Sprouting is a natural way to kickstart the growth of seeds, grains, veggies, and legumes.
Bean sprouts are especially popular, often appearing in salads and Asian dishes like stir-fries. There are many types to choose from.
You can either buy a variety of bean sprouts at the store or grow your own at home.
Studies indicate that sprouting can seriously boost the nutrient content of these foods. It makes certain nutrients, like proteins, easier to digest and better for you.
Sprouts are often called little nutrient bombs because they pack a lot of health benefits.
Now, let’s dive into 7 types of healthy bean sprouts and what makes them good for you.
1. Kidney bean sprouts
The kidney bean is a type of common bean named for its shape, which resembles a kidney.
Its sprouts are a protein-rich, low-calorie, and low-carb option. One cup (about 184 grams) offers:
- Calories: 53
- Carbs: 8 grams
- Protein: 8 grams
- Fat: 1 gram
- Vitamin C: 79% of your daily need
- Folate: 27% of your daily need
- Iron: 8% of your daily need
These sprouts are also a good source of melatonin, the chemical your body makes to manage your sleep. Melatonin also acts as an antioxidant, helping to fend off damaging free radicals in your body.
As we age, our natural melatonin production decreases, and some scientists think this could be tied to health problems later in life.
Multiple studies suggest that having more melatonin in your system could lower your risk of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart issues.
One long-term study involving 370 women found that lower melatonin levels were linked to a notably higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
In another study, rats that were given an extract from kidney bean sprouts saw a 16% rise in their blood melatonin levels. More research is needed in humans to fully understand these effects.
It’s best to eat kidney bean sprouts cooked; you can boil, sauté, or stir-fry them. They make a tasty addition to various dishes, from stews to noodles.
Summary: Kidney bean sprouts are rich in protein and antioxidants like vitamin C and melatonin. Increased melatonin levels have been linked to a lower risk of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart problems.
2. Lentil sprouts
Lentils are versatile legumes that come in various colors, and sprouting them can ramp up their nutrient content.
A cup (77 grams) of lentil sprouts provides:
- Calories: 82
- Carbs: 17 grams
- Protein: 7 grams
- Fat: 0.5 grams
- Vitamin C: 14% of your daily need
- Folate: 19% of your daily need
- Iron: 14% of your daily need
Sprouting lentils shoots up their phenolic content by an impressive 122%. Phenolics are antioxidant plant compounds with potential anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and anti-allergenic benefits.
Thanks to their boosted antioxidant levels, lentil sprouts may help lower bad LDL cholesterol, which when high can increase your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.
An 8-week study involving 39 people with type 2 diabetes found that consuming 3/4 cup (60 grams) of lentil sprouts daily improved triglyceride and LDL cholesterol levels, and even increased good HDL cholesterol compared to a control group. However, more studies are needed to confirm these results.
Lentil sprouts are versatile; you can eat them either cooked or raw. Toss them in salads, layer them in sandwiches, or include them in soups or steamed vegetable dishes.
Summary: Lentil sprouts are rich in antioxidants and can help lower bad cholesterol levels. This makes them a beneficial option for reducing the risk of heart issues.
3. Pea sprouts
Pea sprouts, which can be obtained from both green and yellow peas, are known for their slightly sweet flavor profile. Their nutritional content is quite impressive, with a cup (120 grams) offering:
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- Calories: 149
- Carbs: 33 grams
- Protein: 11 grams
- Fat: 1 gram
- Vitamin C: 14% of your daily need
- Folate: 43% of your daily need
- Iron: 15% of your daily need
Interestingly, pea sprouts have nearly double the amount of folate as raw peas. Folate is crucial for preventing birth abnormalities, specifically heart and neural tube defects. A deficiency in folate can result in neural tube defects, where the bones surrounding the spinal cord or brain fail to develop adequately, potentially leaving the spinal cord or brain exposed at birth.
Research indicates that taking folic acid supplements can significantly lower the incidence of neural tube defects in women who are capable of becoming pregnant. Health experts also recommend incorporating foods rich in folate, such as sprouted peas, into your diet.
Because they are softer and more tender compared to other sprouts, pea sprouts can be quite versatile in the kitchen. They make a great addition to salads mixed with other leafy greens but can also be enjoyed in a stir-fry.
Summary: Pea sprouts are an excellent source of folate, a nutrient vital for preventing birth defects like heart and neural tube abnormalities. Their tenderness and sweet flavor make them a versatile addition to both salads and stir-fry dishes.
