Dr. Thomas Dwan - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Thomas Dwan

Are Bean Sprouts Bad For You?



Short answer

Bean sprouts are a nutritious and low-calorie addition to a balanced diet, providing protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. However, they pose a risk of foodborne illness if not cooked thoroughly, especially for vulnerable individuals. To minimize risk, cook sprouts thoroughly or ensure they're from a reputable source if eaten raw.



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Long answer

Nutritional Profile of Bean Sprouts

Bean sprouts, which are the young shoots of beans like mung bean, soybean, and chickpeas, have been hailed as nutritious additions to a balanced diet. One of their key selling points is their nutrient density; they provide a wealth of nutrients while being low in calories. Let's delve into the specific nutritional components that make bean sprouts a noteworthy food.

Caloric Content: Bean sprouts are known for being low in calories, making them a popular choice for weight management. An average serving of 100 grams of mung bean sprouts contains approximately 30 calories, predominantly from proteins and carbohydrates.

Macronutrients: The macronutrient balance in bean sprouts includes carbohydrates, fiber, protein, and a minimal amount of fat. For instance, those same 100 grams typically contain 3 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, and 3 grams of protein. The fiber content aids digestive health, while the protein helps in muscle repair and growth.

Vitamins: Bean sprouts are a treasure trove of vitamins, notably vitamin C, which functions as an antioxidant and is important for immune system function. They also contain B vitamins like folate, crucial for DNA synthesis and repair, and vitamin K, essential for blood clotting and bone health.

Minerals: When it comes to minerals, bean sprouts offer iron, which is necessary for transporting oxygen in the blood; magnesium, which is involved in over 300 biochemical reactions in the body; and calcium, pivotal for bone health. They also provide potassium, important for heart function and fluid balance.

Phytonutrients: Beyond traditional nutrients, bean sprouts contain bioactive compounds such as isoflavones, particularly in soybean sprouts. These phytoestrogens can have a positive influence on hormone regulation and may provide other health benefits such as reduced risk of heart disease and menopausal symptoms.

Due to their nutrient-rich profile, bean sprouts can be a beneficial addition to most diets. However, it's always recommended to consume them cooked rather than raw, to minimize the risk of foodborne illness. Nutritional benefits may vary slightly depending on the type of bean from which the sprouts originate.

Here is a brief table summarizing the nutritional values per 100 grams of raw mung bean sprouts:

Nutrient Amount
Calories 30 kcal
Protein 3 g
Carbohydrates 3 g
Fiber 2 g
Fat 0.2 g
Vitamin C 13 mg
Folate (B9) 61 µg
Vitamin K 33 µg
Iron 0.9 mg
Magnesium 21 mg
Calcium 13 mg
Potassium 149 mg

It should be noted that the precise values can differ depending on the variety and growing conditions of the sprouts. Despite these variances, one thing remains consistent: bean sprouts can be a powerhouse of essential nutrients. Including them in your diet can contribute significantly to your daily nutritional needs, provided they are prepared and consumed with appropriate safety measures.

Risk of Contamination and Foodborne Illness

While bean sprouts boast various health benefits ranging from protein content to a wealth of vitamins and minerals, they also pose a risk for contamination. The warm, humid environment required for sprouting beans is equally conducive to the growth of bacteria including Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria. These harmful bacteria can lead to foodborne illnesses, which are particularly dangerous for pregnant women, the elderly, young children, and those with weakened immune systems.

Several documented outbreaks of foodborne illness have been associated with the consumption of raw or lightly cooked sprouts. For instance, a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) referenced multiple outbreaks related to sprouts in the United States, including significant occurrences in 2014 that were linked to bean sprouts.

  • Salmonella: It can cause symptoms like diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. Reports of the CDC estimate that approximately 400 deaths are caused by Salmonella each year in the United States.
  • E. coli: Certain strains can result in severe abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhea, and vomiting. In some cases, it may lead to kidney failure, particularly in young children and seniors.
  • Listeria: It can trigger a life-threatening infection, with symptoms including headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions.

To mitigate these risks, it's crucial to handle sprouts with care. Cooking them thoroughly can reduce the chance of illness, as high temperatures will kill most bacteria. However, this may not be an option for those who prefer sprouts raw for their texture and nutritional content.

Purchasing sprouts from reputable suppliers who test their products for bacteria can also lessen the risk. Moreover, storing bean sprouts in the refrigerator at 40°F (4°C) or below and rinsing them under running water before use can remove some surface bacteria, though it does not eliminate the risk completely.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) offers additional guidelines for individuals who are at a higher risk of developing severe illness from bacteria in raw sprouts. These include recommendations like avoiding raw sprouts entirely and opting for cooked sprouts instead.

