Mung beans are one of the lesser-known legumes in the Western world, but they offer a lot of nutritional value.
This article examines what mung beans are, what they offer nutritionally, and the potential benefits they might confer.
Table of contents
What Are Mung Beans?
Mung beans (Vigna radiate) are small green beans that belong to the wider Fabaceae (legume) family of plants.
Although mung beans are grown around the world, the majority of production comes from Asia. India, China, Myanmar, and Indonesia account for around 70% of the global output (1).
Mung beans have a shape and size somewhat reminiscent of adzuki beans, but they have an olive-green shade of color rather than red. Nutritionally, they are a rich source of protein and fiber and contain a wealth of vitamins and minerals.
There are many different ways to use mung beans, and they feature in both savory and sweet dishes around the world.
Here you can find the nutritional values for raw mung beans using data from the USDA’s FoodData Central database (2).
All ‘daily values’ are based on the FDA’s published values (3).
|Name||Amount||% Daily Value|
|Carbohydrate||62.6 g||23% DV|
|Fiber||16.3 g||58% DV|
|Fat||1.15 g||1% DV|
|Saturated||0.35 g||2% DV|
|Protein||23.86 g||48% DV|
The basic nutritional values are very similar to cannellini (white) beans: high in carbohydrates, low fat, and high protein.
- Folate: 156% of the daily value
- Thiamin (B1): 52% DV
- Pantothenic acid (B5): 38% DV
- Vitamin B6: 22% DV
- Choline: 18% DV
- Riboflavin (B2): 18% DV
- Niacin (B3): 14% DV
- Vitamin K: 8% DV
- Vitamin C: 5% DV
- Vitamin E: 3% DV
- Vitamin A RAE: 1% DV
- Copper: 104% DV
- Manganese: 45% DV
- Magnesium: 45% DV
- Iron: 37% DV
- Phosphorus: 29% DV
- Potassium: 27% DV
- Zinc: 24% DV
- Selenium: 15% DV
- Calcium: 10% DV
- Sodium: 1% DV
Mung beans contain a broad range of polyphenols, and they offer especially high amounts of flavonoids and phenolic acids (4).
Other legumes with colored skins, such as adzuki beans and black beans, are also rich sources of polyphenols.
Potential Benefits of Mung Beans
Mung beans may have some potential benefits owing to their nutrient composition.
Additionally, they contain various other compounds with biological activity that may potentially confer benefits.
An Excellent Source of Protein
Legumes contain approximately 24 grams of protein per 100g raw weight (2).
Notably, this amount of protein is roughly the same as meat and other animal proteins, making mung beans a perfect choice for vegetarians/vegans. Additionally, the protein in mung beans contains a good range of amino acids in high concentrations (6).
However, it is worth noting that mung beans contain relatively low amounts of the amino acids methionine and cysteine (7).
The low methionine content makes it a ‘limiting amino acid,’ which can ‘limit’ the rate of protein synthesis. In other words, the amount of protein that the body can use from mung beans is limited to the availability of methionine.
Due to this, the protein in mung beans isn’t quite as digestible as that found in animal proteins. However, as with all plant-based proteins, the slightly lower digestibility can be overcome by slightly increasing the amount consumed.
Mung Beans and Strength
Interestingly, a recent randomized controlled trial examined the effect of mung bean protein on muscular strength in non-exercising vegetarian adults (8).
26 adults completed this study, and researchers split them into two groups:
- The first group (‘protein group’) supplemented 18 grams of mung bean protein per day for eight weeks.
- The second group (‘control group’) did not consume any extra protein.
At the end of the study, the protein group had slightly increased their grip, flexor, and extensor strength, while the control group had not.
In reality, these results may have occurred using any protein rather than specifically mung bean protein. Put simply, the protein group consumed more protein for eight weeks and thus gained more strength.
However, the study did at least show that mung bean protein is effective.
Note: for another protein-rich legume, see this article on lupin beans.
Rich In Fiber
In other words: they provide a significant amount of fiber.
Dietary fiber is consistently associated with long-term health benefits from nutritional research.
