Sprouting is a natural process that leads to the germination of seeds, grains, vegetables, and legumes.
Bean sprouts are a particularly common ingredient in salads and Asian dishes like stir-fries, and there are multiple varieties.
You can find various types of bean sprouts at your local grocery store or sprout them on your own.
Research suggests that sprouting greatly increases the nutritional value of those foods by improving the digestibility and quality of certain nutrients, such as proteins.
What’s more, sprouts have been described as nutritional powerhouses with several health-promoting effects (
Here are 7 interesting types of bean sprouts.
The kidney bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) is a variety of the common bean that got its name from its kidney-like shape.
Their sprouts are high in protein and low in calories and carbs. One cup (184 grams) of kidney bean sprouts packs (4):
- Calories: 53
- Carbs: 8 grams
- Protein: 8 grams
- Fat: 1 gram
- Vitamin C: 79% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Folate: 27% of the DV
- Iron: 8% of the DV
These sprouts are also high in melatonin, a molecule that your body also produces to regulate its sleep cycle. Melatonin likewise has antioxidant properties that protect your body from free radicals, which are harmful compounds that may lead to cell damage (
While your body produces melatonin naturally, its production decreases with age. Researchers believe that lowered levels may be linked to health issues as you age (
Numerous studies link melatonin intake to a reduced risk of chronic illnesses, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease (
One 12-year study in 370 women determined that those with lower melatonin levels had a significantly higher risk of type 2 diabetes (
Meanwhile, another study found that after feeding rats an extract from kidney bean sprouts, their blood melatonin levels increased by 16% (
However, further research in humans is needed.
Sprouted kidney beans are best consumed cooked. You can boil, sauté, or stir-fry them, then add them to dishes like stews and noodles.
Kidney bean sprouts are particularly high in antioxidants, such as vitamin C and melatonin. Melatonin is believed to lower your risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Lentils are legumes that come in a variety of colors, all of which can be easily sprouted to improve their nutritional value.
One cup (77 grams) of lentil sprouts packs (13):
- Calories: 82
- Carbs: 17 grams
- Protein: 7 grams
- Fat: 0.5 grams
- Vitamin C: 14% of the DV
- Folate: 19% of the DV
- Iron: 14% of the DV
The sprouting process boosts lentils’ phenolic content by a whopping 122%. Phenolic compounds are a group of antioxidant plant compounds that may provide anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and anti-allergenic properties (
Due to their increased antioxidant capacity, lentil sprouts may reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol, high levels of which may increase your risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity (
One 8-week study in 39 people with type 2 diabetes revealed that eating 3/4 cup (60 grams) of lentil sprouts daily reduced triglyceride and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels while increasing HDL (good) cholesterol, compared with the control group (
Still, more research is needed to support this finding.
Unlike kidney bean sprouts, lentil sprouts can be enjoyed both cooked or raw. Try them on your favorite salad or sandwich, or add them to soups or steamed veggies.
Lentil sprouts pack high amounts of antioxidants that may lower cholesterol levels. In turn, this may help reduce your risk of heart disease.
Pea sprouts are notable for their somewhat sweet flavor. Both green and yellow peas can be sprouted.
They’re highly nutritious, with 1 cup (120 grams) packing (20):
- Calories: 149
- Carbs: 33 grams
- Protein: 11 grams
- Fat: 1 gram
- Vitamin C: 14% of the DV
- Folate: 43% of the DV
- Iron: 15% of the DV
Pea sprouts contain almost twice the amount of folate (B9) as raw peas. Deficiencies in this vitamin may result in birth abnormalities, such as heart and neural tube defects (20,
Neural tube defects occur when the bones surrounding your child’s spine or skull don’t develop properly, which may lead to the brain or spinal cord being exposed at birth.
Studies show that folic acid supplements reduce the incidence of neural tube defects among women of reproductive age (
Health professionals also suggest consuming folate-rich foods, such as sprouted peas.
Pea sprouts are more tender than most sprouts. They pair well with leafy greens in salads but can also be stir-fried.
Pea sprouts are loaded with folate, an essential nutrient for preventing heart and neural tube defects.
Chickpea sprouts are easy to make and take about 2 days to sprout, which is relatively fast.
They pack significantly more protein than other sprouts and are loaded with nutrients. One cup (140 grams) of chickpea sprouts offers (24):
- Calories: 480
- Carbs: 84 grams
- Protein: 36 grams
- Fat: 8 grams
- Vitamin C: 5% of the DV
- Iron: 40% of the DV
Interestingly, sprouting has been shown to drastically increase the total isoflavone content in chickpeas by over 100-fold. Isoflavones are a phytoestrogen — a plant-based compound that mimics the role of the hormone estrogen (
Since estrogen levels start to drop when women reach menopause, eating phytoestrogen-rich foods may help reduce menopausal symptoms, including osteoporosis and high blood cholesterol levels (
A 35-day study in rats determined that daily doses of chickpea sprout extract significantly reduced bone loss (
Another rat study concluded that daily intake of fresh chickpea sprouts decreased total cholesterol and triglyceride levels while increasing HDL (good) cholesterol levels. This suggests that chickpea sprouts may help prevent heart disease (
Nevertheless, human research is needed.
Sprouted chickpeas can be eaten raw as a quick and nutritious snack or blended to make raw hummus. They can also be cooked into soups or veggie burgers.
Chickpea sprouts are particularly high in protein and isoflavones, a phytoestrogen that may help treat menopause symptoms.
Mung bean sprouts are among the most common bean sprouts.
