Beans Giving You Digestive Troubles? Try This Protein–and Fiber-Rich Legume Instead

Photo: Getty Images/ Tanja Ivanova
It’s no secret that legumes—like soybeans and chickpeas—get a lot of attention, and with good reason. These small but mighty plants are often linked to boosting longevity and are a key anti-inflammatory staple for many folks who reside in the Blue Zones, home to some of the longest-living people in the world.

But even though your pantry may already be fully stocked with the usual legume culprits—say, a can of chickpeas or black beans, and we’re so glad about that—why stop there? If you're looking to step up your (legume) game, we can help with that. Meet mung beans, your soon-to-be pantry bestie. So, why are they worthy of the coveted BFF title, you may ask? Here are three reasons to kick us off: 1. They're one of the easiest legumes to digest (bye, gassiness). 2. Some say they taste like creamy baked potatoes (enough said!); and, of course, 3. They offer a boatload of gut-healthy fiber. And we’re just getting started on the impressive health benefits of mung beans (more to come ahead).

Experts In This Article

What are mung beans?

Mung beans are a type of pulse—aka the edible seed of a legume plant—that hail from East, Southeast, and South Asia. In terms of appearance, they're small, round, and resemble the shape of pearl couscous. They’re typically a forest green color, but can also come in other shades like yellow and brown. Mung beans don’t have an overwhelming flavor profile and are often considered very mild in taste with a slightly nutty and earthy undertone. However, some would even argue that mung beans have a similar flavor profile as potatoes, and we certainly can get on board with that.

Although you may not be as familiar with mung beans in their pulse form per se, you may be more acquainted with their sprouted variation, aka bean sprouts (or mung bean sprouts), which are often featured in many stir-fry recipes. "They're a legume, so they're in the same family as beans and lentils. 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," says Lauren Slayton, MS, RD, and founder of Foodtrainers.

To learn more about the benefits of mung beans, we caught up with Slayton and a few other health experts to get the full scoop on why (and how) you should eat them and we even included a delicious recipe to kick-start your mung bean obsession.

10 health benefits of mung beans

1. They're packed with tons of essential vitamins and minerals

Mung beans' health benefits are pretty impressive. In fact, they're loaded with many essential nutrients that can help add extra nutrition to your daily routine. "They're packed with potassium, magnesium, folate, fiber, and vitamin B6," Slayton says. Adding to the list, registered dietitian Amy Shapiro, RD, says this pulse is also a great source of manganese, phosphorus, and iron.

Mung bean nutrition at a glance:

A 100-gram serving of cooked mung beans contains:

  • Protein: 7 grams
  • Carbs: 19 grams
  • Fiber: 8 grams
  • Sugar: 2 grams
  • Calcium: 27 milligrams
  • Iron: 1.4 milligrams
  • Magnesium: 48 milligrams
  • Phosphorus: 99 milligrams
  • Potassium: 266 milligrams
  • Sodium: 2 milligrams
  • Zinc: 0.84 milligrams
  • Copper: 0.156 milligram
  • Manganese: 0.298 milligram
  • Vitamin C: 1 milligrams
  • Niacin: 0.577 milligrams
  • Vitamin B6: 0.067 milligrams
  • Folate: 159 micrograms
  • Choline: 29.4 milligrams

2. They can help with managing stress and muscle repair

To hone in on a few of these aforementioned nutrients, Slayton delves into the benefits of magnesium found in mung beans. "Most women are deficient in magnesium, which is essential for controlling stress and repairing muscles, especially if they're working out," she says. Keep in mind, it's recommended that adults get anywhere between 310 and 420 milligrams of magnesium per day, depending on their age and gender.

3. They're beneficial for women's health

Slayton notes that mung beans can also be particularly beneficial for supporting women's health. "In terms of women's health, folate and vitamin B6 are great for premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and during pregnancy," she says. Folate (and folic acid) is a B vitamin that helps prevent birth defects. Meanwhile, studies show that vitamin B6 can help ease PMS symptoms.

4. They can help support heart health

Shapiro points out that thanks to the potassium, fiber, and magnesium content, mung beans can help support heart health and reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering high blood pressure and improving blood flow.

5. They can help boost bone health

Bone health becomes even more critical as you age, that's why Shapiro says mung beans are a healthy way to keep your musculoskeletal system strong and healthy. "They may support bone health as they're good sources of calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus, which are essential to maintaining health bones," she says.

6. They have anti-inflammatory properties

Mung beans are a good source of antioxidants, including phenolic acids and flavonoids, to name a few. "Mung beans are antioxidant-rich, which may help protect the body from inflammation," Shapiro says. We know that antioxidants are essential for reducing the risk of many chronic diseases and reducing oxidative stress and damage in the body.

7. They promote a healthy gut

A serving of mung beans contains a considerable amount of fiber that supports gut health (a whopping eight grams per 100-gram serving, to be exact). A friendly reminder: Dietitians recommend aiming to get about six grams of fiber per meal.

8. They're potentially easier to digest than other beans

Slayton adds that this pulse also tend to be easier on digestion. "The most blunt appeal is that they're a gas-free bean, unlike a black bean," she says. This is because mung beans are lower in oligosaccharides than other common types of beans, a complex carbohydrate that can cause digestive discomfort for some folks.

9. They're often used in Ayurvedic practices

Mung beans are also prevelant in Ayurveda. 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.

