A true superfood, the little Mung Bean is especially popular in China during the hot summer months. Although commonly thought of as the source of bean sprouts, the bean is also used in many recipes such as mung bean noodles, bean cakes, bean soups, sweet desserts and is even used to make mung bean wine.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, mung beans clear heat, removes toxins, and improves circulation of qi through the meridians. Li Shi Zhen (1518-1593) stated in the Ben Cao Gang Mu (本草纲目 Compendium of Materia Medica) that "mung beans are highly recommended not only as a rich source of nutrients but also as medication."

Sweet Green Mung Bean Soup

  • 1 cup dried mung beans
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/4 cup sugar or honey

Directions: Wash the beans, drain. Put beans in saucepan with lid, cover with water. Cover with lid, simmer for about 30 minutes over low heat. After the beans are very soft and some are split, turn off heat and add sugar to taste. Just before serving, add the coconut milk. Serve hot.

In hot summer months, TCM recommends eating foods that are cooling in nature to help balance the body and mung beans are an easy (and tasty) way of providing such cooling. Mung bean soup is especially effective in relieving symptoms such as dry skin, constipation, lack of energy, headache, dizziness, flushed face, extreme thirst, and even for preventing heat-stroke.

Other symptoms of excessive heat in the body include acne, cold sores, skin boils. An ancient medical text, Kai Bao Ben Cao, mentions that mung beans act on the heart channel and clear heat and toxins from the skin, and cools heat in the blood.

The mung bean hasn't escaped Western medicine attention. Rich in vitamins A, B, C, E, and calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium; high amounts of fiber and 20% protein, the bean continues to be researched.

In a study published in the journal Human and Experimental Toxicology, scientists discovered that mung beans are highly effective at inhibiting LDL oxidation due to their potent free-radical scavenging properties. Hypertensive rats supplemented with mung bean sprout extracts for one month experienced significant reductions in systolic blood pressure. This anti-hypertensive effect might be related to mung bean's high concentration of protein fragments known as peptides, which act to reduce the activity of angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) that constricts blood vessels and raises blood pressure.

Seven out of ten Americans consume less than the recommended daily allowance of magnesium. Replacing processed foods with magnesium-rich ones like mung beans is a simple strategy for improving magnesium levels.

Other research shows that adding mung beans to a meal with a high-glycemic food lowered overall postprandial glucose response in individuals with type II diabetes. In a study reported in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, type II diabetic mice supplemented with mung bean extract daily for five weeks resulted in significant reductions in blood glucose levels and plasma C-peptide, thereby producing measurable improvements in glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity.

A recent study reported in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine showed that mung beans suppress the growth of human liver and highly aggressive cervical cancer lines through multiple mechanisms, including cytotoxicity, inducing anti-cancer cytokines, halting cancer cell cycle, and triggering apoptosis (programmed cell death).

Harvard School of Public Health researchers studied the relationship between phenolic-rich foods and the risk of breast cancer, one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers among American women, and reported that consuming beans like mung beans at least twice per week slashed breast cancer risk by 24%.

These and other studies continue to discover the many benefits of this amazing little bean.

Reprinted from Qi Journal, Summer 2015