4. Chickpea sprouts
Chickpea sprouts are relatively quick to produce, taking only about 2 days to sprout. These sprouts are nutritionally rich and especially high in protein compared to other types of sprouts. A one-cup serving (140 grams) provides:
- Calories: 480
- Carbs: 84 grams
- Protein: 36 grams
- Fat: 8 grams
- Vitamin C: 5% of your daily need
- Iron: 40% of your daily need
Sprouting chickpeas has been shown to substantially increase their isoflavone content by over 100-fold. Isoflavones are phytoestrogens—plant-based compounds that act similarly to the hormone estrogen in the body.
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For women undergoing menopause, where natural estrogen levels decline, consuming foods rich in phytoestrogens like isoflavones may help alleviate symptoms such as osteoporosis and high blood cholesterol levels. In a 35-day study involving rats, daily administration of chickpea sprout extract was found to significantly reduce bone loss.
Moreover, another study involving rats found that a daily intake of fresh chickpea sprouts led to a decrease in total cholesterol and triglyceride levels while increasing HDL (good) cholesterol. This suggests that chickpea sprouts could be beneficial for heart health.
It’s important to note, however, that these studies were conducted on animals, and further research in humans is needed to confirm these potential benefits.
Sprouted chickpeas can be consumed raw, offering a quick and nutritious snack option. They can also be blended to make a raw version of hummus. If you prefer them cooked, they make a great addition to soups or can be used as a base for veggie burgers.
Summary: Chickpea sprouts stand out for their high protein and isoflavone content. Isoflavones are a type of phytoestrogen that may offer relief from menopausal symptoms. While animal studies suggest potential benefits for bone and heart health, more research in humans is needed.
5. Mung bean sprouts
Mung bean sprouts are commonly used in a variety of dishes and are particularly prevalent in Asian cuisine. Originating from mung beans, these sprouts are low in calories but offer a decent amount of nutrients. A one-cup serving (104 grams) provides:
- Calories: 31
- Carbs: 6 grams
- Protein: 3 grams
- Vitamin C: 15% of your daily need
- Folate: 16% of your daily need
- Iron: 5% of your daily need
The process of sprouting mung beans has been found to substantially boost their flavonoid and vitamin C content—by up to 7 and 24 times, respectively. This increase significantly enhances their antioxidant properties, which are essential for fighting free radicals in the body.
Moreover, there’s some preliminary research suggesting that mung bean sprouts may have anticancer benefits. Test-tube studies involving human cells treated with mung bean sprout extracts have shown toxic effects on cancer cells without causing harm to healthy cells.
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However, it’s important to emphasize that these studies are in their early stages and have been conducted in a controlled laboratory setting, not in humans. Further research is needed to substantiate these claims and to understand the mechanism better.
In terms of culinary uses, mung bean sprouts are versatile. They are a staple in various Asian dishes, including fried rice, spring rolls, and stir-fries, among others.
Summary: Mung bean sprouts are low in calories but rich in nutrients like vitamin C and folate. The sprouting process significantly boosts their antioxidant properties, which may contribute to potential anticancer benefits. However, more research is needed to confirm these health effects.
6. Soybean sprouts
Soybean sprouts are derived from sprouting soybeans and are especially popular in Korean cuisine. These sprouts offer a good nutritional profile in a one-cup serving (70 grams):
- Calories: 85
- Carbs: 7 grams
- Protein: 9 grams
- Fat: 5 grams
- Vitamin C: 12% of your daily need
- Folate: 30% of your daily need
- Iron: 8% of your daily need
One of the unique benefits of sprouting soybeans is that it reduces their phytic acid content. Phytic acid is known as an antinutrient because it binds to essential minerals, such as iron, and inhibits their absorption by the body. Sprouted soy products like soy milk and tofu can contain up to 59% and 56% less phytic acid, respectively, compared to their non-sprouted counterparts.
This reduction in phytic acid may make the non-heme iron in soybean sprouts more bioavailable. Non-heme iron is the type of iron found in plant-based foods, and its absorption is generally less efficient compared to heme iron found in animal products. Adequate iron levels are crucial for the production of hemoglobin, which is essential for transporting oxygen throughout the body. Low iron levels can lead to iron-deficiency anemia.
In terms of research, a 6-month study involving 288 girls with iron deficiency anemia found that consuming 3 ounces (100 ml) of sprouted soy milk daily significantly improved their ferritin levels. Ferritin is a protein responsible for storing iron in the body. Another study in rats similarly found that a soybean sprout supplement was effective in increasing hemoglobin levels.
Although these studies are promising, it’s essential to note that more research is needed to fully understand the potential of sprouted soybeans in treating iron deficiency anemia.
Culinary-wise, soybean sprouts have a crunchy texture and a nutty flavor. They are usually consumed cooked and can be used in various dishes, including casseroles and stews.
