The mung bean (scientific name Vigna radiata) is also spelt as the moong bean and referred to as the green gram. This species belongs to the legume plant family. Mostly, the mung bean is cultivated in India, China and Southeast Asia. This green gram is employed as an ingredient in savoury as well as sweet dishes.
According to available data, people in Persia (currently Iran) were the first to domesticate the mung bean. In fact the progenitor of mung bean known as Vigna radiata (sub-species sublobata) is found growing in wild in Iran. Archeologists have also discovered carbonized mung beans in several locations in India. Some of the regions where the mung beans were used very early in human civilization include the eastern areas of the Harappan civilization in India's Punjab and Haryana. It has been found that people in these regions used mung beans as long back as 4500 years. Moreover, archeological findings have established that people in Karnataka in the southern part of India used the mung beans at least 4000 years back. As a result of these findings, a number of scholars are of the view that mung beans were domesticated in two separate regions - one in the northwest region of India and the other in South India.
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Cultivated mung beans spread from the India sub-continent to various regions of Asia, including China as well as Southeast Asia. Moreover, archeo-botanical studies undertaken at the Khao Sam Kaeo site in the southern region of Thailand suggest that mung beans had reached the country at least 2200 years back. In addition, findings from the Pemba Island suggest that mung beans were cultivated in Africa during the Swahili trade era, which is sometime during the 9th or 10th century.
Mung beans can be described as small green hued legumes. Basically, legumes are seeds that occur in plants belonging to the Leguminosae family, in addition to plants in the Fabaceae family. When these seeds sprout, they are generally referred to as bean sprouts. Similar to various other legumes, sprouted mung beans can also be consumed raw. Alternatively, they can be consumed after cooking, with or without their hull. Different from several other beans, mung beans are very easy to digest. They are usually easy on our digestive tract and their consumption does not result in gas problems.
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When mung beans are cooked with spices and seasonings are included, they taste very delicious. You can use mung beans in casseroles and soups to enhance their flavour as well as improve the nutrient content. In fact, the Chinese have been using mung beans in their cuisine for several thousand years now. In China, mung beans are referred to as nga choy or nga choi. Mung bean sprouts are widely used in a number of Chinese dishes, including stir-fries, egg rolls. Mung beans should never be overcooked as they are cooked in less than a minute, especially when you are stir frying them. Remember, overcooking mung beans robs much of their nutrients.
Usually, mung bean sprouts have a greyish-yellow hue. If you want to germinate mung beans, you need to soak them in water overnight and, subsequently, leave them aside for a few days to sprout. In fact, sprouted mung beans are more nutritious compared to the plain mung beans. Our digestive system can easily assimilate the nutrients contained in sprouted mung beans.
Like many other legumes, vegetarians prefer mung beans because they form a healthy alternative to meat. In addition, legumes like mung beans are also favoured by people with tight budgets, because as compared to their price, these beans are loaded with enough protein. Aside from rich protein content, mung beans also contain dietary fiber, B vitamins and essential minerals like potassium and magnesium. These beans are also a wonderful diet food as consuming one cup or 250 ml of mung beans supply us with no more than 30 calories.
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Mung beans are popular for their nutrient content and sweet flavour. In some Asian nations, people use mung bean paste to make sweet dishes and frozen ice desserts. This paste is prepared from skinned mung beans after cooking. In fact, people in some Asian countries also like de-hulled mung beans and use them extensively in soups and pancakes. In India, many people deep fry mung beans and consume them in the form of a snack food. On the other hand, people in Indonesia enhance the sweet flavour of mung bean by adding sugar, coconut milk and ginger. This preparation is also used as a snack food.
Similar to most other beans, the mung bean also contains plenty of protein and dietary fiber. The combination of these two denotes that mung beans offer several health benefits to us. While protein is important for building strong muscles and ensuring the health of muscle tissues, dietary fiber facilitates the proper functioning of our digestive system. Dietary fiber also ensures faster movement of food through the intestines; it assists the body to assimilate nutrients more effectively. At the same time, it also helps to prevent constipation. In addition, dietary fiber helps to reduce bad or LDL cholesterol levels in the blood stream.
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Dietary fiber present in mung beans is a member of a complex carbohydrate group. In other words, it helps the body to release energy slowly without causing any abrupt rise in the blood sugar levels. As a result, dietary fiber also does not allow the blood sugar levels to drop. In other words, dietary fiber in mung beans helps to keep the blood sugar levels stable, while keeping one satiated for longer periods. This is the main reason why mung beans are considered to be an excellent food for people with diabetes. The glycemic index (GI) of mung beans is also very low.
Mung beans are loaded with vitamin C, which is a potent antioxidant. Vitamin C combats free radicals effectively, thereby helping to prevent development of various forms of cancer, premature aging and degenerative diseases. In addition, vitamin C also possesses anti-inflammatory properties. Generally, this nutrient is used to combat flu, common cold and various types of inflammatory conditions.
Aside from vitamin C, mung beans also contain vitamin K, another vital nutrient. The amount of vitamin K contained by mung beans is equivalent to 43 percent of our RDA. Inside our body, the liver stores this vitamin. Nevertheless, people suffering from gallbladder disease, celiac disease and others must take additional amounts of vitamin K along with their foods. Vitamin K is necessary for normal blood clotting. It is also essential for healthy bones.
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In addition to the above mentioned vitamins, mung beans also contain a number of essential minerals including calcium, copper, iron, potassium, magnesium and others. Iron and copper are both essential for red blood cell formation, while calcium is vital for healthy bones. Potassium, on the other hand, is a potent electrolyte, which regulates the blood rate as well as blood pressure, in addition to other things.
It has been found that various beans, including mung beans are effective in preventing breast cancer. These beans contain protease inhibitors that help in inhibiting the multiplication of a variety of carcinogenic cells, counting those present in breast cancer. It is said that these inhibitors also obstruct and even put off tumour cell formation.
Mung beans can be consumed in various ways and this helps to put off the onset of a variety of ailments related to the heart. Using mung beans in soups is also very helpful in getting relief from summer heat and avoiding the symptoms related to various heart diseases.
By nature, mung beans have a cooling attribute. In addition, they have a sweet flavour. As a result, mung beans are a great food for eliminating toxins and clearing heat from the skin. Moreover, mung beans are also employed for treating various other health issues like cold sores, pimples, skin rashes, boils, mouth ulcers and other conditions. Usually, a paste prepared from mung beans is used to treat the above mentioned problems. In addition, consuming soups as well as other dishes with mung beans also offers us several health benefits.
Mung beans contain phytoestrogen and a constituent of this compound possesses anti-aging properties. This phytoestrogen helps to promote production of various beneficial substances in the body, including collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid. All these constituents are necessary to ensure that the skin remains healthy, young and attractive.
Chemical analysis of mung beans has revealed that they contain rich amounts of isoflavone nutrients, which are effective in regulating the hormone activities. These plants also contain phytoestrogens, which assist in regulating hormones, especially after menopause. In this way, consumption of mung beans helps to alleviate hot flashes and, at the same time, prevents osteoporosis.
Aside from the above mentioned nutrients, mung beans also contain elevated amounts of the essential mineral magnesium, which helps to unwind the arteries and veins. In addition, magnesium also improves movement of oxygen within the body, enhances blood circulation and transportation of other nutrients all over the body.