Sprouting Beans

Bean sprouts have been used for centuries for their nutritional and medical benefits. Chinese physicians prescribed sprouts over 5,000 years ago. Bean sprouts have continued to be a staple in Asian cuisine. Although accounts of sprouting appear in the Bible in the Book of Daniel, it took centuries for Europeans and Americans to fully appreciate bean sprouts. In the 1700’s, sailors suffered from scurvy (lack of vitamin C) during their voyages. In the 1770s, Captain James Cook had his sailors eat limes, lemons, and sprouts; all abundant sources of vitamin C. Along with other fresh fruits and vegetables, a continuous program of growing and eating sprouts was credited with preventing scurvy in sailors. During World War II, Dr. Clive McKay of Cornell University sparked American interest in sprouts. Dr. McKay had spent years researching sprouted soybeans. He wrote an article that touted soybean sprouts as “A vegetable that will grow in any climate, will rival meat in nutritive value, will mature in 3 to 5 days, may be planted any day of the year, will require neither soil nor sunshine, will rival tomatoes in vitamin C, will be free of waste in preparation and can be cooked with little fuel….”

You can sprout a variety of beans, including kidney beans, Great Northern beans, soy beans, mung beans, lentils, and adzuki beans. During germination, the nutritive ingredients found in beans and seeds become profoundly modified: starch is converted into glucose and fructose, bean proteins are predigested by specific seed enzymes and transformed into amino acids and more digestible protein nutrients, the water content increases, as well as the vitamin and mineral content. Unlike most vegetables, whose nutritional value progressively decreases after they have been harvested, bean sprouts retain their nutritional properties until consumed.

Bean sprouts are low in fat and carbohydrates. Per 100 grams, the caloric value of bean sprouts ranges from mung sprouts with only 30 calories to lentil sprouts with 106 and soybean sprouts with 122. Bean sprouts are a rich source of amino acids. Their protein values range from three grams (mung sprouts) to 13 grams (soybean sprouts). This makes them a good source of protein, because three grams represents 6 percent and 13 grams equals 26 percent of the recommended daily value (DV).

Bean sprouts are a great source of vitamin C, providing 22 percent to 28 percent of the daily value. They’re also good sources of many B vitamins. They’re especially high in folate, with mung beans providing 15 percent, lentils 25 percent, and soybeans 43 percent of the daily value. Lentil and soybean sprouts are a good source of thiamine (15 and 23 percent of DV, respectively), with mung sprouts containing 6 percent of DV. They provide 4 percent to 9 percent of the daily value of riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid and vitamin B6. Bean sprouts also contain vitamin D. Mung sprouts provide several other important nutrients, including 41 percent of the daily value of vitamin K. They have six micrograms each of alpha and beta carotene and one percent of the daily value of vitamin E.

Lentil and soybean sprouts provide higher amounts of most minerals: iron (18 and 12 percent DV) , magnesium (9 and 18 percent DV), phosphorus (17 and 16 percent DV), potassium, (9 and 14 percent DV), zinc (10 and 8 percent DV) and copper (18 and 21 percent DV). Both are also a great source of manganese, with lentil sprouts having 25 percent and soybean sprouts providing 35 percent DV. All three contain small amounts of calcium. Mung sprouts provide all the same minerals in a range of 3 to 9 percent DV.

Soybeans produce the only sprouts that have enough dietary fiber to be significant, providing 4 percent of DV. Bean sprouts can help reduce the blood levels of LDL-cholesterol due to their fiber and lecithin. This effect is beneficial to the heart and vessels, since it helps prevent the development of atherosclerosis, the most common cause of cardiovascular disease.

Bean sprouts are rich sources of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Mung sprouts provide 16 mg, lentil sprouts 38 mg and soybean sprouts 445 mg of omega-3 fatty acids. While mung sprouts have 42 mg and lentils have 181 mg of omega-6 fatty acids, soybean sprouts provide a huge 3,338 mg.

Bean sprouts contain saponins, which are phytochemicals that lower blood cholesterol, decrease risk of cardiovascular disease, prevent cancer cells from growing and mutating, neutralize free radicals to prevent disease, stimulate your immune system by increasing the production of antibodies, fight bacterial and fungal infections, reduce inflammation, lower blood glucose responses, prevent cavities, protect against bone loss, and increase the effectiveness of certain vaccines.

Mung bean sprouts contain 15 mg per 100 grams of phytoestrogens called isoflavones, that can help relieve many symptoms associated with menopause (such as hot flashes, heart palpitations, and osteoporosis) that result from decreased estrogen levels. Phytoestrogens found in bean sprouts act on certain estrogen-receptors found in the skin, stimulating the synthesis of hyaluronic acid, collagen, and elastin, which are vital components of the skin’s structure, and improves elasticity and reduces moisture loss. Bean sprouts contain high amounts of proteins, vitamins, and zinc in a readily available form, which promote healthy hair and nails. Bean sprouts are an excellent source of lecithin which, besides lowering blood cholesterol levels, helps prevent fatty liver disease. Bean sprouts are a source of readily available energy and other nutrients which are helpful in relieving stress and fatigue.

Rinse sprouts thoroughly with water before eating them. Most sprouts can be eaten raw; if cooking them, sauté very lightly or just a quick blanch or light steam. Do not overcook. Whether raw or cooked, bean sprouts can be used in a variety of dishes, including appetizers, salads, stir fries, side dishes and snacks. They can be juiced, and are usually added to other vegetable juices. To get used to their flavor, it is better to start with a handful of sprouts added to other green juices and then increase the amount depending on your taste.

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9 thoughts on “Sprouting Beans

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