Summary: Soybean sprouts are nutritionally rich and may offer the benefit of improved iron bioavailability due to reduced phytic acid content. Preliminary studies suggest they may help in treating iron deficiency anemia, although more research is needed. They are commonly used in cooked dishes and offer a crunchy, nutty flavor.
7. Adzuki bean sprouts
Adzuki bean sprouts are derived from adzuki beans, small red legumes primarily cultivated in East Asia. These sprouts are nutritionally rich, and a one-cup serving (133 grams) offers:
- Calories: 466
- Carbs: 84 grams
- Protein: 31 grams
- Fat: 1 gram
- Vitamin C: 17% of your daily need
- Iron: 40% of your daily need
Like many other sprouted beans, adzuki bean sprouts benefit from a boost in their phenolic content when sprouted — an increase of approximately 25%. Among the phenolic compounds present in adzuki bean sprouts, sinapic acid is particularly noteworthy.
Sinapic acid has various health-promoting properties, such as improved blood sugar control, anti-inflammatory effects, antibacterial capabilities, and potential anticancer properties. Animal studies indicate that sinapic acid can effectively lower elevated blood sugar levels and improve insulin resistance in rats. However, whether these effects can be replicated in humans remains to be seen, necessitating further research.
Regarding culinary uses, adzuki bean sprouts offer a nutty flavor that makes them a versatile addition to a variety of dishes. They can be eaten raw in salads, wraps, and even smoothies or cooked and included in soups.
Summary: Adzuki bean sprouts are rich in nutrients, including sinapic acid, a phenolic compound with promising health benefits such as potential blood sugar control. However, more research is needed to confirm these effects in humans. These sprouts can be enjoyed raw and cooked in various dishes.
Sprouting beans at home is a relatively straightforward process that can yield fresh, nutrient-rich sprouts. Here’s how to do it:
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What You’ll Need
- Raw, dried beans of your choice
- A glass jar
- A cloth or mesh to cover the jar
- A rubber band or string to secure the cloth
- Fresh, cold water
- Rinse the beans: Start by rinsing your chosen beans under cold water to remove any dirt or stones that may be present.
- Jar setup: Place the rinsed beans into a clean glass jar.
- Soaking: Fill the jar about 3/4 full with fresh, cold water. Cover the jar opening with a cloth or mesh, and secure it with a rubber band or string.
- Initial soak: Allow the beans to soak for between 8 and 24 hours. The soaking time will depend on the size of the seeds; larger seeds generally require a longer soaking period. The goal is for the beans to expand to about twice their original size.
- Draining: After the soaking period, remove the cloth and drain the water from the jar. Replace the cloth, securing it with the rubber band, and turn the jar upside down to allow any remaining water to drain out. Leave it like this for a couple of hours.
- Rinsing and repeating: Over the next 1 to 4 days, rinse the beans gently with fresh water 2 to 3 times daily. After each rinse, drain the water and place the jar upside down to allow for complete draining.
- Observing growth: Over this period, you should notice the sprouts beginning to grow. The length of time you let them grow is up to you. Some people prefer shorter, crunchier sprouts while others may like them longer and more developed.
- Harvesting: Once the sprouts have reached your desired length, they are ready to be harvested. Give them a final rinse, drain well, and they are ready to use.
- Storage: If you can’t use all the sprouts right away, store them in the refrigerator in a container that allows for some airflow. They can be kept for up to a week, although they are best when fresh.
- Make sure your jar and cloth are clean to minimize the risk of bacterial contamination.
- Using filtered or dechlorinated water can also improve the quality of your sprouts.
By following these steps, you can enjoy fresh, homemade sprouts that are packed with nutrients and can be used in a variety of dishes.
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Precautions for eating bean sprouts
Sprouts are foods that spoil easily.
They’re also prone to bacterial contamination like Salmonella or E. coli because they need a damp environment to grow.
Both of these bacteria can lead to food poisoning, resulting in symptoms like diarrhea, throwing up, and stomach cramps.
In 2011, for instance, 26 people in Germany suffered from diarrhea after they ate sprouts.
So, washing sprouts well before eating them is good, especially if you’re eating them raw. If you have a compromised immune system — like kids, the elderly, and expecting moms — make sure to eat sprouts only when they’re cooked.
Summary: Sprouts are simple to prepare at home but risk food poisoning due to potential Salmonella and E. coli contamination. Wash them well or cook them to lower your chance of getting sick.
Sprouting boosts the nutrition of beans by increasing their antioxidants and decreasing substances that inhibit nutrient absorption.
Eating sprouts can provide various health advantages, such as better blood sugar management, relief from menopause symptoms, and reduced chances of heart issues, anemia, and birth defects.
These crunchy, enjoyable foods could be a tasty topping for your salad or a vibrant ingredient in your stir-fry.