Bean Sprouts

Just like their name states, bean sprouts are young shoots germinated from beans. Almost every variety of beans can produce edible sprouts but the most common commercial types are germinated from soybeans and mung beans. The mung bean sprouts are considered to be the healthiest, because they are low in fats but packed with fibers, so they fill the stomach quickly.

Bean sprouts are very popular in the cuisines of East Asia, where they are commonly included in many recipes. They have recently become available all over the world. They provide many health benefits, such as strengthening the immune system and improving eye and bone condition.

Health benefits

Bean sprouts are very rich in folate, which explains why they are beneficial for eye health. According to the results of a clinical trial published in the prestigious Archives of Internal Medicine, a proper diet can greatly reduce the risk of AMD, or the macular eye degeneration triggered by age. The key nutrients needed are vitamins B6 and B12, as well as folic acid, all of them found in bean sprouts.

People over the age of 50 often suffer from AMD, which is the most important cause of vision issues in that age group. The macula is a small area found in the center of the retina that allows us to focus on objects in front of us. AMD damages this spot, which makes eyesight become blurry and unfocused. According to clinical test results, the risk of developing this condition can be reduced with a diet rich in folic acid, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12.

Vitamin C is famous for the boost it provides to the immune system, but few people know that iron has a similar effect. Raw mung bean sprouts are packed with this essential mineral and supply a large part of the daily amount. Iron has been found to play a major role in eliminating pathogens that have already been weakened by other defence mechanisms. This preserves the health of cells and protects them from infection.

The American Society for Nutrition has published a report that proposes a link between a lack of vitamin K and the onset of heart diseases. The main function of this vitamin is in the process of blood clotting, which prevents a dangerous accumulation of calcium in the blood vessels. This effect might explain the reduced number of heart diseases.

According to the conclusion of the study, cardiovascular disease produces coronary artery calcification (CAC) as a side effect. This dangerous symptom can be delayed with the help of vitamin K. During a clinical trial, the calcification of arteries was reduced by 6% when vitamin K supplements were used.

Osteoporosis is a real threat for people over the age of 50 and causes bone fractures in about half of all women and a quarter of all men after that age. Bean sprouts are rich in manganese, an essential mineral that increases bone strength and can prevent this condition. The risk of osteoporosis can be reduced by higher bone density, achieved with a combination of manganese with other nutrients like magnesium, zinc, copper, boron, calcium and vitamin D.

Bean sprouts have a very low content of calories, regardless of their type. Mung bean sprouts provide the lowest amount, of 31 calories per cup, while the 85 calories per cup in soybean sprouts is the highest. Soybean sprouts are also much richer in proteins, with three times the quantity found in mung bean sprouts. One cup provides around 9 grams of pure proteins. Both are low in carbohydrates and fibers, while mung bean sprouts contain no fats at all. One cup of soybean sprouts only includes 5 grams of fats.

Unlike other plants, the beans themselves are quite poor in vitamin C. However, seeds produce a good amount of the vitamin when they germinate, so bean sprouts are a very good source. All bean sprouts are rich in this vitamin, with 13.7 milligrams found in mung bean sprouts and 10.7 milligrams in soybean sprouts. Vitamin C is one of the most important antioxidants and the body constantly needs it in order to counter the action of free radicals. The daily recommended amount is 90 milligrams for men and 75 milligrams for women.

Both mung bean and soybean sprouts provide a mix of all B complex vitamins, with folate being the most abundant of this group. You can get 16 percent of the required daily dose of folate from one cup of mung beans. Soybean sprouts are even richer, with one cup supplying twice that amount. Folate plays many roles inside the human body and prevents birth defects and the onset of anemia. It is needed for the synthesis of amino acids, red blood cells and DNA, among other essential compounds.

Bean sprouts are excellent in weight loss diets, due to the very low content of calories. You don't have to worry about weigh when you consume them and the sprouts can be added to a variety of dishes, especially salads and sandwiches. The fibers provided by the sprouts also help in weight loss, since they make you feel full and prevent the need for additional snacks between the main meals.

According to test results, bean sprouts are a lot richer in antioxidants than the actual beans. The sprouts have a much higher concentration of phenolic compounds, which are able to scavenge and eliminate free radicals from the entire body. Antioxidants can make your skin appear younger by preserving its elasticity, reducing the number of scars and wrinkles and neutralizing the oxidative stress that causes skin blemishes.

A cup of bean sprouts provides 2.5 grams of raw dietary fibers, or 7% of the daily recommended amount for men and 8.5% of the one for women. Fibers are critical for a balanced digestion, since they increase the mass of the stool and promote regular bowel movements. They can treat all digestive conditions, from minor ones like bloating and flatulence to more severe forms of diarrhea or constipation.

Bean sprouts provide a metabolism boost because they supply a good variety of vitamins from the B complex. These essential nutrients are needed for many body functions. They optimize the production of hormones and enzymes, balance heart rhythm and make energy management more effective. The most important vitamins from this group are considered to be folate, niacin, thiamine, riboflavin and pantothenic acid.

A portion of bean sprouts supplies about one third of the daily recommended supply of iron for an adult man. With a proper intake of iron, your blood will be able to carry oxygen and nutrients to all cells. This mineral also promotes tissue repair and circulatory health. Without enough iron, you can suffer from anemia, a condition that leads to extreme fatigue, dizziness and muscular weakness.

Despite its critical role in the control of mineral density in the bones, vitamin K is often neglected in nutrition. It balances the level of minerals in the blood stream, protecting from disturbances that often lead to severe metabolic issues or heart diseases. Bean sprouts also provide trace minerals like zinc or manganese, which are required for a strong bone structure and prevention of osteoporosis.

Bean sprouts are packed with vitamin C, produced during the actual germination process even if the seeds don't include a high amount. Vitamin C is known for making the immune system more reactive, through the production of more killer white cells. It is also a very effective antioxidant that reduces the amount of free radicals in the entire body, limiting the damage they cause.

When cooked properly, bean sprouts are a great choice for reducing cholesterol, since they are very low in this toxic type of fat but provide a decent amount of dietary fibers that can eliminate it. As fibers travel through arteries, they can scrape cholesterol off its walls, reducing the accumulation of plaque. This greatly reduces the risk of strokes, heart attacks and other cardiovascular diseases.

The natural process of healing can be accelerated with the help of vitamins C and K. Vitamin C is needed for the synthesis of collagen, a compound used to build all cells and tissues of the body, including blood vessels or muscles. Vitamin K makes blood clot faster, reducing the risk of infection from open wounds that will have a faster healing rate. Both these key vitamins are found in abundance in bean sprouts.

Side effects and cautions

Bean sprouts have several known side effects, such as digestive issues and reduced immunity. Some nutritionists question their edibility and consider them to be unsafe. There is no agreement yet between scientists on this issue. However, most people consider that bean sprouts can be very healthy, if harvested and prepared properly.

Consuming raw bean sprouts can often cause a stomach upset. The risk doesn't come from the plants themselves, but is rather caused by their wet environment that favours the multiplication of bacteria. When the sprouts are not stored or cooked right, they might contain dangerous E. coli and Salmonella. Ingesting them infected with these bacteria leads to symptoms like diarrhea, nausea or vomiting.

While bean sprouts boost the human immune system, they can be contaminated by pathogens that harm it, triggering serious infections due to viruses, bacteria or fungi. As a general precaution, don't consume bean sprouts if your immune system is weakened for any reason, since you can be vulnerable to infection.