Bean Sprouts Nutrition Information and Health Benefits

Alfalfa sprouts annotated

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman  

Sprouts are seeds that have been watered and germinated to produce a thin stalk and leaflets. They are harvested when they are about three to five days old. There are many varieties, including bean sprouts from all kinds of beans, such as mung beans and soybeans; alfalfa sprouts; broccoli sprouts; and clover sprouts.

The leafier the sprouts are, the more their nutritional content is similar to green leafy vegetables. Sprouts are easy to grow at home. A tablespoon of alfalfa seeds, for example, will sprout to fill a quart jar. Be sure to buy seeds labeled "for sprouting."

Bean Sprout Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 1 cup raw mung bean sprouts.

  • Calories: 31
  • Fat: 0.2g
  • Sodium: 6.2mg
  • Carbohydrates: 6.2g
  • Fiber: 1.9g
  • Sugars: 4.3g
  • Protein: 3.2g

Carbs

As with most non-starchy vegetables, scientists haven't tested the glycemic index of bean sprouts, but assume that it is very low due to the low amount of carbohydrates (just 6.2 grams for 1 cup of mung bean sprouts). 

Unlike glycemic index, glycemic load factors in serving size. A glycemic load of less than 10 indicates it is very low and should have little or no effect on blood sugar or insulin reaction. Here are the estimated glycemic loads for three types of sprouts:

  • 1 cup raw mung bean sprouts: 2
  • 1 cup raw pinto bean sprouts: 4
  • 1 cup raw alfalfa sprouts: 0

Fat

Bean sprouts contain just a trace amount of fat.

Protein

Beans are a good plant-based source of protein, but bean sprouts have less protein than mature beans. For example, a cup of canned mung beans contains 11 grams of protein whereas 1 cup of mung bean sprouts offers just 3.2 grams.

Still, sprouts have more protein than other leafy greens, with 3 grams per cup for mung bean sprouts versus less than 1 gram for spinach, for example.

Vitamins and Minerals

Sprouts are a fair source of a variety of nutrients but aren't very high in any one, probably because they aren't very dense. If there is a significant amount of green leaf attached, they have a nutrient profile similar to leafy green vegetables, including lots of vitamin K.

Health Benefits

Research has shown that some sprouts from bean sprouts to broccoli sprouts have fairly high levels of phytonutrients, many of which have antioxidant properties.

Lowers Cholesterol

A small, short-term study of broccoli sprouts found that their antioxidants could lower total and LDL ("bad") cholesterol, and significantly increase HDL ("good") cholesterol in human participants. A slightly larger study published in 2015 found similar effects on cholesterol levels in people with type 2 diabetes who consumed lentil sprouts.

Helps Manage Blood Sugar

Another study of broccoli sprouts in people with type 2 diabetes found that their antioxidants offered benefits such as improved cholesterol levels and decreased insulin resistance and vascular complications. The study authors noted that "the bioactive components of young broccoli sprouts make it an excellent choice for supplementary treatment in type 2 diabetes."

May Help Reduce Inflammation

More research is needed in this area, but some preliminary studies show that the antioxidants in mung bean sprouts can have several powerful anti-inflammatory effects. They can contribute to the treatment of cancer, hypertension (high blood pressure), and sepsis (a serious, systemic inflammation of the body).

Allergies

People who are allergic to soy should not consume soybean sprouts. People with peanut allergies may also experience reactions when consuming sprouts made from various beans. If you or your child has a soy or peanut allergy, talk with your doctor about how best to manage this allergy to avoid serious reactions.

Adverse Effects

Bacteria can thrive in a warm, humid environment, which are exactly the conditions in which sprouts are grown. As a result, there have been outbreaks of foodborne illness associated with eating raw and lightly cooked sprouts. People at high risk of food poisoning (such as children, pregnant women, and anyone with a compromised immune system) shouldn't eat sprouts unless they are fully cooked.

Varieties

Mung bean sprouts and alfalfa sprouts are some of the more commonly consumed sprouts, but almost any seed or legume can be used for sprouting. Here is how the nutrition facts stack up according to data provided by the USDA.

  Mung bean sprouts Alfalfa sprouts Broccoli, clover, and mustard sprouts
Calories 31 8 20
Carbohydrates 6g 0.7g 2g
Fiber 1.9g 0.6g 2g
Sugars 4.3g 0.1g 0
Protein 3g 1.3g 2g

Microgreens can look similar to sprouts, but they are a little different. They grow in soil and only the leaves and stems are harvested and eaten. Sprouts, on the other hand, grow in water and the seed and roots are usually consumed along with the stems and leaves.

When They're Best

Bean sprouts and other sprouts are typically available year-round. When choosing sprouts, look for ones that are firm and firmly attached to their stems. The leaves should be a rich green. The stems should be white in color. The container should not be moist or smelly, and the sprouts should not look slimy. If you are buying them in a store, look for the International Sprout Growers Association seal.

Storage and Food Safety

Sprouts are highly perishable and must be used soon after being purchased, preferably in a day or two and no more than three days. Sprouts should be washed after being purchased and stored cold at all times (in the refrigerator at 40 degrees F or below).

To reduce the risk of foodborne illness, buy only fresh sprouts that have been kept refrigerated. Rinse them thoroughly before eating, and wash your hands before and after handling.

How to Prepare

Many people eat sprouts raw on sandwiches, salads, or in spring rolls, but eating sprouts raw does pose a risk of illness. Cooking helps to lower this risk. Try putting sprouts in soups or stir-fries, or you can roast them in the oven as you would any vegetable.

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Article Sources
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