Mung beans are praised by nutritionists, holistic health coaches, and Ayurevedic experts for their health benefits—but do you even really know what they are? Or how to work them into your diet?
We admittedly did not. So we tapped experts to explain. First thing we learned? “Mung beans are a legume, so they’re in the same family as beans and lentils,” explains Lauren Slayton, MS, RD, and founder of Foodtrainers. “You can get them in whole form or split like a lentil, and they’re also the sprouts you see in sandwiches or on salads.” (No way!)
We chatted with Slayton and other experts to get the scoop on why (and how) you should eat them, and include a recipe so you can apply your new-found mung bean know-how right away:
1. They’re tiny beans with big health benefits
Mung beans’ health benefits are pretty impressive. “They’re packed with potassium, magnesium, folate, fiber, and vitamin B6,” says Manhattan-based Slayton. “Most women are deficient in magnesium and need it to control stress and repair muscles, especially if they’re working out. In terms of women’s health, folate and vitamin B6 are great for PMS and during pregnancy.”
And, there’s a dinner-party bonus: “The most blunt appeal is that they’re a gas-free bean, unlike a black bean,” she says. Feel free to sit next to us at dinner!
2. Mung beans are Ayurveda-approved
It’s not just traditional nutritionists who love the mung. Ayurvedic expert Nadya Andreeva says that “mung beans are one of the most cherished foods” in the ancient holistic medicine practice.
“They’re considered tri-doshic, which means that they work well for all body types when cooked with correct spices,” Andreeva says. “As with other beans, Ayurveda recommends soaking mung beans overnight and cooking them with spices such as ginger, cumin, coriander, and turmeric, which renders them even more digestible.”
3. They have cool culinary uses
Which bring us to their cool culinary uses. “Mung beans are really easy to put into soups,” holistic health coach and Institute of Integrative Nutrition grad Mikaela Reuben. “I like to cook them like a dahl, and they’re high in fiber, so a thick mung bean soup is not high calorie or high carb and will keep you full—it’s a meal more than a broth.”
She also makes baked mung bean “balls,” or fritters. “I developed them as a snack for one of my clients, an actor, who wanted to look good and feel full for long stretches on a movie set,” she explains. Sound like two goals you can get behind? Try Reuben’s recipe for delish Mung Bean Herb Fritters, below. —Jamie McKillop
Mikaela Reuben’s Mung Bean Herb Fritters
1 cup split mung beans
3 big kaffir leaves chopped (about 1 tsp)
2 green onions chopped
⅛ tsp coriander powder
½ cup cilantro minced
⅓ cup white onion chopped
½ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp sea salt
⅛ cup almond meal (if the mixture seems a little on the wet side.)
Soak the beans overnight or for six hours. Strain and rinse. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Blend all ingredients except cilantro and beans. Strain and rinse the beans. Pulse half of the beans into a paste then mix back with the un-blended beans. Mix the beans and the blended herbs.
Shape small balls in the palm of your hand (about one inch by one inch). Smooth a little coconut oil over parchment paper and line balls so that there is equal space between them. Bake for 15 minutes, then roll them so that the less cooked side is now facing down, and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes. (You can taste one to help gage how much time is needed.) When lightly toasted all over, remove and enjoy. Keep the leftovers in an airtight container out of the fridge.