What are Mung Beans?
Mung (pronounced moong) beans are small legumes with a green coat and yellow flesh. Their scientific name is Vigna radiata and they are also known as green gram or golden gram. Wild ancestors of mung beans grew in what is now India as early as 2500 BC. Since then, mung beans have spread throughout Asia and to Western countries. Let’s take a closer look at some of the nutritional benefits of mung beans, and how you might enjoy this delightful legume as part of a plant-based diet.
Nutritional Benefits of Mung Beans
Mung beans belong to a group of crops called pulses. Members of this group include dry beans, peas, and lentils that are also harvested for their seed. Like most pulses, mung beans are nutrient-dense foods. They consist mostly of carbohydrates (55-65% of dry weight), and protein (20-25% of dry weight). Mung beans are a good source of protein on a plant-based diet. They are also high in fiber and iron, and low in saturated fat. Due to their nutritional profile, mung beans are a helpful addition to a diet aimed at preventing and managing a number of chronic diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
Mung beans are an excellent source of dietary fiber. One cup of cooked mung beans contains 40-70% of an adult’s daily fiber recommendation. The fiber in mung beans helps you feel full and prevents overeating. High fiber content also slows down the digestion of starch. With slower digestion comes a slower rise in blood sugar and insulin levels after a meal.
In the large intestine, the fiber in mung beans is fermented to form short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). One of the effects of SCFAs is to regulate blood sugars. Dietary fiber in mung beans helps to prevent type 2 diabetes and its complications by promoting satiety, slowing down starch digestion, and regulating blood sugars via SCFA production. Research shows people who regularly consume pulses (like mung beans) have a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
Mung beans have also been shown to lower high cholesterol. One study in rodents showed that mung bean extract significantly lowered total cholesterol and normalized HDL/LDL cholesterol ratio. It is believed that mung beans promote lower cholesterol by changing enzyme activity, increasing excretion of cholesterol, and decreasing the absorption of dietary cholesterol. This finding is consistent with human studies that show eating beans regularly is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases, coronary artery diseases, and heart attacks.
Investigations of mung bean extracts on cancer cells in vitro show anticancer properties against cancers of the cervix, liver, digestive system, and breast. Mung beans contain a number of phytochemicals that reduce the mutation and multiplication of cancer cells. The SCFAs produced from mung bean fiber fermentation can also help fight colon cancer. Additionally, human population studies support that higher intakes of beans reduce the risks of colon, breast and prostate cancers and adenocarcinoma.
How to Cook Mung Beans
Boiling is a popular and easy method to cook mung beans. First, pick through the whole, dried beans to check for impurities. Rinse, then soak them with water for several hours or overnight in the fridge. Drain, and transfer to a pot. Cover the beans with 1-2 inches of unsalted water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then simmer for 20-30 minutes until they are soft and tender. Drain immediately and serve. Boiled mung beans can be added to salads, blended into smoothies, and mixed into soups or rice.
If you are working with split mung beans (also called mung dahl), you can skip the soaking and go straight to boiling. Split mung beans have a shorter cooking time and can be seasoned with cumin powder, dried chilies, and salt for a simple yet delicious soup.
To sprout whole, dried mung beans, first pick out any impurities. In a container, soak the beans for 24-hours. Then, drain any remaining water and cover the container with a clean, wet cloth. Keep the container at room temperature. Every 24-hours, add enough water to keep the beans moist. They will be ready in 3-6 days when curly, translucent stems are visible.
To reduce the risk of food-borne illnesses, sprouted mung beans should be cooked before eating. Mung bean sprouts can be used for stir-frys, or blanched and added to salads, wraps, and sandwiches.
Mung beans pack a mighty punch when it comes to nutrition. They are high in iron, fiber, and protein. Regularly eating mung beans and other pulses can help reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancers. Whole or split mung beans are easy to prepare and can be enjoyed in a variety of dishes.
Have you ever tried mung beans before? Would you consider trying it now? Post your comments below!
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