10. They're incredibly versatile to cook with

There are tons of ways to cook with mung beans. Perhaps one of the easiest ways to feature the pulse is by including them in soups or other one-pot meals, says holistic health coach and Institute of Integrative Nutrition grad Mikaela Reuben. "I like to cook them like a dahl [and Indian legume stew], and they're high in fiber, so a thick mung bean soup will keep you full—it's a meal more than a broth," Reuben says. She also recommends making mung bean "balls," or fritters. You can find Reuben's delicious mung bean herb fritters recipe ahead. Or, you can try incorporating them in one of these tasty bean breakfast recipes.

Are mung beans healthier than chickpeas?

According to Shapiro, although mung beans and chickpeas fall in the same category, they have a few similarities and differences. For starters, she notes that they both offer numerous health benefits. For example, they're both good sources of plant-based protein. However, chickpeas take the lead per 100-gram serving (nine grams of protein in chickpeas vs. seven grams of protein in mung beans). Chickpeas also have a slightly higher amount of fiber than mung beans (eight grams vs. 7.6 grams per 100-gram serving, respectively).

On the other hand, Shapiro points out that mung beans usually "have a lower glycemic index compared to chickpeas, which may be beneficial for individuals with diabetes or those looking to manage blood sugar." She also finds that mung beans may be easier to digest than chickpeas. The bottom line: You can't go wrong with either. "Overall, both offer numerous health benefits, and the choice between them depends more on personal taste, dietary needs, and culinary preferences," Shapiro says.

How do mung beans compare to lentils?

Much like the case with chickpeas, mung beans and lentils share a few similarities and differences. "Both are good sources of plant-based protein with similar protein content per serving," Shapiro says. For context, cooked lentils contain roughly nine grams of protein per 100-gram serving, which is slightly more than what mung beans have to offer. The two legumes are rich in vitamins and minerals, including folate, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc.

On the other hand, Shapiro notes that some folks may find that lentils are slightly easier to digest (but others may fare better with mung beans). You may want to keep in mind, however, that lentils are usually higher in fiber than mung beans, which can cause digestion issues for folks that aren't used to consuming more quantities of the nutrient. Finally, mung beans have a shorter cooking time compared to lentils, Shapiro says. Mung beans will typically take 15 to 20 minutes to cook, while lentils may take 20 to 30 minutes.

How to cook mung beans

Why do you soak mung beans before cooking?

Although you don't necessarily need to soak mung beans before cooking them, Shapiro says it can help reduce their cooking time and improve their digestibility. If you do opt for soaking them, Shapiro says it's important to drain and rinse them before throwing them in the pot to cook. Pro tip: Andreeva recommends soaking and cooking mung beans with other spices for added benefits. "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," Andreeva says.

2 easy mung bean cooking techniques

  • Cook them on the stovetop: According to Shapiro, one of the easiest ways to prepare mung beans is by cooking them on the stove in a pot with water or broth. For best results, she recommends a ratio of about three cups of liquid for every cup of dried mung beans.
    1. Over medium heat, combine the beans in a pot with water or broth.
    2. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and allow the beans to simmer for about 15 to 25 minutes. Once the beans are tender, but slightly firm, they're ready to eat.
  • Pressure cook them: For fastest results, Shapiro recommends pressure cooking them on high for three to five minutes. However, for the most tender results, she says you'll want to slow cook the beans instead. To do so, Shapiro combines the beans with water or broth and cooks them on low heat for roughly six hours, or until tender.

How to sprout mung beans at home

Bought too many mung beans? No problem. Shapiro says you can easily turn them into bean sprouts at home. Here's Shapiro's easy three-step technique:

  1. In a clean container, soak the beans in water for eight to 12 hours uncovered.
  2. Then, rinse and drain the beans before returning them to a clean, dry container.
  3. Loosely cover the container and wait for the beans to begin sprouting. This should take between 12 hours to a few days.
  4. Once the roots are about a centimeter long, they're ready to enjoy and can be eaten raw or cooked. Store them in the refrigerator (up to three days) until ready to eat.

Protein-packed mung bean herb fritters recipe

Yields 6-7 servings

1 cup split mung beans
3 big kaffir leaves chopped (about 1 Tsp)
2 green onions chopped
1/8 Tsp coriander powder
1/2 cup cilantro minced
1/3 cup white onion chopped
1/2 Tsp garlic powder
1/4 Tsp sea salt
1/8 cup almond meal (if the mixture seems a little on the wet side)
Coconut oil

1. Soak the beans overnight or for six hours. Strain and rinse. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Blend all the ingredients together, except for the cilantro and beans. Meanwhile, strain and rinse the beans. Pulse half of the beans into a paste, then mix back with the un-blended beans. Finally, mix the beans and the blended herbs.

2. 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 gauge how much time is needed.) When lightly toasted all over, remove, and enjoy. Keep the leftovers in an airtight container out of the fridge.

Top vegan and vegetarian protein sources, according to an RD:

Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the information we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.
  1. Wyatt, K M et al. “Efficacy of vitamin B-6 in the treatment of premenstrual syndrome: systematic review.” BMJ (Clinical research ed.) vol. 318,7195 (1999): 1375-81. doi:10.1136/bmj.318.7195.1375
  2. Hou, Dianzhi et al. “Mung Bean (Vigna radiata L.): Bioactive Polyphenols, Polysaccharides, Peptides, and Health Benefits.” Nutrients vol. 11,6 1238. 31 May. 2019, doi:10.3390/nu11061238
  3. Zehiroglu, Cuma, and Sevim Beyza Ozturk Sarikaya. “The importance of antioxidants and place in today’s scientific and technological studies.” Journal of food science and technology vol. 56,11 (2019): 4757-4774. doi:10.1007/s13197-019-03952-x

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