Ultimately, while bean sprouts can be a nutritious component of one's diet, it's important to recognize the potential risk of contamination and take precautionary measures to ensure their safe consumption. Sensible steps include thorough cooking, proper storage, and understanding the signs of a bacterial infection to seek prompt medical attention if needed.

The Debate Over Raw vs. Cooked Bean Sprouts

The consumption of bean sprouts, particularly whether they should be eaten raw or cooked, has been a point of contention among nutritionists, health enthusiasts, and food safety experts. Bean sprouts, which are the young shoots of beans like mung beans and soybeans, are packed with nutrients including vitamins, minerals, and proteins. However, the manner in which they are prepared and consumed significantly impacts their safety and nutritional profile. Let's delve into the debate to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of both sides.

Arguments for Eating Raw Bean Sprouts:

  • Maximized Nutritional Value: Proponents of raw bean sprouts emphasize that they retain their maximum vitamin content, particularly vitamin C, which can be partially destroyed through the cooking process.
  • Enzymes Availability: Raw sprouts contain enzymes that can aid in digestion, which may be reduced when sprouts are cooked.
  • Crunchy Texture: Many enjoy the crisp and fresh texture of raw bean sprouts, which can be a pleasant addition to salads and sandwiches.

Arguments for Eating Cooked Bean Sprouts:

  • Food Safety: Cooking bean sprouts can eliminate harmful bacteria such as E. coli, Salmonella, and Listeria, which have been associated with outbreaks linked to raw sprouts. This makes cooked sprouts a safer option for the elderly, pregnant women, young children, and those with compromised immune systems.
  • Enhanced Digestibility: Cooking breaks down some of the sprouts' tough fibers, making them easier to digest and reducing the risk of gastrointestinal discomfort.
  • Altered Flavor: Some prefer the milder taste of cooked sprouts, which can blend seamlessly into a variety of hot dishes.

Considering the evidence, it's clear that both raw and cooked bean sprouts offer unique benefits. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the safest way to enjoy sprouts is to cook them thoroughly. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) echoes this advice, particularly for those at higher risk of foodborne illness. Yet, for individuals who are healthy and seeking the full range of live nutrients, carefully sourced and properly handled raw bean sprouts may be acceptable. It is crucial, however, to purchase sprouts from reputable sources and to follow storage and handling guidelines rigorously.

A study published in the Journal of Food Protection suggests that certain treatments of seeds before sprouting could reduce the likelihood of bacterial contamination. Therefore, individuals who opt for raw sprouts may consider these pre-treated varieties for added safety.

In conclusion, your choice between raw and cooked bean sprouts should hinge on personal health, taste preferences, and consideration of potential risks. Remember to source your sprouts from reputable producers and handle them with care. Whether you choose to enjoy the crunchy freshness of raw sprouts or the tender qualities of cooked ones, ensure that these leguminous gems are safe for consumption, aligning with expert food safety advice.

Serving Size and Frequency: How Much is Too Much?

Bean sprouts have emerged as a nutritional powerhouse in various cuisines around the world, particularly in Asian dishes. They are lauded for their crisp texture and neutral flavor, which make them a versatile ingredient in salads, sandwiches, and stir-fries. However, like any food, moderation is key in consumption to reap the health benefits while avoiding potential risks.

First, let's talk about serving size. A standard serving of bean sprouts is approximately one cup, or about 85 grams. This portion contains:

  • Calories: 30 kcal
  • Protein: 3 grams
  • Fiber: 1.9 grams
  • Vitamin C: 14% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA)
  • Folate: 16% of the RDA

Considering their nutritional content, bean sprouts are a low-calorie, nutrient-dense food choice. The high vitamin C and folate content make them especially beneficial for the immune system and cell growth. The inclusion of bean sprouts in your diet should complement other vegetables and protein sources to create a balanced meal.

Frequent consumption of sprouts is generally acceptable due to their low caloric content and high nutritional value. However, special consideration should be taken regarding the potential risks of raw sprouts. The warm, humid conditions needed to grow sprouts are also ideal for the growth of bacteria, including Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli. For this reason, experts advise eating them cooked rather than raw to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Pregnant women, children, the elderly, and individuals with weakened immune systems should avoid consuming raw sprouts altogether.

For healthy adults, incorporating bean sprouts into your diet a few times a week is a sound approach. If you choose to eat sprouts raw, purchase them from a reputable source and rinse them thoroughly under running water before consuming. A safer option is to cook them to kill any potential bacteria. Stir-frying or steaming bean sprouts for a few minutes can provide a safer way to enjoy them.

Be aware of your overall dietary intake and ensure it aligns with your nutritional needs and health goals. Sprouts should be a part of a varied diet that includes a wide range of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. As each individual's nutritional requirements vary, consulting with a registered dietitian or healthcare provider can help determine the optimal frequency and serving size based on personal health status and dietary needs.