Mung beans contain various bioactive peptides that ongoing research is examining (13).
However, most of this research is in cell and rodent models, and human trials are lacking.
For this reason, these potential benefits need confirmation with better evidence from human studies.
May Improve Cardiovascular Health
Mung beans are a member of the legume family of foods, and existing research suggests that legumes may have some benefits for cardiovascular health.
In this regard, here is a summary of some of the research findings:
- A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials examined the impact of replacing animal proteins with legumes. The results found that legumes slightly lowered low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and apolipoprotein B. Lower levels of these blood markers are associated with reduced cardiovascular risk (18).
- A 2014 systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled feeding trials demonstrated that legume intake can lower blood pressure. This review found that across eight trials (and 554 participants), exchanging calorie-equated amounts of other foods with legumes significantly lowered blood pressure (19).
- Another systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials investigated the impact of legumes on cardiovascular risk reduction. This review found that a median dose of 130g/day legumes significantly decreased LDL cholesterol versus various control diets (20).
Legumes contain a package of fiber, protein, bioactive peptides, polyphenols, and vitamins and minerals. It could be a combination of these properties that explains their effects on markers of cardiovascular health.
Mung Beans Are Cheap and Affordable
At just a few dollars (or equivalent) per kilogram, mung beans tend to sell for a very affordable price. Therefore, this makes them an excellent, cheap source of protein, fiber, and essential nutrients.
Depending on personal preference, mung beans can be combined with meat or grains in dishes for a protein-rich meal or used alone.
Alongside other legume family members, mung beans are one of the most cost-efficient sources of protein.
Concerns About Mung Beans
While mung beans provide an attractive package of nutritional value, there are also some potential downsides to be aware of.
Phytic Acid Content
First of all, mung beans have a reasonably high (approximately 12mg per gram) content of phytic acid (21).
To be exact, research on 102 different genotypes of mung beans found that the phytic acid content ranged from 5.74mg to 20.02mg per gram (22).
For anyone unaware, phytic acid is an anti-nutritional factor (also known as ‘anti-nutrient’) that can partly inhibit the absorption of minerals. For example, phytic acid being present in foods can lower the absorption of minerals like zinc, calcium, iron, and magnesium from a meal (23).
That said, it is crucial to approach this topic with some nuance. For instance, phytic acid also has antioxidant properties, and as well as being an anti-nutrient, it is associated with various benefits for human health (24).
Additionally, phytic acid should not be a significant concern for most people since true mineral deficiencies are relatively rare in developed countries (25).
Still, for those with concerns, various processes can reduce the phytic acid content of mung beans. These processes include (26):
Mycotoxins are dangerous substances produced by certain molds in soil. Not only can they cause short-term poisoning, but they can also increase the long-term risk of disease (30).
However, mycotoxins are not a concern specific to mung beans, affecting various foods/plants.
But notably, it appears that a visual check may confirm the presence of mycotoxins in mung beans.
In one study, various mung bean samples were tested for mycotoxins. The results demonstrated that only beans with a moldy appearance or significant discoloration tested positive for mycotoxins, whereas beans with a regular healthy appearance did not (29).
How To Use Mung Beans
Compared to other legumes, mung beans have a relatively mild (and pleasant) taste. They have nutty and earthy flavors, but as with most legumes, they are a little bit bland served alone.
However, mung beans absorb different flavors from dishes well, making them suitable for use in a wide range of recipes.
Here are a few ideas on how to use them.
- Add them to a soup or stew
- Grind them into flour and make a mung bean pancake
- Use mung beans in a curry
- Add (pre-cooked) mung beans into a stir-fry
Overall, mung beans can make a lot of positive contributions to the average diet.
These beans are a rich source of protein, fiber, and they provide a wide variety of essential nutrients at high levels. The existing research on mung beans also hints at several potential health benefits.
Adding mung beans to various dishes is an excellent way to enhance the food’s nutritional value, particularly the fiber and protein content.
That mung beans offer a variety of benefits at a relatively affordable price is just a bonus.