce High Blood Pressure

Experimental studies suggest that bean sprouts could help in decreasing the blood pressure level in people with hypertension. Studies on animals had shown that ingesting high doses of sprout extracts causes a significant reduction in the blood pressure level. Scientists, therefore, recommend the intake of concentrated mung bean sprout juice for the management of hypertension. [21]


Possible Side Effects

Contamination with E. coli or salmonella bacteria that can cause food poisoning is a common health risk associated with consumption of raw bean sprouts. Nevertheless, the number of E.coli infections following consumption of sprouts is not statistically significant. Cooking sprouts before consumption can eliminate the possible contamination risk. Since sprouts are rich in beneficial phytochemicals their benefits outweigh the risk of contamination. If you want to consume homegrown sprouts, contamination risk can be eliminated by sterilizing the dry beans by soaking them in hydrogen peroxide or chlorine solution. Soak the seeds for 15 to 30 minutes in a solution containing 20 parts water and one part bleach. [22]


Tips for Buying, Storing and Preparing Bean Sprouts

While shopping for bean sprouts in the grocery store, select sprouts that are fresh and crisp with moist and tender tips. Shorter sprouts tend to be more tender than the bigger sprouts. Discard sprouts that are mushy and soft. Sometimes sprouts are sold in water-filled bowls. You can buy these sprouts but remember to refrigerate them and protect them from dirt. Use spoon or tongs to serve these sprouts to minimize the risk of contamination. Sprouts should be packed in a plastic bag before placing them in the refrigerator. The plastic bag protects the sprouts from moisture and they remain crisp for a longer time. Use the sprouts within a few days. Sprouts that are stored for too long lose most of their vitamin C.

Before consuming or cooking the sprouts, rinse them under running cold water. Thoroughly wash the sprouts and drain well so that there are no dirt and sand particles in the sprouted beans. Look for sprouts that are soft or browned and discard them. Most of the vitamins and flavor are present in the little roots and loose hulls, so do not remove these parts. Do not cut or tear the sprouts until you are ready to serve them. Slicing the sprouts damages the cells and releases enzymes that destroy vitamin C present in the sprouted beans. If you want to serve raw sprouts, chill them for 30 minutes in ice water.

As heat destroys vitamin C, it is advisable to serve the sprouts uncooked. However, if you want to cook the sprouts consider stir-frying them or cook them for 2 to 3 minutes in boiling water. Cover the pan while boiling the sprouts. Raw sprouts could be added to salads or stir-fried with celery, onion, green pepper and other vegetables, legumes, fish, eggs, cheese, and poultry. Before stir-frying, these ingredients should be cut into small pieces. Some people also add bean sprouts to sandwiches and other dishes. [23][24][25]