It is worth noting that studies have reported rare instances of allergic reactions to bean sprouts. If you experience symptoms such as hives, itching, or difficulty breathing after consuming bean sprouts, it is critical to seek medical attention immediately.

In summary, while bean sprouts can be a nutritious addition to a diet, they should be eaten in moderation, properly prepared, and cooked to minimize potential health risks. Moreover, they are best enjoyed as part of a balanced diet that caters to an individual’s specific health requirements.

Benefits of Incorporating Bean Sprouts into Your Diet

While the question of whether bean sprouts are bad for you is multifaceted, the benefits of incorporating these crunchy greens into your diet are well documented. Bean sprouts come from the germination of beans and are known for their rich nutrient profile and health-promoting properties.


Bean sprouts are a powerhouse of essential vitamins and minerals. They are particularly high in vitamin C, which is vital for a healthy immune system, as well as vitamin K, essential for blood clotting and bone health. Additionally, bean sprouts contain B vitamins, including folate, which is important for cell growth and function, and various minerals such as iron, magnesium, and potassium.

Low in Calories

With their high water content, bean sprouts are low in calories, making them an excellent food choice for those looking to maintain or lose weight. The added benefit of feeling fuller for longer comes from the dietary fiber content in the sprouts, which aids in digestion and satiety.

Rich in Antioxidants

Bean sprouts are packed with antioxidants, which help combat oxidative stress and reduce the risk of chronic diseases. The sprouts have phenolic compounds that have been shown to exhibit anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties, according to studies published in biochemistry and nutrition journals.

Improved Heart Health

Consuming bean sprouts may contribute to better heart health. They contain isoflavones and other compounds that have been associated with lower risks of cardiovascular disease. Studies indicate that these compounds can help lower LDL cholesterol levels and improve blood vessel function, thereby reducing the risk of atherosclerosis and hypertension.

Protein Source for Plant-Based Diets

For vegetarians, vegans, or those simply looking to reduce their meat intake, bean sprouts offer a valuable source of plant-based protein. The protein in sprouts is easier to digest due to the sprouting process, which breaks down some of the starches and anti-nutritional factors present in the beans.

Supports Gut Health

Bean sprouts contain enzymes that can aid in digestion and enhance gut health. The process of sprouting beans can increase the activity of certain enzymes, making the nutrients more bioavailable and easier to absorb. These enzymes play a critical role in breaking down foods and aiding the absorption of nutrients.

While the benefits of bean sprouts are compelling, it is crucial to handle and consume sprouts safely to mitigate any potential risks associated with bacterial contamination. Always opt for fresh sprouts, wash them thoroughly, and consider cooking them to reduce any risk of foodborne illness.

Ultimately, bean sprouts can be a nutritious and versatile addition to many diets. Their contribution to overall health is significant, with the potential to positively impact cardiovascular health, weight management, immune function, and more. By incorporating bean sprouts into a balanced diet, individuals can enjoy not only their distinctive taste and texture but also the multitude of health benefits they bring to the table.

Frequently asked questions

Yes, bean sprouts are an excellent source of plant-based protein, making them a valuable addition to vegetarian and vegan diets. They provide essential amino acids and the sprouting process increases protein digestibility, assisting in meeting protein requirements without the need for meat or animal products.

Bean sprouts are low in calories and high in fiber, which can aid in weight management. The fiber content helps promote a feeling of fullness, which may prevent overeating. Moreover, their nutrient density provides important vitamins and minerals without adding excess calories, supporting a balanced diet for weight loss or maintenance.

If raw vegetables cause digestive issues, you can enjoy bean sprouts in a cooked form to make them easier to digest. Incorporate them into stir-fries, soups, or steamed dishes to soften their fibrous texture. Cooking bean sprouts breaks down some of their fibers, which can reduce potential gastrointestinal discomfort and still allows you to benefit from their rich nutrient content.

Symptoms of a bacterial infection from contaminated bean sprouts can include diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, headache, stiff neck, confusion, and in severe cases, convulsions. If you experience these symptoms after consuming bean sprouts, seek medical attention immediately. Always ensure sprouts are thoroughly cooked and sourced from reputable suppliers to minimize risk.

Ask a question about Bean Sprouts and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • gastrointestinal discomfort
  • bacterial infection symptoms (e.g., diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps)

Ingredients to be aware of

  • bacterial contamination (salmonella, e. coli, listeria)


  • nutrient-rich
  • low in calories
  • rich in antioxidants
  • improved heart health
  • protein source for plant-based diets
  • supports gut health

Healthier alternatives

  • cooked sprouts
  • other cooked legumes
  • thoroughly rinsed sprouts

Our Wellness Pick (what is this?)

truRoots Sprouted Mung Beans

  • Organic certified
  • Nutrient-dense sprouts
  • Rich in antioxidants
  • Easy to digest
  • Non-GMO
Learn More!

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 02-25-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 02-25-2024

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