Let’s be real, mung beans get a bad rap mostly due to their name. It doesn’t necessarily implore a vibe of deliciousness. Yet, even with their bad PR mung beans are becoming more popular in the plant-based scene due to their high nutritional content and their unique flavoring. Let’s take a deeper dive into this ingredient!
What are Mung Beans?
First off, the mung bean — also referred to as green gram, moong (Sanskrit), and maash — is part of the legume family — a family of flowering plants — primarily cultivated in “India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, China, Korea, South Asia and Southeast Asia.” While it is widely cultivated, the mung bean originated in Persia, currently referred to as Iran, and dates back to 4,500 years. The mung bean plant is easily distinguished by its yellow flowers and brown “fuzzy” pods sprouting from a vine base.
Mung bean use varies depending on where you are. In South Asia, mung beans are served either whole or are “boiled to make a dry preparation often served with rice gruel.” The Chinese use mung beans to make a dessert called tángshuǐ or “sugar water”, while in the Philippines mung beans are used in a fish or prawn-based stew called balatong. In general, from Southeast Asia to the Middle East, mung beans can be found in their whole and raw state or pulverized into pastes.
In the west, mung bean sprouts have become a very popular form of consuming this healthy legume. In fact, it’s possible that you have eaten mung bean sprouts without even knowing it! When purchasing a pack of ‘sprouts’ from the grocery store, they are generally either mung bean sprouts or soybean sprouts, or a mixture of both. When a seed is allowed to germinate and sprout, it releases more nutrients and uses more of its glucose making sprouts an incredibly healthy plant-based food ingredient.
Health Benefits of Mung Beans
The entire legume family has been associated with a host of health benefits. Not only are legumes nutrient-rich, but they are also incredibly diverse in the kitchen, which makes them a popular ingredient for many plant-based dieters. With that said, mung beans have an especially unique set of health benefits that are unequaled by many other plant-based foods.
Power-Packed with Nutrients
Popularity around mung beans exploded after their nutritional content came to light. These little legumes are incredibly nutritious and are a great staple for any plant-based dieter. One cup of boiled mung beans has 14.2 grams of protein, 15.4 grams of fiber, a broad spectrum of minerals (folate, manganese, magnesium, phosphorous, iron, copper, potassium, and zinc), as well as a dose of essential vitamins such as B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and selenium.
I’ve written extensively about antioxidants in previous articles and for good reason. These substances prevent free radicals from doing damage within the body by neutralizing them. Mung beans happen to be filled with antioxidants such as “phenolic acids, flavonoids, caffeic acid, cinnamic acid” vitexin, and isovitexin. Boosting your antioxidant intake reduces the risk of “chronic inflammation, heart disease, cancers, and other diseases.” Yet, not all mung beans are antioxidant equal. Sprouted mung beans were revealed to have at least six times for antioxidants.
Lower Blood Pressure
Mung beans have been linked to lower blood pressure due to their high content of potassium, magnesium, and fiber. High blood pressure, also referred to in the medical community as hypertension, occurs “when your blood pressure, the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels, is consistently too high.” In a study performed by the Department of Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, found that “dietary fiber, potassium, and magnesium were each significantly associated with lower risk of hypertension”
For moms to be, incorporating mung beans into your diet may be an important step for a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. This is primarily due to the high folate content of mung beans. Folate, as well as its nutritional partner folic acid, aid in a healthy pregnancy as they have been linked to the prevention of “birth defects known as neural tube defects, such as spina bifida,” as well as their integral role as a B group vitamin “needed for healthy growth and development.”
Fresh Korean Bean Sprout Salad/One Green Planet
Now that we’re convinced of their health benefits, how do we incorporate them into our everyday diet? Luckily, mung beans are diverse. They can be consumed as the whole bean, mashed, or even in the sprouted form. With the growing popularity of these legumes, you can easily find them at your local grocery or health food store and are even popping up in local farmer’s markets. Here are a few ways to get you started!
Whole Mung Bean Curry/One Green Planet
This is a great recipe to get you started using mung bean in its whole and unadulterated form. While this Whole Mung Bean Curry recipe requires a long list of ingredients, once you’ve got everything ready to go it’s super easy to make. Plus, it’s packed full of flavorful spices, healthy fats, whole grains, and nutrient-rich roots. If you’re not a fan of the whole mung bean texture, you can also experiment with pulverized mung bean such as this Ayurvedic Spinach-Mung Detox Soup or this Indian Mung Bean Soup.
Mung Bean and Noodle Bowl with Pecan Dipping Sauce/One Green Planet
As mentioned above, mung bean sprouts provide more nutritional value than whole mung beans, especially when it comes to antioxidants. This Mung Bean and Noodle Bowl with Pecan Dipping Sauce is just one great recipe to start you off with mung bean sprouts. It’s filled with fresh herbs and healthy fats, which makes it light yet filling. Try out a few other sprouted mung bean recipes such as this Golden Sprouted Mung Kicheri or this simple Sprouted Mung Salad.
Let’s mix it up! While mung beans have primarily been used in Asian cuisine, it’s great to experiment with other recipes such as this Beet Tacos with Mung Beans with Blackened Tofu, Radish Slaw, and Crispy Corn recipe. Not only do you get a helping of nutrient-rich mung beans, but you also get a flavorful and colorful mix of fresh veggies that are great to serve when you’re entertaining. For more exploration, try out this Spicy Potato and Beans Burger or this Baked Sweet Potato and Mung Bean Croquettes with Peanutty Coconut Sauce.
We also highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 15,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!
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