Despite being one of the easiest types of seeds to overlook, bean sprouts can be incredibly beneficial to overall health and are widely used in cuisines around the world. Since more and more restaurants and areas of the world are featuring bean sprouts in their dishes, it is important to understand their potential health benefits and side effects of these beans.
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What are Bean Sprouts?
Bean sprouts are produced by the seeds of all types of beans but the two primary types in the world come from mung beans and soybeans. Vigna radiata is the scientific name for mung beans, whereas soybeans are classified as Glycine max. These types of beans will sprout and grow and be ready to consume within a week, even offering a more dense source of nutrients than the original bean. Soybean sprouts are slightly larger than mung bean sprouts and have a yellowish tint, while mung bean sprouts may have a green edge to their color. These sprouts are extremely popular in Asian countries, many of which consume large amounts of mung beans and soybeans already. These sprouts are readily added to many different types of meals for an extra nutritional boost and a burst of flavor.
While these sprouts have been a part of Eastern cultural cuisines for thousands of years, as they are native to East Asia, the Indian subcontinent and parts of the Middle East, they have only recently become available and popular in the western world. There has been intense research and occasional debate over the safety of these sprouts and the general consensus is that they are very good for overall health.
Bean Sprouts Nutrition Facts
Bean sprouts contain a high level of protein, at an average of 5 grams per cup of these sprouts, in addition to significant levels of vitamin C, vitamin B6, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, niacin, thiamin, zinc, magnesium, manganese and copper. These tiny sprouts also have an extremely low level of fat, no cholesterol and no saturated fat. The dietary fiber content is excellent in more than 2.5 grams per cup, along with a low level of other complex carbohydrates. Finally, the calorie count of these sprouts is quite low, providing no more than 65 calories per cup.
Health Benefits of Bean Sprouts
The top benefits of bean sprouts include aiding weight loss, boosting the immune system, stimulating the metabolism, maintaining bone density, avoiding birth defects, improving digestion and balancing cholesterol levels, among others.
There is an impressively low number of calories found in bean sprouts, making them a healthy choice for a wide variety of meals, including in sandwiches and salads, without worrying about them compromising your calorie limits. For people trying to lose weight, the dietary fiber content will also help avoid overeating and stimulate feelings of satiety, which will aid in weight loss efforts.
Some research has shown that the antioxidant levels of bean sprouts is actually higher than in the beans themselves, which means that these phenolic compounds can reduce free radical activity all over the body. Antioxidants can also help minimize the appearance of wrinkles and scars, clear up blemishes caused by oxidative stress, and improve skin elasticity to keep you looking younger for longer.
The approximately 2.5 grams of dietary fiber in each cup of bean sprouts represents between 7 and 8.5% of your daily recommended intake for men and women, respectively. This can lead to more efficient digestion, as dietary fiber can help to bulk up stool and promote peristaltic motion. This will also relieve excess flatulence and bloating, as well as symptoms of constipation and diarrhea.
The range of B vitamins found in bean sprouts is particularly good news for those who want to optimize or improve their metabolism. B vitamins are involved in hundreds of different processes in the body that regulate Circadian rhythms, hormones, enzymes and energy metabolism, so ensuring you aren’t deficient in riboflavin, pantothenic acid, folate, niacin and thiamin is a very good idea!
With a significant amount of iron (nearly 30% of a man’s daily recommendation), bean sprouts provide an ideal way to support circulatory health and ensure that your body is receiving the resources and oxygen it needs for normal function and repair. Furthermore, proper iron intake will help avoid the signs of anemia, such as lightheadedness, muscle weakness and fatigue.
Regulate Bone Density
Vitamin K is often overlooked in our health, but it plays a critical role in regulating bone mineral density in the body, ensuring that minerals stay at their proper levels in the blood, which can protect heart health and other metabolic functions. The additional minerals, such as manganese and zinc, also help to prevent osteoporosis and build strong bones.
Prevent Birth Defects
The ample amount of folic acid found in bean sprouts will help expectant mothers avoid neural tube defects. The connection between this vitamin and this tragic condition is well researched, and folate supplements are often given to pregnant women. However, it is essential that you speak with your doctor before adding powerful new foods like bean sprouts to your pregnancy diet.
Increase WBC Count
These unassuming bean sprouts contain a solid amount of vitamin C and the concentration actually increases after the bean germinates. This can help stimulate the production of white blood cells by your immune system, in addition to the antioxidant effects of vitamin C, which will help to reduce oxidative stress and free radical activity throughout the body.
Balance Cholesterol Levels
With no cholesterol content but a moderate amount of dietary fiber, regular consumption of properly prepared bean sprouts can help balance your cholesterol levels. Fiber scrapes excess cholesterol and reduces plaque in the arteries and blood vessels, lowering your risk of cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks and strokes.
Speed up Healing
Vitamin K and vitamin C both play a key role in healing; vitamin K is a critical component in blood clotting, which will help wounds begin to heal and lower your risk of exposure or infection. Vitamin C, on the other hand, is required to produce collagen, the basic compound that makes up our tissues, cells, muscles and blood vessels. Bean sprouts happen to have these two vitamins in high supply.
How to Prepare Bean Sprouts
Bean sprouts are quite simple to grow in your own home, and are even easier to prepare. To grow your own bean sprouts, simply follow the instructions below and your refrigerator will be one step closer to perfection!
Step 1 – Gather your mung beans or soybeans and place them in a glass jar (the jar should have a drainable cap).
Step 2 – Fill the jar with cold water and allow the beans to soak for 12 hours.
Step 3 – Drain the water from the jar, then refill, allow to soak briefly and then drain again.
Step 4 – Set the jar away from direct sunlight.
Step 5 – For the next week, fill and drain the jar with water twice per day, ensuring the beans are moist and clean, but not drowning in water.
Step 6 – After a week, or once the sprouts are at their desired length, give them a final rinse and drain.
Step 7 – Allow the jar to air out and the water to evaporate for 8-10 hours.
Step 8 – Store the beans in the refrigerator and consume within 1 week.
Word of Warning
There is quite a bit of debate regarding the safety of bean sprouts, as there are some common side effects, including gastrointestinal distress and a compromised immune system. While this debate still rages on, most people agree that with proper preparation and storage, bean sprouts can be extremely beneficial to overall health.
- Stomach Issues – When bean sprouts are eaten raw, they can often cause stomach distress, partially because the risk of certain bacteria forming in the damp environment of bean sprouts is quite high. E. coli and Salmonella are commonly associated with bean sprouts that are improperly stored or prepared, which can lead to nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
- Immune System – As mentioned, pathogens and other unwanted substances are commonly found in bean sprouts, which can lead to more serious bacterial, viral or fungal infections. If your immune system is compromised in any way, you should avoid eating bean sprouts, as it could leave you vulnerable to more serious infections.