They’re derived from mung beans, which are mainly cultivated in East Asia but also popular in many Western restaurants and stores.
They have an extremely low calorie count, with 1 cup (104 grams) offering (31):
- Calories: 31
- Carbs: 6 grams
- Protein: 3 grams
- Vitamin C: 15% of the DV
- Folate: 16% of the DV
- Iron: 5% of the DV
Sprouting increases mung beans’ flavonoid and vitamin C contents up to 7 and 24 times, respectively. In turn, this boosts their antioxidant properties (
What’s more, some research links these sprouts to potential anticancer benefits by fighting free radical damage (
Similarly, a test-tube study in human cells treated with this extract discovered a toxic effect on cancer cells — with no damage to healthy cells (
That said, keep in mind that human research is necessary.
Mung bean sprouts are a staple in Asian cuisine and thus perfect for dishes like fried rice and spring rolls.
Sprouting increases mung beans’ antioxidant activity, which may enhance their cancer-fighting properties. However, further research is needed.
Soybean sprouts are a popular ingredient in many Korean dishes. They’re grown by sprouting soybeans.
One cup (70 grams) of soybean sprouts packs (35):
- Calories: 85
- Carbs: 7 grams
- Protein: 9 grams
- Fat: 5 grams
- Vitamin C: 12% of the DV
- Folate: 30% of the DV
- Iron: 8% of the DV
Sprouting lowers soybeans’ levels of phytic acid, which is an antinutrient that binds to minerals like iron, impairing their absorption. For example, soy milk and tofu made from sprouts have up to 59% and 56% less phytic acid, respectively, than non-sprouted products (36,
Therefore, soybean sprouts may make non-heme iron — the type of iron found in plants — more available for your body (
When your iron levels are low, you can’t produce enough hemoglobin — the protein in red blood cells that transports oxygen throughout your body. This can lead to iron deficiency anemia.
One 6-month study in 288 girls with iron deficiency anemia found that those who drank 3 ounces (100 ml) of sprouted soy milk per day significantly improved their levels of ferritin, which is the protein that stores iron in your body (
Similarly, a 2-week study in rats with this condition noted that a soybean sprout supplement raised their hemoglobin levels to those of healthy rats (
As such, sprouted soybeans may help prevent and treat this particular type of anemia. All the same, more research is warranted.
Soybean sprouts have a crunchy texture and nutty taste. They’re more commonly eaten cooked and make a delicious addition to casseroles and stews.
Soybean sprouts may help make iron more available for your body due to a lower antinutrient content. Thus, these sprouts may help treat iron deficiency anemia.
Adzuki beans are a small red bean cultivated in East Asia and very similar to mung beans.
A 1-cup (133 grams) serving of adzuki bean sprouts packs (40):
- Calories: 466
- Carbs: 84 grams
- Protein: 31 grams
- Fat: 1 gram
- Vitamin C: 17% of the DV
- Iron: 40% of the DV
As with most sprouted beans, sprouting adzuki beans boosts their phenolic antioxidant content by 25%. The most prominent phenolic compound in these sprouts is sinapic acid (
Sinapic acid has numerous health-promoting properties, including improved blood sugar control and anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and anticancer effects (
Animal studies suggest that sinapic acid reduces high blood sugar levels and insulin resistance in rats with diabetes (
Yet, it’s unclear whether adzuki bean sprouts exert the same effect in humans. Further studies are necessary.
Adzuki bean sprouts have a nutty taste and can be added raw to salads, wraps, and smoothies. You can also cook them in soups.
Adzuki bean sprouts boast sinapic acid, which may aid blood sugar control. Yet, more research is needed.
While you can buy various bean sprouts in grocery and specialty stores, you may have to sprout certain varieties on your own.
To start, you’ll want to buy raw, dried beans, then follow these steps.
- Rinse your beans to remove any dirt or stones. Place them in a glass jar.
- Fill about 3/4 of the jar with cold water, then cover it with a cloth or mesh and secure it with a rubber band.
- Let the beans soak 8–24 hours or until they’ve expanded to twice their size. Usually, larger seeds need a longer soak.
- Drain the water from the jar, cover it again with the cloth, and turn it upside down to continue draining for a couple of hours.
- Rinse the beans gently and drain again. Repeat this step 2–3 times per day for 1–4 days or until the sprouts are ready.
By the end of this process, you should notice sprouts growing from the seeds. The final length of the sprouts is up to you — the longer you keep them in the jar, the more they’ll grow.
In general, sprouts are highly perishable foods.
They also have a high risk of bacterial infection, such as from Salmonella or E. coli, due to the humid environment needed for their growth.
Both Salmonella and E. coli can cause food poisoning, which may trigger diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain (
For example, a 2011 outbreak of diarrhea in Germany affected 26 people who reported eating sprouts (
Authorities recommend washing sprouts thoroughly before consumption, especially if you’re planning to eat them raw. People with weak immune systems, such as children, older, and pregnant women, should only eat cooked sprouts.
Sprouts are easy to make at home. However, they’re associated with food poisoning due to their high risk of contamination from Salmonella and E. coli. You should wash them thoroughly or cook them to reduce your risk of infection.
Sprouting is a natural way to increase beans’ nutritional profile, as it enhances their antioxidant content and reduces their antinutrient levels.
Sprouts may offer multiple health benefits, including improved blood sugar control, reduced menopausal symptoms, and a lower risk of heart disease, anemia, and birth defects.
These fun, crunchy foods may make a great addition to your next salad or stir-fry.